Loretta Swit, forever known as Major Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan on “M*A*S*H” from 1972 to 1983, remains active as ever at age 71.
She’s coming to the Fox Theatre later this week to play Dorothy Brock in the classic Broadway musical “42nd Street.” She will follow this up with a European theater tour, another play in New York City, a role in a spoof horror flick, then four months early next year in the play “Cactus Flower” in Kansas City.
What drew her to the current musical role was her long-standing friendship with Atlanta Chris Manos, producer at Theater of the Stars, which put together “42nd Street.” She had done two Atlanta productions with him in the past.
“This is a wonderful reunion,” she said. “I adore him.”
She said the Brock character is “a bit underwritten. So it calls upon the actor to provide some of this life and give her a life.” And she praises her acting cast. “It has comedy. drama, extraordinary dancers. The company is dazzling. It’s such a fabulous working unit. And the more you do it, the tighter it gets. It’s hard to describe. You start to soar. Everyone trusts everyone and are willing to take chances.”
She seldom sees repeats of “M*A*S*H” simply because she seldom turns on the TV except to catch films.
“I saw one this morning, a gem,” Swit said. “I nearly know it by heart. It’s called ‘Fracture’ starring Anthony Hopkins. A great psychological mind game about a murderer who is determined to get away with murdering his wife.
While “M*A*S*H” colleagues such as Alan Alda and Mike Farrell have written memoirs, the only book in Swit’s portfolio was about needlepoint in the mid-1980s.
“I was approached by Doubleday to do that,” she said. “Someone read that I did needlepoint. So I interspersed my experiences with where I was or what inspired me to do a particular pattern.”
But she does have a new book up her sleeve, this one focused around her watercolor paintings mixed in with memories of her life on TV and in theater. “It would be a big coffeetable book,” she said.
In fact, monies from her artwork go to charities she supports, especially animal rights. (She currently has an exhibit of her watercolors at Best Friends in Utah, the largest dog and cat sanctuary in North America.)
YouTube, always a great place to see actors from decades yore, features not only Swit’s appearances on “What’s My Line” and “The Muppet Show,” but also her brilliant work on “10,000 Pyramid.”
“I had the record for most money a celebrity has won for the contestants,” she said. “I played well. I had fun. I loved giving money away.”