M. SCOTT MORRIS: Transitions with Radar, Spock & me

By M. Scott Morris/NEMS Daily Journal

I was talking with someone from Ottumwa, Iowa, the other day. Jillian Collett is a publicity person with Ringling Bros. and Barnum amp& Bailey’s “Zing, Zang, Zoom!” circus, which is at Tupelo’s BancorpSouth Arena today and Sunday
Over the years, she’s arranged interviews with dog trainers, motorcycle daredevils, magicians and trapeze artists.
On the front of Sunday’s Living section, you’ll find a story that Jillian helped arrange with circus clown Dean Kelly.
She and I also talk about non-work topics. Your first hint about that other stuff is in the first sentence of this column: Ottumwa, Iowa.
It’s the home of the fictional Walter “Radar” O’Reilly. Played by Gary Burghoff, Radar is the company clerk in the movie version of “M*A*S*H,” as well as the long-running television series.
Ottumwa. Radar.
Radar. Ottumwa.
In my media-saturated mind, they go together. I suggested to Jillian that her fair city should build a tribute to Radar.
A statue, maybe.
Or, thinking of Radar’s fondness for his teddy bear, how about placing colorful teddy bears around town, the way Tupelo installed all those guitars?
Jillian said the town has tried to reach out to Burghoff to no avail.
My first response was disappointment. It was my second, third and fourth response, too.
After a while, though, I began to see why someone wouldn’t want to see a fictional character cast in bronze.
If we set aside “M*A*S*H” TV reruns and occasional movie screenings, Radar was a long time ago for Burghoff. No hard feelings, Ottumwa.
Still, I’m at a professional crossroads, and I’ll try to emulate Leonard Nimoy’s approach, rather than Burghoff’s.
Trekkers know Nimoy as Mr. Spock from the “Star Trek” movies and television shows.
At one point, Nimoy wrote an autobiography titled, “I Am Not Spock.” Time went on and he wrote another, “I Am Spock.” I haven’t read them, but I love them.
My role at the Mighty Daily Journal is about to change. Sheena Barnett will handle many of the arts and entertainment stories I used to write.
It’ll be my job to find interesting stories in Northeast Mississippi and put them on the Sunday Living front. Some of them might be arts and entertainment related, but they’ll be different from most of the arts stories I’ve written in the past.
I’ve got no interest in making a clean break – temporary or otherwise – between what was and what will be.
I guess it all comes down to this: If they want to install a life-size bronze statue of me at the Lyric Theatre, I’ll be there for the dedication ceremony.
Plus, I’ll personally send invitations to Jillian, Nimoy, Burghoff and the Ottumwa mayor and city council.
You’ll be invited to the big event, too. Until then, you’re always welcome at the Sunday Living section.
M. Scott Morris is a Daily Journal feature writer. Contact him at (662) 678-1589 or scott.morris@journalinc.com.

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