Friday, January 1, 2016
Wayne Rogers, R.I.P.
Wayne Rogers, who is best known for playing Captain "Trapper" John McIntyre on the CBS television series M*A*S*H, has passed away. I remember seeing and enjoying the original M*A*S*H film by Robert Altman but for some reason I was never attracted to the television series though one could not help being aware of it and its impact. I just never watched it.
That didn't stop me from becoming aware of Wayne Rogers, however. From 1985 through 2001, I was producing my cable TV series (Interview). During that span of time, I made 500 half-hour segments of the show each of which presented a fictional interview with an author being interviewed about a book he or she had written concerning some amazing adventure or encounter in his or her life. The interviews looked and sounded real; a majority of viewers called wanting to know where they could find the book being featured having already failed to find it at their favorite book store. There were some who were already in on the joke and were seeking me out because they thought a particular story would make good material for a film or television series. One of these was Wayne Rogers though he never called or tried to made contact with me.
Over the years, I would receive a call from one producer or another with the following introduction: "Wayne Rogers gave me your phone number and said I should talk to you about an episode of (Interview) he'd seen on television last night." Following these initial phone calls, I would invariably messenger a VHS cassette to the producer in question and, subsequently, we would enter into negotiations for the rights to the original story I had created for the episode in question. I lost count of how many times this happened.
For a time, I wondered why Wayne never called me directly. Was he merely sharing the shows with friends of his he thought might make use of them, was he acting as a remote-control producer seeking to develop the stories via his delegates or was there some other explanation? I never found out but the calls kept coming until I stopped producing the show in 2001.
I never tried to make contact with Wayne Rogers and gratefully accepted the generous introductions he arranged for me without trying to insinuate myself into his life. Had he wanted to talk, as Robert Evans would say, I was only seven digits away. I'll always wonder about his motivation but what is clear to me is that Wayne Rogers was an extraordinary individual.