An old TV show never dies; it just comes back as a party.
Last night, the ghost of "M*A*S*H" spread itself out on the Mall -- Rosie's Bar, Officer's Club, Latrines and all -- to benefit the Foundation for Critical Care Medicine.
There was a real "M*A*S*H" star (Larry Linville, otherwise known as Frank Burns), a fake "M*A*S*H" star (Art Growdeen of Lanham, who looks a lot like Radar O'Reilly) and 500 Washingtonians decked out in camouflage cloth and fatigues.
"It's a very unique ambiance," said Dr. Arthur Kobrine, a neurosurgeon at George Washington University Hospital, who was there with a patient, White House press secretary Jim Brady. Like Brady and his wife Sarah, Kobrine was in the requisite Army green, with only his brown suede boots destroying the illusion.
It was that rare charity fundraiser where silk just wouldn't do. Despite the ticket prices, which started at $250, Hawaiian print shirts seemed much more appropriate. After all, patent leather shoes don't do well in the grass, and diamond bracelets only get in the way when you're holding a tin plate filled with barbecued chicken, corn on the cob and beans.
But some learned that the outfit that makes you the hit of the party can be a little uncomfortable in the real world.
"We're staying at the Sheraton-Carlton," said foundation chairman Dr. Hillary Don. That was almost enough, but the well-fatigued doctor continued.
"Wearing this, coming down the elevator . . ." It had obviously been a rather odd scene, but Don conquered the questioning looks.
"Carrying things off is what's important," he said. "When you're playing tennis and somehow one of your shots works, the secret is to making it look deliberate."
A few of the guests, however, chose to remain civilians.
"We thought of wearing fatigues," said Joan Holihan, a nurse at the burn unit at Children's Hospital, "but we wear them all day long."
But in uniform or out of it, the guests, who included former health and human services secretary Richard Schweiker and Shari Theismann, seemed charmed by the camouflage tablecloths and tin-can lights, delighted by the inflatable hospital the National Guard provided. They didn't even complain about standing in lines in the dark to get into the latrines. But the theme was selected to do more than entertain.
"We chose to capitalize on the fact that the "M*A*S*H" series and movie captured what we consider the appropriate elements of critical care," said Dr. Peter Holbrook, benefit chairman and director of critical care at Children's Hospital. "We have intense concern for the patients and the entire situation -- the medical situation and the emotional."
The party came at the end of a day of meetings discussing critical care, the treatment of illnesses and injuries that are potentially life threatening. Eighty percent of all Americans will have some contact with critical care, Holbrook said. Many at the fundraiser, which was expected to raise about $25,000, said they got involved because of personal knowledge of intensive and critical-care units.
"We had a very negative ICU experience," said Larry Linville's wife Melissa.
"It was everything you're not supposed to have happen," said Larry Linville, who is now appearing in ABC's "Paper Dolls," "and the result was a long, lingering, painful death. When the invitation came -- the subject was very personal for us."