Tuesday, February 18, 2020

RIP Kellye Nakahara

MASH really was a family. Everyone on the set was treated equally. There was no hierarchy between the cast and the extras, and the crew for that matter. No diva treatment. No shunning day players or cable pullers. Many days we all had lunch at the Mess Tent. A table could contain Alan Alda, an extra, the showrunner, the make up person, a day player, and a Teamster driver.  In other words, not like any High School you ever attended. 

As a result, we all got to know the extras and whenever we could, we gave them lines (which meant considerably more income for them). Jeff Maxwell (Igor) and Kellye Nakahara (Nurse Kellye) were two who over their years of service emerged and were in so many scenes they almost were members of the cast – credits-wise. But to us they were always members of the cast – as was Roy Goldman, Nurse Sherry, Nurse Gwen, and a rotating group that included Judy Farrell, Bobbi Mitchell, and Enid Kent.

So when I heard the news that Kellye Nakahara passed away at the age of 72 yesterday, I was heartbroken. She wasn’t just a co-worker from long ago. She was such a lovely person, had such a wonderful spirit, and brightened everyone’s day. And she was a terrific actress. Every line we gave her she delivered with honesty and warmth. We even gave her jokes. To me Kellye Nakahara was as much a part of MASH as the names you see in big block yellow stencil letters in the opening credits.

Longtime fans of the show began to recognize her. And because MASH has been so successful in syndication, her episodes and memory will live on. She was a dear heart. I will miss her.  We lost a member of the family.  Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen.

30 comments :

  1. I once was a (minor) guest host on a TV telethon in Phoenix. The imported guest stars were G.W. Bailey and Kellye Nakahara. Spoke with both of them briefly, and what I remember about Kellye was that she was warm, upbeat and totally into the fund-raising effort. Don't recall what the charity was, but haven't forgotten her positiveness.

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  2. RIP Kellye Nakahara. Loved the episode when she develops a thing for Hawkeye, and lashes out at him near the end.

    I also remember seeing her pop up as the cook in "Clue", a gem from the 80s.

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    1. Glad you mentioned CLUE. I remember it took me years before I realised it was lovable Nurse Kellye from M*A*S*H who brandished a kitchen knife at Tim Curry whilst intoning "Dinner will be ready at 7:30!" ominously.

      I liked the character of Nurse Kellye except, ironically, in the episode that focused on her, which was one of those overly preachy latter-season episodes, the premise of which is "Nurse Kellye is jealous that Hawkeye doesn't hit on her and makes Hawkeye feel bad for not being attracted to her." (Considering we'd never seen any indication before of Kellye having feelings for Hawkeye, this episode fell a bit flat - it would have made more sense with Winchester rather than Hawkeye, as there had been prior episodes in which Kellye ribbed and flirted with Winchester.)

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  3. My favorite character on MASH. She was so sweet, kind, and a real fire brand when pushed. I do love the episode where she lets Hawkeye have it. May her soul rest in peace. My prayers are with her family, friends, and fans.

    Pam, St. Louis

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  4. Kevin Lauderdale2/18/2020 7:48 AM

    She has one of my favorite lines in all of MASH. In “Life Time,” Hawkeye is describing how big an arterial graft he needs. He says, “Like a rigatoni.” Kelley says, “Doctor, I’m part Chinese and part Hawaiian. Can you put that in ethnic measurements I can understand?”

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  5. RIP to a wonderful actress who also was the subject of an Alda-written episode where he finally notices her and discovers, of course, that she already has a stud of her own!

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  6. When I first heard about this yesterday, TMZ was the first to report it, so I was initially reluctant to put any stock into this, given their reputation for jumping all over unsubstantiated rumors and gossip and then running with it without having all of the facts. But, once I saw other sources were, indeed, confirming this, it was truly a saddening reality that we're gradually losing more and more from M*A*S*H.

    Even if she didn't have that much to do, and was often just relegated to the background, she certainly had a strong presence on the show, and brought a little something special; she certainly will be missed.

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  7. Sorry for your loss, Ken. Been saying that too much lately.

    Thought of you as soon as I heard... she was great on M*A*S*H.

    Kevin Lauderdale nailed her best line up above.

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  8. She also happened to be cute as hell.

    -- Damian

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  9. So young, too.

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  10. One of the good ones, RIP Kellye.

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  11. So sorry to learn of her passing, she was one of my favorites on MASH.

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  12. Being a regular extra on a show is the goal of virtually every "background actor" as we liked to be called. And the opportunity to get a line of dialog is the icing on the cake. Kellye Nakahara was truly living the dream. She should be considered an inspiration to all of those that are awaiting their big break. Sometimes good things really do happen for good people.
    I was surprised to see that she was 72. People don't age in syndication. You lose track of the fact that these are real people growing older in real life.
    R.I.P. Kellye.
    M.B.

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  13. I loved Kellye Nakahara and was thrilled as her part continued to grow over the years. She was, indeed, a smart and funny actress. She was also, as others have stated, adorable.

    So sorry that your MASH family is getting smaller. Such is life, but we don't have to like it.

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  14. Kellye had a smart part (as a nurse of all things) in a sweet comedy from the late 80's, SHE'S HAVING A BABY. I still remember my wife and I looking at each other and smiling when she first came on screen.

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  15. I am sorry for your loss and for the loss of another classic actress from a classic show. Thanks for putting a personal touch saying goodbye.

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  16. You could just tell that she was a nice person by watching her on-screen. I interviewed her about 10 years ago for the TV Land Awards and she was just as I'd expected. My condolences to her family and friends.

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  17. "Rigatoni? Doctor, I'm part Chinese and part Hawaiian. Can you put that in ethnic measurements I can understand"?

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  18. Being from Hawaii, it was always a kick to see a "local girl" represented on TV.

    Far too soon...

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  19. That was a beautiful tribute! I was very sad to learn of her passing.

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  20. The scene with the dying soldier was gold, as well as the one when she zinged Winchester in Japanese (subtitled as "Boy you look ridiculous"). Sorry about your friend, and sorry that you have to keep writing these so often.

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  21. What a wonderful remembrance.

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  22. I’m so sorry to hear about Kellye Nakahara. She was a favorite of mine. There was something so charming about her - the girl next door.

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  23. Our condolences to you and Jeff and her family.

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  24. RIP, Kellye. She was a nice presence on the show.

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  25. Sad news to hear, my condolences.

    The scene I will always remember her for was from an early season in O.R., Major Burns makes a nasty remark about all Asians looking alike, and she looks up through her surgical mask, you only see her eyes, and the effect is devastating.

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  26. If you’re fortunate, good influences often pop up when you least expect them. I showed up at M*A*S*H after a seven year stint performing as the goofy half of a comedy team. I was exploring my options. The first day was at the Fox ranch at 6:30 am. It was freezing and there was a big guy spraying bees with smoke. I let it be known to the folks around me that this was my first and last day doing whatever I was supposed to do at this miserable place. I tried to make my point while being funny.

    With my rant done, Kellye walked over and said, "I’d reconsider never coming back. There’s something here for you.”

    Fortunate, indeed.

    Thank you, Kellye.

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  27. My favorite Nurse Kellye moment was when she was comforting a dying soldier. It still brings tears to my eyes.

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  28. Unrelated: there’s an AfterMASH reference near the end of this, wonder if Ken has any reaction?
    https://www.rollingstone.com/tv/tv-features/vince-gilligan-better-call-saul-interview-704094/

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