Suicide is Painless, It Brings on Many Changes

The hugely popular television series MASH, had it’s initial run from 1972 to 1983, spanning the first eleven years or so of my life.

The series became a backdrop or soundtrack to my life. While my family did not watch the show religiously, I knew the theme song (“Suicide is Painless”), the iconography, and characters of the show. Today, it seems like somewhere, around the world, one of the 256 episodes of MASH is being aired somewhere as a rerun.

The dramatic/comic series follows the doctors, nurses, soldiers, and patients of the MASH (Mobile Army Service Hospital) Unit number 4077 during the Korean War. Often in conflict are the civilian doctors (Hawkeye Pierce, Trapper John, and later B. J. Hunicutt) with the enlisted officers of the unit. The popular series ran for 11 years while the Korean War lasted for just three.

On my winter break, I planned to head to the southland to do some field sketching of one of the most iconic locations using during the MASH movie and the television series. This was the former 20th Century Fox backlot used from many films (Planet of the Apes) and television series (MASH) which is now Malibu Creek State Park.

Of course I started my planning with a map. In this case, a map of the Malibu Coast covering Topanga, Malibu, Zuma Beach. and Malibu Creek State Park.

I often like to do some sketches before I leave on a trip to put my mind’s eye into the location. The featured sketch is based on a screen shot of the pilot episode of MASH, the television series showing the iconic opening as Radar looks on as two helicopter fly towards the helipad with wounded soldiers. The second sketch is of the famous MASH signpost. This was based on a photo of a replica of the sign. The original signpost is in the Smithsonian in Washington DC. I used a little artist license as I changed two of the locations to reflect the real location of the set: Malibu and Topanga (where I would be staying).

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