Theater : Loretta Swit: Major Houlihan to Major Bummer


Dear Reader,

I have not interviewed Loretta Swit. In the process, I have struck a blow for freedom of the press.

Loretta Swit feels "abused by the press," according to a spokesman for the Theater Guild in New York, which is producing her one-woman touring show, "Shirley Valentine." It's at the Plummer Auditorium in Fullerton tonight.

If I wanted to interview her, the spokesman said, I would have to sign a written agreement promising not to abuse her. He apologized for what he was about to do and faxed the document for my signature:

"The producers of 'Shirley Valentine,' in conjunction with Ms. Swit, have developed the following guidelines, which we would like you to review," the document began. "If you can agree that you can abide by these guidelines, we will arrange an interview with Ms. Swit.

"The purpose of this interview is to promote the production of 'Shirley Valentine.' . . . . There is no real purpose served by questions relating to Ms. Swit's role as Major Margaret Houlihan in the television series 'MASH,' which ended 12 years ago."

But, it went on, "if there is any reference in your piece to Ms. Swit's role in 'MASH,' her character is not to be referred to as the derogatory 'Hot Lips'; she should be referred to as 'Major Margaret Houlihan.' "

No salute required, though.

The document continued: "Ms. Swit's personal life and privacy are not the topic of this interview, therefore we ask that these aspects of her life be respected. We ask that you refrain from asking such questions as those which relate to where she lives; past, present or future romances"--I stopped to consider what future romances I could ask her about--"hair color"--Would I be blindfolded?--"bust size and measurements"--Hmmm. I hadn't thought of that--"age, family, weight, height, religion, and other questions of a personal and private nature.

"Finally, we ask that your interview be limited to 15 to 20 minutes. Ms. Swit is on the road performing from five to eight nights a week"-- Sssssmmokin'. Eight nights?--"It is essential that she be able to rest her voice and conserve her energy."

Above the space for my signature it said, "I have read these guidelines and agree to abide by them."

Well, there went my plan for the definitive, wide-ranging interview with Loretta Swit.

So you're going to have to settle for information from the "theater biography" put out by her personal publicist:

"Loretta Swit is known for her varied career in theater and TV, especially as the quick-witted Major Margaret 'Hot Lips' Houlihan."

P.S.: Am I dreaming?

* "Shirley Valentine" plays tonight at the Plummer Auditorium, 201 E. Chapman Ave., Fullerton. 8 p.m. $20.50 to $27.50. (714) 773-3371.

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