Saturday, March 24, 2018

The Seemingly Fruitless Search for a Flaw

Niles (David Hyde Pierce): How's it going?

Frasier (Kelsey Grammer): Well, let me see, what have you missed? Clint told us about how he learned to fly a plane, and then he recited a sonnet and, oh yes, he fixed my ice machine and he invented a new drink — the "Pink Webber." I've got Daphne drawing a bath right now; in case the party starts to lag, we can invite him to walk on water, liven things up a bit.

Frasier (Kelsey Grammer) was an elitist snob who was not accustomed to being second banana to anyone.

But on this night in 1998 — in the Frasier episode "The Perfect Guy"the perfect guy came into the radio station, and Frasier couldn't handle it.

The perfect guy was named Dr. Clint Webber (Bill Campbell), and he had just been hired to host a new program on health issues. Frasier thought he would give the new guy a boost by having him appear on Frasier's program — but it was obvious that Clint needed no one's help. It seemed there was nothing he could not do.

Initially, Frasier tried to act as if he genuinely liked Clint, but he soon gave in to his jealousy and actively looked for a weakness that he could exploit when he hosted a party to welcome Clint to the radio station.

It wasn't easy to find a weakness. Clint didn't seem to have one. Whereas Frasier went to Harvard, Clint went to Oxford — and before taking on the challenge of medical school, he got his master's in French history because he "just wanted to do something fun." He spoke fluent French — and, as the viewers learned during Frasier's party, he also spoke Mandarin.

Frasier tried to regain some of his lost status by saying that he, too, had taken some time off before beginning medical school and had spent the summer studying Italian opera. He took the opportunity to do some name dropping, suggesting that he had become acquainted with Spanish tenor Jose Carerras during that time. Clint, it turned out, was Carerras' godson.

Clint was a flawless cook, having worked his way through school as sous–chef in Paris; at Frasier's party he invented a drink that was a smash hit with the guests.

It was all very taxing on Frasier, and he complained about it to Niles (David Hyde Pierce).

"Don't let it make you crazy," Niles counseled his brother. "At some point we all run into someone who's our superior."

"Oh, it's just that I've never dealt with this sort of thing before," Frasier replied.

"Never?" Niles asked incredulously.

"I can see how that could be baffling to you," Frasier said. "As my younger brother, you've dealt with this sort of thing all your life."

"At least we know he won't outshine you in the egomania department," Niles replied.

And, although Clint didn't play chess — he claimed to have a read a book or two on the topic — he managed to spoil a game Frasier had been playing by mail with a Russian grandmaster. You see, Clint was able to anticipate the outcome after observing the chess board for only a minute or two — and the outcome wasn't going to be good for Frasier.

"Wasn't that a fun eight months?" Frasier remarked.

Frasier had just about given up on finding a weakness in Clint when one presented itself. The man couldn't sing — yet he insisted on singing to the assembled guests. Frasier agreed, then sought Niles to gloat over his discovery.

"The man is completely tone deaf," Frasier said. "He's about to launch into a rendition of 'Isn't It Romantic' that will simply peel the enamel from your teeth."

Niles tried to persuade Frasier not to let Clint embarrass himself — until he learned that Daphne (Jane Leeves) was smitten with Clint and wanted to give him her phone number. Then he was all too happy to accompany Clint on the piano.

And Frasier walked smugly through the room filled with guests, reminding them that "Nobody's perfect."

It was a satisfying conclusion for anyone who has ever been in Frasier's shoes — which means all but a select few (although usually it is a Frasier type who is the cause of the anxiety).

As Woody Allen once said, "If life were only like this."

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Roger Waters' Final Cut

Roger Waters was a co–founder of Pink Floyd, but his last album with the band, "The Final Cut," arrived in music stores on this day in 1983.

Pink Floyd went on to release three more studio albums and a double–disc live album, but Waters' days with Pink Floyd ended with "The Final Cut."

Seen from that perspective, perhaps it was appropriate that "The Final Cut" was the only Pink Floyd album in which Waters received all the songwriting credit.

"The Final Cut" was also the only Pink Floyd album that didn't include keyboardist Richard Wright.

The album was originally intended to be a soundtrack for "Pink Floyd — The Wall," but plans changed with the outbreak of war in the Falkland Islands in 1982 after Argentine forces occupied the British–held islands temporarily.

By any yardstick you may choose, "The Final Cut" was Waters' album. Not only did he write all the songs, he sang lead on all but one track — guitarist David Gilmour provided lead vocals on the other one.

And it was his statement on war, inspired primarily by the experience of losing his father in World War II but also by more contemporary factors. Waters thought British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's reaction in the Falklands had been unnecessary and aggressive. The album, originally named "Requiem for a Post–War Dream," included a track that bore a variation on that — "The Post–War Dream."

The post–war dream was what Waters believed was the reason for the sacrifices made by his father and others — sacrifices that had been betrayed.

The war theme was also reflected in the cover art. The front cover showed a Remembrance poppy and four World War II medal ribbons. Additional photographs could be found when the gatefold was opened. The album art was reproduced — on a significantly smaller scale — for the CD version of the album.

And, of course, anyone who downloads the album today is deprived of that experience altogether. It wasn't true in all cases, but album art definitely added to an album's experience — and perhaps never as much as it did on a Pink Floyd album.

Pink Floyd's cover art was always memorable, and the band enjoyed considerable success with its album sales, but it had comparatively few hit singles — mostly, I suppose, because the band's tracks didn't usually lend themselves to radio airplay.

The commercially released single from "The Final Cut" could probably be described that way. "Not Now John" managed to make it to the Top 30 in the U.K. — in a censored version. In the album track, the chorus was "Fuck all that," but in the single it was changed to the more ambiguous "Stuff all that."

I have always favored a third track from the album "The Fletcher Memorial Home." It always summarized Waters' thoughts about the world's leadership of that time better than the rest.

The song got its name from Waters' father.

It probably doesn't hold up well for modern listeners, though, many of whom would not recognize the names mentioned. I guess that hopelessly dates the song, which is too bad because it is probably my favorite track.

"This is more like a novel than a record," wrote Stephen Thomas Erlewine for, "requiring total concentration since shifts in dynamics, orchestration and instrumentation are used as effect."

In many ways, it lacks a true Pink Floyd sound. The music might have benefited from more input from Gilmour.

Erlewine observed that "[t]his means that while this has the texture of classic Pink Floyd, somewhere between the brooding sections of The Wall and the monolithic menace of Animals, there are no songs or hooks to make these radio favorites. The even bent of the arrangements, where the music is used as texture, not music, means that The Final Cut purposely alienates all but the dedicated listener."

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Hooked on Caviar

"It's like being kissed by a lusty mermaid!"

Niles (David Hyde Pierce) after sampling caviar

When I was growing up, I only heard the word addiction in connection with substances that weren't supposed to be good for you — and were probably (but not always) illegal to boot.

But as I got older I learned that there are all kinds of addictions to things that are not necessarily good for you but are generally not illegal, either.

At least, in most instances.

In the episode of Frasier that first aired on this night in 2003, "Roe to Perdition," the substance in question was Beluga caviar, which is the world's most expensive caviar. A couple of years before this episode aired, Beluga caviar sold for up to $4,500 a pound.

(Beluga caviar is harvested from Beluga sturgeon, which are found primarily in the Caspian Sea. Beluga sturgeon are endangered, which led the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to ban the importation of Beluga caviar in 2005. That made this episode somewhat prescient, I suppose.)

Frasier (Kelsey Grammer) and Niles (David Hyde Pierce) were planning a party and wanted something spiffy to serve. They spotted a display of Beluga caviar at their favorite gourmet foods store and concluded that was what they needed — until they discovered it was selling for $100 an ounce.

"Isn't that rather a lot to pay?" Frasier wanted to know.

"To you, yes," the shopkeeper replied in a heavy French accent. "To the fish who gave up her life so you could spread her unborn children on a cracker, it's not so much."

At that point, a somewhat unsavory–looking individual approached the Cranes and told them that the Russian mafia was in control of the caviar market. He further claimed that he could provide Beluga caviar for much lower prices; after sampling his product, the Cranes were in.

But Frasier, who claimed to be a good judge of character, didn't want this man to know where he lived so he arranged for Roz (Peri Gilpin) to pick up the caviar and bring it to his apartment, which she did, although she insisted that caviar wasn't anything special — until she tried the Beluga caviar.

Then she was hooked. And she was happy to act as Frasier's mule if she could get a cut.

That became an impossibility when the connection informed the Cranes that he could no longer help them. Their ever–larger orders were attracting unwanted attention. This was bad news for the Cranes, who had been sprinting up the Seattle social ladder by supplying the city's elite with Beluga caviar and needed five more pounds. The supplier gave them all he could, but it was nowhere near five pounds.

It was crushing news for Roz, but Frasier assured her that he could make one more score, having recalled the name of the ship the contact had mentioned.

When Frasier and Niles got to the ship, they were able to make a deal for five pounds of Beluga caviar, but the transaction was interrupted by a raid by U.S. Customs. Frasier and Niles tried to eat the evidence, but they barely put a dent in it before a Customs officer burst on the scene. As it turned out, though, they weren't looking for caviar. They were looking for bootleg DVDs.

Frasier always had a side story — which didn't always have anything to do with the main story. In this episode, the two had nothing in common, really, but I enjoyed the side story all the same.

It seems that Martin (John Mahoney) had some trouble with the ATM at his bank. When he tried to withdraw $20, it gave him $60 instead. He was pleased with his windfall — until Daphne (Jane Leeves) insisted that he return the money to the bank.

That was when his troubles really began.

At first, he tried to call the bank's helpline, but it was automated and kept giving him the runaround. After that, he tried to go to the bank itself. The people at the bank kept acting as if he had tried to make a deposit when he was actually trying to return excess money that had been given to him by the ATM, and they kept offering him more money. It got so bad that, at one point, Martin tried to speak a bit too forcefully to a teller, was mistaken for a robber and had a gun pulled on him by the security guard.

That led to the bank president making the same false assumption that the others had made and offered Martin a settlement in exchange for taking no legal steps. The settlement included the deposit of $10,000 in Martin's account — plus the $40 from the original mistake.

"Is there anything else we can do for you?" the bank president asked.

"Could I open an account?" Daphne wanted to know.

Harry the Hat Evens the Score

Long–time viewers of Cheers! know that the bar's rival was Gary's Old Towne Tavern. The bars competed in all kinds of things, and Gary's Old Towne Tavern always won — and on this night in 1993, Sam's bar was gearing up for what was expected to be a banner St. Patrick's Day — perhaps its best ever.

Even Sam (Ted Danson) expressed confidence that the bar would outperform Gary's on what is arguably the biggest holiday in New England. But Frasier (Kelsey Grammer) reminded him that Gary's had been the big St. Patrick's Day winner for 10 straight years.

Nevertheless, Sam was convinced that his bar could finally beat Gary because he had a strategy — banners, balloons, green beer, Irish music, Carla (Rhea Perlman) dressed as a leprechaun. When Gary (Robert Desiderio) came over, he first offered to call off the bet to save Sam's bar from humiliation. Then, when Sam wouldn't go for it, Gary suggested raising the stakes — "Make it something more interesting than the usual hundred bucks?" — Sam readily agreed, but he didn't tell the patrons of the bar what the new stakes were or what he had committed all of them to do if they lost.

Talk about humiliation.

When Gary won the bet, they all had to come to the Old Towne Tavern and sing "Getting to Know You" in the buff. Just about everyone agreed that it was a humiliating experience.

Well, except for Cliff (John Ratzenberger). He "found the whole thing quite exhilarating."

But Sam said it was the first time he had ever been naked — and not had fun.

Sam said he would call upon con man Harry the Hat (Harry Anderson) to help them get even. But Harry declined, saying they could never top Gary.

"Face it, you're a bunch of losers," Harry told them. "It's nothing to be ashamed of. It's your nature, you know? It's the way God made you. You're part of his master plan. If it weren't for you guys, how would we know who the winners were?"

Sam decided to give up competing with Gary. He said he would go over to the Old Towne Tavern the next day to make peace with his rival.

But when he did, a bulldozer came crashing through the bar's exterior. Sam could only watch helplessly.

Back at Cheers!, Gary came running into the bar, swearing to call the cops. Sam wanted to avoid that so he got on his knees to ask Gary to keep the cops out of it. The patrons who had performed naked at Gary's bar got on their knees, too, and Gary pulled out a camera and took a picture.

Gary said it was a setup. He had sold his bar to a commercial developer who had been responsible for bulldozing the bar to make room for a shopping center.

But it turned out that Harry the Hat had been behind it. He had posed as the developer.

When Sam asked if Harry had destroyed the bar, Harry said he hadn't, but Gary had. Gary arranged for the bulldozer after making the deal with Harry the Hat. Harry had been posing as a land developer — who was going to come up short of funds, as Gary discovered when he tried to cash Harry's check. It bounced, of course, and Gary's bar was in ruins.

When Sam asked Harry how he could repay him, Harry said he already had. Sam soon learned what he meant by that. Harry had taken all the money in the cash register.

To be sure, Harry was an equal opportunity swindler.

The Night MASH Almost Ended

"I'll stick with gin. Champagne is just ginger ale that knows somebody."

Hawkeye (Alan Alda)

We know that MASH was one of the most popular TV shows of all time. It lasted 11 seasons, and it was in the Top 10 — if not the Top 5 — most of the time.

But as it was nearing the end of its first season, the future was really in doubt. MASH ended the 1972–73 season ranked No. 46.

The episode that aired on this night in 1973, "Ceasefire," was written when the decision about a second season had not been made — so two scripts were written. If the show was canceled, the script in which the war ended would be used. If it was picked up for a second season, the script in which the ceasefire turned out to be a false alarm would be used.

It isn't necessary, I am sure, to say which one it was. MASH ran until 1983.

Anyway, on to the episode.

Gen. Clayton (Herb Voland) informed Henry (McLean Stevenson) that a ceasefire was imminent — but that was unofficial, he warned Henry.

Nevertheless, Henry couldn't keep news like that to himself, and before long the entire camp was celebrating. Radar (Gary Burghoff) went around the camp to get messages and signatures for a memory book. Klinger (Jamie Farr) proceeded to give away his dresses, figuring he wouldn't need them anymore, now that the war was coming to an end.

But Trapper (Wayne Rogers) didn't believe it. He said this kind of thing always happens in a war, and he bet Hawkeye $50 that the ceasefire would turn out to be a phony.

In the meantime, Hot Lips (Loretta Swit) was putting up a brave front, telling Frank (Larry Linville) that he was not to worry about her, that he was to go back to his old life and pick up where he left off. "I'm not going to make any trouble."

Hot Lips apparently wanted Frank to say something like he would leave his old life behind and stay with her. But he didn't do that. He told Hot Lips he wished she could meet his wife. "You'd like her," he said. That wasn't quite what she wanted to hear.

For the first time, Hawkeye acknowledged that he had a wife — but he did so for a different reason. He did so to avoid having to commit to all the women he had been with at MASH 4077. This caused considerable social difficulties for Hawkeye when word spread through the camp that he was married with five children.

That wasn't true, of course. Hawkeye was a bachelor. He just wanted to avoid complications. It worked beyond his wildest dreams.

While we're on the subject, this wasn't the final episode of the season for MASH, but it was the final appearance by Marcia Strassman. She was mostly considered Hawkeye's girl in that first season, but then she left the show and went on to become Mrs. Kotter on Welcome Back, Kotter a few years later.

Anyway, to celebrate the ceasefire, Gen. Clayton came to the 4077th, where a commemorative slide show was presented in Clayton's honor. It included shots of the general in his private moments — exiting the latrine and cuddling with Hot Lips.

Then the hammer came down. A communique was handed to the general informing him that the ceasefire was off.

Trapper had won his bet — and the show went on for another decade.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Frasier and the Unhappy Couple

"Just once it would be nice if we could have a family gathering where no one leaves in an ambulance. Am I right?"

Aunt Zora (Patti LuPone)

Patti LuPone will always be remembered for her extensive Broadway career, but she gave an Emmy–nominated performance on Frasier in "Beware of Greeks," the episode that first aired on this night in 1998.

LuPone played Zora, the mother of Frasier's cousin, who was about to be married. She was a Crane by marriage, having married the brother of Frasier's father Martin (John Mahoney). To her dismay, Frasier had counseled her son Nikos (Joseph Will) when he was trying to decide on his career path. Frasier told him to follow his heart so he skipped medical school (his parents' preference) to pursue his passion — street juggling.

Zora didn't like that, and she blackballed Frasier and his side of the family, a fact that bothered Martin, who desperately wanted to be reunited with his brother after an estrangement of five years. It also meant that Frasier knew nothing about Nikos' approaching nuptials.

When Frasier learned that Nikos was getting married, he decided it was the right time to mend the rift with Zora so he paid her a visit at her Greek restaurant and patched things up. Among other things, he promised never to meddle in Nikos' life again.

But when Martin was reunited with his brother, their conversation was less than stimulating:

Walt: Marty.

Martin: Walt.

Walt: What's new?

Martin: Oh, same old, same old. How's tricks?

Walt: Can't complain. They keeping you busy?

Martin: Oooh, better believe it.

Walt: Well, what are you going to do?

Martin: Tell me about it.

Nikos' fiancée was from an affluent family, which pleased Nikos' mother. But the fiancée's motive for marrying Nikos was to get even with her parents for personal grudges, and Frasier realized that Nikos was still in love with his ex–girlfriend, who was also a juggler. But he had promised not to interfere.

So Frasier arranged for the ex to come to the wedding rehearsal dinner, where he could let nature take its course and she could be reunited with Nikos. That, of course, made both of them very happy.

It also made the snobby parents of the now ex–fiancée happy, too. They had been decidedly glum up to that point.

But it didn't please Zora — and she knew who to blame. The reconciliation was over — and Martin and Walt knew they wouldn't see each other again for awhile.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Archie's Adventure in Education

Edith (Jean Stapleton): I'll never forget the first time I made pot roast for your father. Only he wasn't your father then; we was just keeping company. I invited him to my house for dinner, and I made him pot roast. And that was the first time he ever called me "dingbat."

Gloria (Sally Struthers): Well that's awful, even if he didn't like your cooking.

Edith: Oh, no, he loved it.

Michael (Rob Reiner): Then why'd he call you "dingbat?"

Edith: Well in them days, Archie was too shy to call me "sweetheart" or "darling" so he called me his "little dingbat." And you know what? Ever since then, no matter how mad he says "dingbat," I always hear a little "sweetheart" in it.

There have been times when I have taught college–level courses that I have had students who would be classified as nontraditional students — typically people who left school at some point and then returned after several years to pursue their degrees. I have long admired the courage it takes to do something like that. It can't be easy to be in class with colleagues — or even a teacher — young enough to be one's children.

They say one is never too old to learn, though, and Archie Bunker (Carroll O'Connor) proved it 45 years ago tonight on All in the Family — even if he did it for the wrong reasons — in the episode "Archie Learns His Lesson."

Archie was angling for a dispatcher's job, but he had a problem. The job required a high school diploma, and Archie had to drop out of school to help support his family. So Archie went to school at night to earn his GED.

He didn't want Mike (Rob Reiner) and Gloria (Sally Struthers) to know, though, so he swore Edith (Jean Stapleton) to secrecy. And Edith did a pretty good job of keeping the secret until Archie blew his own cover. He told Mike and Gloria that he was going bowling, then left without his bowling ball.

Mike and Gloria were very supportive of Archie when they found out, and Mike and Archie started studying together at the dining room table — leading to some of the series' most entertaining dialogue between the two.

At one memorable point, Mike told Archie, who was studying for an American history test, what manifest destiny meant. That sparked a debate of sorts between the liberal Mike and the conservative Archie, which by itself wasn't especially memorable, although it was hilarious in the context of history and politics. Then Edith helped Archie study by asking him questions.

Before they began, Mike asked if he could listen in because "I love science fiction." Archie wouldn't go for that and shooed Mike away from the table.

But Mike listened from the sofa and finally could take no more when the subject of the American government's treatment of Indians came up. Archie's logic was too much for him.

But Mike's reaction was nothing compared to Gloria's when she found her father writing the answers to the history questions on little pieces of paper.

She observed that they looked like crib notes.

"Bingo!" Archie replied. He said he would keep them in his breast pocket in case he needed them.

"Daddy!" exclaimed a shocked Gloria. "That's cheating!"

Archie explained the difference.

"Cheating is when you're supposed to give something to somebody else, and you don't give it. I'm taking a test. I'm supposed to give 'em the right answers. That's what I'm gonna give 'em!"

"But, Daddy, you're cheating yourself," Gloria insisted.

"No," Archie said. "I get a diploma out of it."

Gloria wouldn't give up. "You're not being honest with yourself."

"I certainly am," Archie replied. "I sat down and I asked myself a question. 'Can you pass this exam without them little pieces of paper?' And I gave myself an honest answer: 'No.'"

That sent Gloria screaming from the table.

Mike, who had been upstairs, came into the room as Gloria was screaming. "Been talking to your father?" he asked.

Gloria's point was rendered moot, though, when it turned out that Edith had glued Archie's notes to a board so he could study them on the subway. She was pleased with herself, but Archie was sure he was going to fail.

As it turned out, though, Archie did just fine. He was notified by mail that he had passed his test, and his family congratulated him on his achievement.

But a buddy of Archie's called with news. As Archie explained it to the family, instead of studying history, he should have studied the theory of relativity. The dispatcher's job had gone to the boss' nephew.

"And here I am," Archie said, "stuck with a high school diploma."

Friday, March 09, 2018

Sting's Best

Sting has been around for more than four decades, going back to his days with The Police, and he has been a solo act for more than three, but many people still don't know his real name. (It is Gordon Sumner.)

Likewise, many people are, sadly, unfamiliar with Geoffrey Chaucer's "The Canterbury Tales," a collection of stories told by a group of 14th–century pilgrims traveling from London to Canterbury to visit St. Thomas Becket's shrine at Canterbury Cathedral. One of those pilgrims was called The Summoner.

The title of Sting's album that was released 25 years ago today, "Ten Summoner's Tales," was a somewhat strained pun on both Sting's surname and the name of that character from "The Canterbury Tales."

The music was a nice change of pace for Sting, whose previous efforts had been largely influenced by the deaths of his parents. "Ten Summoner's Tales" was more upbeat. Of course, it wouldn't have taken much, given how somber those other albums had been.

The title of the album also made it clear that it was made with no concept in mind — and, after hearing it, the listener had no choice but to concede that point — with the exception of the fact that the songs tended to affirm love and morality.

Of the six singles that were released from the album, my favorite has long been "If I Ever Lose My Faith in You," but I have never spoken of the reason for that until now.

I had heard singles from the album on the radio, but I didn't really listen to the album until two years after it hit the record stores — the summer after my mother died in a flash flood. My father was disabled in that flood. It was a devastating time for the entire family.

My mother's childhood friend, Jane, checked in on my family on a regular basis that summer, making sure we were all functioning, still putting one foot in front of the other and not forgetting to breathe, and I remember buying the CD one day, mostly on a whim.

I put it in the CD player in my car and started listening to it as I drove home. "If I Ever Lose My Faith in You" was the first song that played. I had heard it before, but on that occasion all I could think of was how lost my family would have been without Jane that summer.

I suppose I will always think of her whenever I hear "If I Ever Lose My Faith in You." The song spoke the truth. If I ever lost my faith in Jane, there really would be nothing left for me to do.

The other single from the CD that I like is "Fields of Gold." While "If I Ever Lose My Faith in You" is a pop song, "Fields of Gold" is really more of a ballad.

Both songs were written by Sting and deserve to be designated as classics on an album that really didn't have many classic songs, but it was more than the sum of its parts.

It had classic contributors — most notably Eric Clapton, who didn't perform on the album but co–wrote "It's Probaby Me" with Sting.

It was the first single to be released from the album, but it was overshadowed by those other two songs.

It is probaby Sting's best album.

Sunday, March 04, 2018

Vivaldi's Birthday

Today is the 340th birthday of one of my favorite composers, Antonio Vivaldi.

Vivaldi is best known for his composition "The Four Seasons," which paid homage to the seasons of the year and inspired one of my favorite movies from the '80s.

My very favorite composer is Mozart. I also like Beethoven, Grieg and Bach.

But Vivaldi is regarded as one of the greatest Baroque composers. Of those others I mentioned, I suppose Bach is the only one from the Baroque period, and while he is also regarded by many as the greatest composer of all time, much of his work was for keyboards. Vivaldi's primary emphasis was on strings.

Both were great, of course. This isn't a competition, and both gave us soothing music that has survived for centuries.

In fact, Vivaldi's compositions have fared better than he did. Vivaldi died in poverty.

Major Winchester Passes Away

Charles (David Ogden Stiers): What is that odor?

Radar (Gary Burghoff): Uh, north wind, cesspool; east wind, latrine.

Charles: The wind is from the south.

Radar: Oh, that's the kitchen.

David Ogden Stiers was not a charter member of the cast of TV's MASH. He was a midseries replacement for Larry Linville, who played the inept Frank Burns in the first five seasons of the series.

But Charles Emerson Winchester III, the character Stiers played, was far from inept. He was, in fact, a top–notch surgeon — and by the time the series ended 35 years ago (as of last Wednesday), he had long since ceased to be regarded as a replacement but a full–fledged cast member. When all was said and done, he appeared in more episodes than Linville — in fact, only seven other people appeared in more episodes than he did, and all but two (Harry Morgan and Mike Farrell) had been in the cast from the start.

Stiers died yesterday at the age of 75. He had been suffering from bladder cancer.

Stiers may always be remembered as Charles Emerson Winchester III, a role for which he earned two Emmy nominations, but he played many roles in his career, and much of his work was providing the voices for characters in film and TV projects.

He may be equally remembered for his work on Disney movies, particularly 1991's "Beauty and the Beast," after his MASH days were over.

Personally, there are a couple of his post–MASH performances that stand out in my memory. A few years after MASH ended, Stiers was Alexander Haig in a TV movie based on Woodward and Bernstein's book "The Final Days" about the end of the Nixon presidency. The other memory is his appearance on Frasier as a former research colleague of Frasier's mother who was visiting Seattle after many years living abroad.

In MASH, Stiers' character was known for his fondness for classical music. In reality, he was a talented musician who was resident conductor of the Newport Symphony in Newport, Ore., where he lived and died, and he was guest conductor for more than 70 orchestras the world over.

Few people were as versatile as Stiers, and I will always remember that versatility on MASH, but I saw him in other roles and was always impressed by his talent.

Rest in peace, Major.