Prop Spotlight: Radar’s Teddy Bear

Introduction

Radar’s teddy bear–which never received a name–first appeared on M*A*S*H during the Season 1 episode “I Hate a Mystery” (originally broadcast November 26th, 1972). As Larry Gelbart later recalled in an October 2006 post to the alt.tv.mash newsgroup, he “wrote the prop into an early script and it just never went away.”

The bear made sporadic appearances until Gary Burghoff left the series during Season 8. It famously reappeared in the penultimate episode, “As Time Goes By,” although that episode featured a different prop bear.

Promotional image featuring Radar and his Teddy Bear

Promotional image featuring Radar and his Teddy Bear

Although the bear became an iconic part of M*A*S*H, due in large part to the popularity of the character of Radar, Gelbart later expressed some regret about the teddy bear. In June 2000, he wrote the following post to the alt.tv.mash newsgroup:

I have to confess that while I thought giving Radar a teddy bear as a form of security blanket, I think we went too far with it and it got awfully coy.

I believe the bear made its first appearance when Radar was discovered sleeping with when someone woke him in the middle of the night.

When we allowed him to go public with it to everyone in the camp, I think we went too far, the device becoming far too coy.

Gelbart reiterated shortly thereafter in another post that he didn’t think “it was a sign of maturity for Radar to share with others his immature need for his security bear.”

Episodes With The Bear

Here’s a lengthy but by no means comprehensive list of episodes in which Radar’s teddy bear makes an appearance:

“I Hate a Mystery”
First appearance; discovered by Colonel Blake hidden under Radar’s bed during the search for the camp thief. Later, when Hawkeye calls various personnel to the mess tent, Radar arrives holding the teddy bear. No one seems surprised or shocked to see the bear.

I Hate a Mystery

“I Hate a Mystery”

“Radar’s Report”
At one point, while writing his report on his typewriter, Radar has his teddy bear next to him.

“Kim”
Radar shares his bed, and his teddy bear, with Kim.

“Crisis”
Radar has his teddy bear with him while bunking with Colonel Blake, Father Mulcahy, Hawkeye and others to save fuel.

“A Smattering of Intelligence”
Radar is seen in bed, holding his teddy bear.

“Officer of the Day”
Radar says good night to his bear while tucking it in and then tells Hawkeye the bear belonged to his brother, who was 4F and worked as a box boy at a supermarket (the exchange suggests that the brother in question had passed away; in other episodes Radar was said to be an only child).

“Welcome to Korea”
When Frank wakes up Radar, he is holding his teddy bear.

“The Kids”
After Radar lets two of the Korean children sleep with his bear, it disappears. He finds it just as the children are preparing to leave the 4077th.

“Quo Vadis, Captain Chandler?”
Radar asks Captain Chandler to bless his teddy bear, explaining “I know he’s not real but we’re very close.” Captain Chandler does.”

Quo Vadis, Captain Chandler?

“Quo Vadis, Captain Chandler?”

“The Gun”
Colonel Potter, after finding a drunk Radar passed out on his bunk, pulls his teddy bear out of a box under his bed and tucks it into next to Radar. Later, Radar confronts Colonel BLAH BLAH. “My bear went off!”

“The Novocaine Mutiny”
While searching the camp for Sgt. Zale’s missing $300, Frank goes through Radar’s quarters. He finds a stack of comic books and gets bitten by a guinea pig. He then stumbles upon Radar’s teddy bear under his mattress. Disgusted, he asks “Don’t tell me he sleeps with you.” “I’m hoping to do better, sir.” Radar latter admits the money was hidden in his teddy bear.

“Out of Sight, Out of Mind
Radar is holding his teddy bear while talking on the phone, impersonating a general.

“Fallen Idol”
While yelling at Radar, Hawkeye said “The hell with your Iowa naivete and the hell with your hero worship and your teddy bear and while you’re at it, the hell with you!”

“War of Nerves”
Radar, worried that people think he is crazy, talks to Sidney about sleeping with a teddy bear:

Radar: “Well, it’s about my teddy bear.”
Sidney: “He’s been acting strangely?”
Radar: “Huh?”
Sidney: “What about him?”
Radar: “Well, I never say anything to the guys when they kid me about sleeping with it. Except now and then I think about it in the back of my head. And when you told Klinger that it proved he was crazy ’cause he carried a teddy bear I started thinking about it in the front of my head.”
Sidney: “Radar, you can’t prove anything about anybody by what he carries. MacArthur carries a swagger stick. That doesn’t prove he’s a general.”
Radar: “Yeah, but me and my teddy bear are very close. I mean, sometimes I talk to it.”
Sidney: “Does it ever talk back?”
Radar: “No.”
Sidney: “So? Do you know how many people write letters to Romeo and Juliet and think I Love Lucy is real? And those people are living nice safe lives with towels and sheets. They’re not up to their ankles in mud, blood and death the way you are.”
Radar: “But what happens when I go back home?”
Sidney: “My guess is you probably won’t need him anymore.”
Radar: “I won’t need him anymore?”
Sidney: “That’s okay though, ’cause I have a feeling I will.”

“The Merchant of Korea”
Radar is seen sleeping and holding his teddy bear.

“Mail Call Three”
While waiting for his phone call to go through, a frustrated B.J. picks up the bear and swings it around, causing Radar to jump up and take the bear back.

“Good-Bye Radar (Part II)”
After Radar leaves the 4077th for good, Hawkeye and others return to the Swamp to discover that Radar has left his teddy bear on Hawkeye’s bunk.

“As Time Goes By”
Hawkeye offers up Radar’s teddy bear, which was left to him: “Let it stand for all the soldiers who came over here as boys and went home as men.” Note that the teddy bear seen in this episode looks nothing like the one-eyed bear seen in every other episode.

As Time Goes By

“As Time Goes By”

Bears for Sale

In February 1984, 20th Century-Fox began selling a plush teddy bear called “Radar’s Teddy.” A portion of the profits from sales of the bear would go to support the Paralyzed Veterans of America, a charity supported by Gary Burghoff. The president of Fox’s licensing arm said, “we’ve taken so much money in from ‘M*A*S*H’ items, this is a very worthwhile way to put some of it back where it’s really needed” [1].

The bear came with a cardboard tag with a short “letter” from Burghoff and a mail-away coupon for a metal dog tag:

Dear New Bear Owner:

This is one special teddy bear. He was a good friend to me, just as I’m sure that he’ll be to you.

So I hope you’ll take real good care of him and get a real nice dog tag–er, I mean bear tag, to make him officially yours. See the attached coupon for details.

He’s also very special because by purchasing this teddy bear you have helped continue t he fine work of the Paralyzed Veterans of America–and they’re pretty special too.

America’s paralyzed veterans and I thank you.

GARY BURGHOFF

These bears occasionally show up for auction/sale on eBay.

The Bear After M*A*S*H

What happened to the bear after its appearance in “Good-Bye, Radar (Part 2)”? Did Gary Burghoff take it with him? Is that why it wasn’t used in “As Time Goes By?” Many people assume the bear eventually made its way to the Smithsonian, presumably as part of the exhibit that opened in 1983 at the National Museum of American History. However, no proof the bear was part of the collection of sets and props donated to the Smithsonian has surfaced.

On July 29th, 2005, Profiles in History held its 22nd Hollywood Auction. Included were a variety of M*A*S*H items, ranging from one of the signposts built for the series, a large collection of scripts, and Radar’s teddy bear. The bear sold for $10,000 ($11,800 with the buyer’s premium), easily surpassing the pre-sale estimate of $4,000 to $6,000.

In a February 2007 article in the Orlando Sentinel, Burghoff insisted the Smithsonian never had the bear in its collection, claimed the bear disappeared 30 years earlier, and revealed a medical student purchase it during the 2005 auction and later sold it to him [2].

Gary Burghoff sold the bear for $14,307.50 during an online auction on March 24th, 2014. He included a notarized letter with the bear, transcribed below:

The teddy bear offered in the one of a kind collectables auction on March 27, 2014, is the actual bear we used on MASH television series between 1971 and 1981. It is the ONLY bear used in the series.

When the series concluded in 1981, the bear mysteriously disappeared for nearly 30 years, prompting my non-ending search for my little on-camera companion and friend. It was conspicuously missing at the MASH exhibit of the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC which was one of the most successful exhibits in Smithsonian history.

Finally, “TIGER” (as I had secretly named him), surfaced in a specialized show business memorabilia auction. It had been in the possession of the MASH set designer all along! A friend and I purchased it and TIGER has been in our care for many years.

The Radar Teddy Bear may be said to be the most famous teddy bear in the world today. MASH is still loved world-wide in more than 15 languages.

Tiger is a true 20th and 21st Century Television icon and, due to the importance of the MASH series, has a lasting place in American history.

My hope is that he will find a new home with a person or institution that understands the true value of this special American icon.

In August 2017, James Pepper Rare Books, Inc. offered the bear for sale on eBay with a fixed-price of $32,000 (discounted temporarily to $24,000).

Work Cited:

1 Lesem, Jeanne. “TV, movies influence toy design.” United Press International. Anchorage Daily News. 23 Feb. 1984: E2.
2 Cole, Christine. “‘Radar’ is on Uncle Al’s Time Capsule screen.” Orlando Sentinel. 2 Feb. 2007.

Originally published September 2nd, 2012
Last updated September 7th, 2017


17 Replies to “Prop Spotlight: Radar’s Teddy Bear”

  1. One episode I can think of that isn’t listed is “Major Fred C. Dobbs” (1×22), a scene that was cut in syndication, but Frank borrows Radar’s mining tools from under his cot, and accidentally wakes him up.

    FRANK: Do you… always sleep with a teddy bear?
    RADAR: Not when I’m on duty, sir.

    It was funny when Frank nodded and left, while Radar cradled the bear and told him, “It’s okay, bad man go away…”

  2. I’m 40 years old, a 20 year veteran of the US Air Force and I still have a teddy bear. I don’t sleep with it, but keep it in safe keeping. The bear was purchased right before I was born, so it’s older than I am. It’s a single, physical piece of my history which I can’t bare to part with. To look at a picture and see me with it when I was a baby is, for me, very emotional. I can relate to Radar. No matter where he goes, (even in the hell of war), the bear represents youth, simple times and days at home. Sometimes memory needs a physical presence.

  3. I remembered another episode that’s not on the list: “Iron Guts Kelly” (3×04), General Kelly’s aide wakes up Radar twice to make important phones, and at one point we have this exchange:

    AIDE: That’s not a teddy bear, is it?!
    RADAR: Yes sir, regulations against having a real bear.

    1. Oh, and another one: “Hanky Panky” (5×19); although the scene is cut from syndication, Margaret wakes up Radar to make a call to the hospital where Penobscott is staying, and Radar ends up kissing her because he was dreaming about slow-dancing with Betty Grable. Radar apparently put his cap on the bear’s head for this one.

  4. My favorite bear episode is season 5, epidode 6, “The Abduction of Margaret Houlihan.” Col Potter is giving a birthing class to a group of Korean women, with Radar as the demonstration “mother” and the bear as the stand-in baby. After giving birth (“Woosh!”), Potter hands the bear to Radar and says, “Congratulations, Mrs. O’Reilly, it’s a bear.”

  5. My wife has the bear, her father James Olson was the property/props manger for MASH, after MASH and Cheers. She was a little girl during filming and the bear was actually one of her stuff animals that she played and slept with for many years. Jimmy kept lots of stuff from the shows he worked with and often switched out items with copies when leaving a show. We also have all the name tags of the characters. We used to have have hundreds of scalpels and surgical mask and other stuff like that in her garage.

  6. William that is fantastic! What an amazing childhood she must have had. And wow, did her dad do amazing work. What a treasured piece of history that little bear is. Thank you so much for posting.

  7. I recently came upon a garage full of vintage items for free. Well to my surprise when going thru the items I came upon these two older looking teddy bears. One with a music box and the other looks exactly like radars teddy bear. Except, this one is missing the ribbon tie

  8. …and I have the “stand-in” for Radar’s bear. Some did had a music box,
    and I think the pink ribbon was added by prop dept, it didn’t come with the bear. Born in 1950… this bear is “with me now” still, and looks identical (has two eyes) with the signs of years of love and holding.

  9. I went to the M*A*S*H exhibit at the Smithsonian somewhere I have a picture of the bear and a picture of Hawkeye’s boots

  10. Gary came on the set of Sesame Street and spotted Big Bird. Radar O’Reilly was leaving and Big Bird was a life long friend of his. He gave his bear to Big Bird hoping his bear would have a new life. Big Bird named the bear Radar for the sake of his friend that he’ll miss forever.

  11. I was just watching an episode of Gilligan’s Island and noticed Mr Howell’s teddy bear looks an awful lot like Radar’s. Since both series were produced by Paramount &.CBS, I wonder if the bear belonged to Mr Howell before Radar??

  12. A parallel concept on another show–on Star Trek Deep Space Nine, Doctor Bashir has a teddy bear named Kukalaka. In one episode (I don’t remember which), he explains that sewing up a tear in Kukalaka inspired him to become a doctor. In the episode In The Cards, the main plot is that Jake Sisko wants to get a Willie Mays rookie card for his father, but it was bought by someone else. In order to get the card, he needs a liter of biomimetic gel from Doctor Bashir. In order to get that, he wants Jake and his friend Nog to retrieve Kukalaka from his ex-girlfriend, Leeta. They promptly do so, and get the gel! And the bear has one eye, if I remember correctly!

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