When you analyze why there seems to be such a disproportionately
high percentage of inventors who created these two types of
products, it makes perfect sense. These two sports are very hard to
master, so there's always a market of golfers and fishermen who will
buy nearly anything that promises to help improve their golf game or
fishing game. Golfers and fishermen, by their very nature, have to
be optimistic in order to continue their hobbies.
The same could be said of Cubs fans, but I digress.
An inventor named Gary was born in 1943 in Bristol, Conn., as the
younger of two brothers. Or it may have been Ottumwa, Iowa, but I'm
not sure because for some reason Ottumwa just sounds right for him.
His father worked for a clock company, and his mother directed a
local theater and was also a professional dancer.
Gary invented a fish attracter device that he named Chum Magic.
The device holds chum (bait) and floats on the water. He claimed
that it would help you catch three times more fish than normal. This
reminds me of the time that my brother once caught 45 fish in an
hour on the Niemann Family Farm. Personally, I always thought that
he was just fooling us by catching the same fish over and over
again, but whether you catch 45 different fish or the same fish 45
different times, it's still a pretty good hour.
Now back to our story. Gary had a habit of carrying around a
teddy bear, and what's surprising about this is the fact that he did
this not just as a child but also as an adult. For 7 1/2 years --
from 1972 to 1979 -- he carried it around with him on his job! You
could say that it had something to do with the fact that he was born
with a deformed left hand, but that wasn't the real reason.
He and his wife, Elisabeth, have two sons, and he has a daughter
named Gena Gayle from his first wife. Gena went into acting, despite
Gary's early advice against it.
Gary has two other patents in addition to his Chum Magic fish
attracter device. Chum Magic never achieved the kind of commercial
success that Gary did in his day job, which you may have heard of.
[to top of second column]
Maybe it would help if I gave you his full name: Gary Burghoff.
If that name doesn't ring a bell, then maybe his "hometown" of
Ottumwa, Iowa, will.
Why Ottumwa, Iowa?
Because that was the hometown of the fictional character Gary
Burghoff played in the TV show "M*A*S*H." He played Radar O'Reilly.
There are a couple of other interesting facts about Gary Burghoff:
He played the role of Charlie Brown in the off-Broadway
production of "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" more than 1,000
times. It was this role that led the producer of "M*A*S*H" to give
him the screen test that led to his role of Radar in the movie.
The reason why you never saw his deformed hand on the show is
because the cameras never showed it, often using props to hide it.
He was the only actor to star in both the original "M*A*S*H"
movie and the TV series.
The man formerly known as Radar O'Reilly has written a couple of
books about pets and even had his own show about pets on PBS in
1999. He also paints and sells his own collections of wildlife art.
As an accomplished drummer, Burghoff recorded albums and played
in jazz clubs across the country.
"M*A*S*H," by the way, went on far longer than the Korean War
did. It was on TV for 11 seasons, while the Korean War went on for
Paul Niemann may be reached at
Copyright Paul Niemann 2006