Over the course of 251 episodes, the men and women of the 4077th did their best to cope with the stresses of war on “MAS*H.” Their Mobile Army Surgical Hospital featured a handful of characters who appeared on the show frequently. But few characters played a bigger role on the show than Loretta Swit’s Maj. Margaret Houlihan. And apparently, “Hot Lips” was far from the only nickname she had around the set.
From 1972-1983, “MAS*H” was not only a success, but it was also one of the most-watched shows on TV. The series finale did truly historic viewership numbers, capturing the attention of an entire nation for a brief moment in time. Loretta Swit played a major role in taking the show to the point. And she earned a number of clever nicknames in the process.
In a 2015 interview with Studio 10, the “Hot Lips” actress talked about some of the other nicknames she picked up, to the credit of one of the writers and producers on “MAS*H,” Gene Reynolds.
“She [Houlihan] gets married. And Gene Reynolds, I’ll never forget said, ‘Oh Switheart,’ he said, ‘that’s so permanent.’ I said ‘Gene, you’re divorced how could you say that?’” Loretta Swit said. “Sometimes Gene would call me Switness, ‘Where is her Switness?”
Leave it to a writer to come up with a nickname like “Switheart.” But all jokes aside, the way Loretta Swit talked about her relationship with not only her fellow cast members seemed incredibly nostalgic. Including the entire “M*A*S*H” crew. They clearly enjoyed working together. And with that kind of environment, it’s no surprise that charming nicknames like “her Switness” came about.
How Loretta Swit Earned Her Character’s Nickname on ‘M*A*S*H’
Nicknames around set are one thing, but her character’s nicknamed, “Hot Lips,” can’t be ignored. How did Maj. Houlihan end up with such a specific nickname?
We have to go back to two years before the classic show aired. Fans of “M*A*S*H” will remember what started it all. The 1970 film by the same name was a major success. It won an Oscar for best screenplay, and it set up 11 years of one of the most successful shows of all time.
Much of the cast was different, including Maj. Houlihan’s character, played by Sally Kellerman. In the movie, she earned the nickname “Hot Lips” after accidentally broadcasting a romantic encounter with Robert Duvall’s Maj. Frank Burns over the loudspeaker.
“Oh Frank, my lips are hot…kiss my hot lips,” she said in the movie. Of course, the nickname stuck, and the rest is history.