Never mind that poison oak was the only trauma Horace Coil experienced during his stint in the military.
He marched into the spirit of Saturday night's "MASH" bash like a soldier who had had been through battle and lived to tell the story.
Now hear this: It was that kind of night.
The benefit for the Orange County Trauma Society was hot apple-pie Americana served straight up on a stainless-steel platter, a lump-in-the-throat tribute to the heroic medics who risked their lives to save lives.
"MASH" was a SMASH right down to its dog-tag party favors, jellybean centerpieces and Hot Lips, Klinger and Hawkeye professional look-alikes. Not to mention a USO show that had hundreds of teary-eyed guests clucking, "Chickery chick, cha la cha la" and hooting, "R-a-g-g m-o-p-p, rag mop!" in haunting remembrance.
"Hey, there's some really good looking guys here tonight," purred the lipstick-toting Hot Lips, surveying the fatigues-and-camouflage-clad crowd.
Smooched any? "Just one. But, I've already forgotten who he was. I'm trying to, hmmm, control myself."
While Hawkeye, waving a stethoscope, worked the crowd, offering "free physicals . . . in the swamp or . . . in your home" to the women, Klinger clunked among the throng on chunky heels, forever adjusting his sweeping broad-brim and shocking-blue boa.
Hawkeye confided he knew the real Hawkeye--actor Alan Alda. "A terrific guy," he said. "He's always saying to me, 'I bet people tell you all the time you look just like Robert Redford.' "
Klinger was bashful, saying only that guests kept asking him if he was "real."
But there was a second, bold Klinger in the crowd--trauma society board member Dr. Ralph Rucker. "It's the first time I've worn it out," he deadpanned, looking down his faux nose at a slinky pink kimono. "I wear it at home all the time. And my fuzzy pink slippers? Why, I can run all over the compound in them and not get one little creature on my feet."
And then Rucker waxed dead serious. "We have to save those little children from drowning, you know," reminding himself what the "MASH" benefit was all about--educating the public about trauma prevention.
Pool Hazard Warnings
"This is a hazardous time of year for children and swimming pools. People just aren't thinking about them because they're not using them. We have Orange County children drown in November and December for that very reason."
The society's drowning prevention program is one of its campaigns. Others include programs aimed at preventing death and disability caused by teen-agers who drink and drive, child passenger safety and education seminars dedicated to the enhancement of knowledge and education of the trauma care professional.
"I got involved with the society because I'd worked at Hoag Hospital as a volunteer," said special events coordinator Peggy Linton. "I'd seen young teen-agers--14-, 15- and 16-year-olds--horribly paralyzed from surfing accidents. Although the society doesn't yet have a spinal injury program, I'm hoping that someday they'll be able to develop one."
It was Linton who set out to transform Irvine's historical Bean Shed, a warehouse used to store lima beans in the late 1800s, into a locale suitable (and safe enough) for "MASH."
"I so wanted to have a place that was rustic and could help implement our patriotic theme," she said. "The television show 'MASH' always portrayed a strong dedication to taking care of the wounded, even with all of its comic presentation. And I knew a ballroom just wouldn't cut it.
"I feel the society's message is just as strong as the show's message. We want to prevent trauma, but we're also involved in seeing that the injured get the best possible care."
National Anthem Sung
You could have heard Klinger's feather boa drop when the El Toro Marine color guard marched in. Guests rose--with hands drawn to their breasts or to their foreheads in salute--and sang a heartbreakingly sincere "Star-Spangled Banner."
And, you've never seen such a "mess." Mugs splashing with hot soup, slabs of roast beef and brownies to write home about--all catered under the most primitive conditions (even water had to be transported to the site) by St. Ives La Cuisine Sante.
Benefit proceeds, most resulting from a post-dinner auction conducted by Elmer Meagher, were estimated at $50,000. Committee members included the honorary host, Orange County Supervisor Thomas F. Riley, a retired Marine general decked out in an old brown leather flight jacket; Jan Ent, event chairman; Phil Northcote, society board president; Greg and Jennifer Beck; Kathy Boardman; John and Yolanda Jensen; David Krajanowski; Sue Marr; Stan Millar; Bill and Sandy Miller; Caryl Modrinski; Andy Northcote and Joe Strauss.