Famous Veteran: Jamie Farr
“A couple of weeks later, I was called into the commanding officer’s headquarters, where he waved a telegram under my nose. Major Cohen bellowed ‘It says I should take you off of KP and it’s supposedly signed by Red Skelton! Private, is this your idea of a joke'”
In 1934 in Toledo, Ohio, the actor who would become known to American audiences as Corporal Klinger was born. Jamie Farr’s acting career started early when he won two dollars at age 11 in a contest. After high school, Farr attended the Pasadena Playhouse and was recruited for the role of Santini in “Blackboard Jungle.” Eventually he met Red Skelton and discovered they shared chemistry. Skelton took him on for “The Red Skelton Show,” and Farr was a regular for two seasons.
A rarity for most veterans-turned-celebrities, Farr played the role of a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Air Corps before he was drafted into the actual Army. Farr attended basic training at Ft. Ord in California. On Sunday nights, his girlfriend at the time took him home to eat dinner with her family. Her family called him, “Grande Naso and Grande Culo,” which he thought was a charming Italian greeting until he learned it means, “Big Nose and Big Bottom.”
After basic, Farr was sent to Queens, New York to make training films. Rather than acting, he took on the role of script supervisor. He used his connections to take an Army vehicle and park in front of theaters without ever receiving a ticket.
While serving in Korea, he sent a letter to Red Skelton complaining about KP duty. His commanding officer, Major Cohen, read the responding letter and called Farr into his office, thinking it was a joke. Farr explained that he couldn’t have sent the letter to himself, and pointed to the St. Christopher medal which proved his connection with Skelton.
Sometime later, he was stationed in Tokyo, Japan at Camp Drake. His commanding officers received a telegram that Skelton requested Farr to tour with him throughout Korea. He was quickly shipped out to tour with Skelton. Farr left the Army in 1959, and returned to a welcoming Hollywood.
Farr returned to “The Red Skelton Show” as a regular cast member, and appeared in various films and other variety shows. He was signed on for a single episode of “M*A*S*H” as a soldier who tried to be released from the military by dressing in drag, hoping to convince his superiors he deserved a Section 8 discharge. His character was popular enough that Farr returned for a dozen episodes in season two, and became a regular in season three. When “M*A*S*H” finished its run, Farr acted in a sequel, “AfterMASH” and performed in made-for-TV movies and a number of variety shows including “The $25,000 Pyramid,” “Super Password,” and “The Magnificent Marble Machine.” Aside from a handful of public appearances as a host, Farr currently hosts a daily radio travel show called “Travelin’ Farr.”