I doubt very many M*A*S*H fans will recognize the name Lori Noel Brokamp but if you’ve watched just one episode of the series you’ve no doubt seen her work. She was one of the “running nurses” from the opening credits and, with the exception of a few episodes from Season 11, was seen at the start of every single episode of M*A*S*H. She’s the nurse on the far right holding her hat. Lori sadly passed away on December 15th, 2014 just a few days shy of her 74th birthday.
I started trying to identify all of the running nurses from the opening credits back in September 2007 and by January 2010 thought I had figured out who they all were. Back in July 2013 I was contacted by someone who said I had misidentified one of the nurses and he put me in touch with Lori, who had this to say about her experience:
The piece of film in the credits was shot before the first program aired. The director picked several of us to run up the hill towards the fictional helicopter. I ran as hard as I could and was still nearly last. We had to shot [sic] this scene five or six times. None of us received residuals, who knew it would still be aired after all these years.
The MASH show brought in a surgeon as technical adviser that trained us to handle surgical instruments. For some reason, I was really skilled at doing that and I passed instruments to all the television doctors; Marcus Welby, Bold Ones, Emergency, and Medical Center. Thank you MASH!
Years later, I ran into Gary Burgoff in Seattle, Washington at an art show and talked with him about the MASH Show and about his artwork (since I am an artist myself); and never knew he painted. He paints birds.
I told her I would update my page about the running nurses to correctly identify her. Unfortunately, it was around this time that my other website was hacked and I had to spend many months trying to put it back together. I also somehow lost all of Lori’s e-mails. I always meant to get around to contacting her again and revising the page but time just got away from me.
I didn’t know Lori well at all. We only corresponded two or three times by e-mail. I’m told that she enjoyed sharing a laugh about her “celebrity appearance” in the opening credits and recall how her hat was nearly blown off. To her friends and family, however, Lori was so much more than a background actor with a connection to M*A*S*H. She was a wife, a mother, a musician, and an artist.
I hope this brief tribute to Lori reminds us all that everyone involved in making M*A*S*H — no matter how small their role — has a story. It took all of them, from the main cast to the writers and directors all the way down the line to the camera operators, prop makers, drivers, and background actors, to create the television show we know and love.
(I have finally updated my feature on the Nurses from the Opening Credits to include Lori. I plan to heavily revise it again in the near future.)