Wayne Rogers: Much More than M*A*S*H
By G. Patrick Lynch
I was very pleased to see Thomas Firey’s thoughtful series on the classical liberal currents in what was, arguably, the greatest television comedy ever, M*A*S*H. The two original stars of the show were Alan Alda and the late Wayne Rogers. What is lesser known of the latter, Wayne attended many Liberty Fund conferences between 2003 and 2015. I had the privilege of knowing him for a number of years during his long and productive relationship with Liberty Fund.
Wayne first became acquainted with Liberty Fund through a personal relationship with a member of the Liberty Fund Board of Directors. Wayne began to attend our events, and he grew to love Liberty Fund. I still vividly remember watching Wayne on his Fox Business show “Cashing In” wearing a Liberty Fund tie early on Saturday mornings. I first met Wayne at a conference in 2006 on biology and the origins of virtue (directed by a long time friend of EconLib, the ever humble Mike Munger). Wayne and I hit it off immediately and over the years I had the opportunity to work with him twice as he directed Liberty Fund conferences.
Wayne’s involvement was not simply because of his fame as a celebrity. He was a graduate of Princeton and was sharp as a whip. Sure he could tell stories about his days on M*A*S*H or hanging out with Cher, but he was a voracious reader, and a tenacious advocate for positions he believed him. Woe unto the person who disagreed with him on Glass-Stegall. Anyone who thought he was just some Hollywood figure quickly learned that Wayne was an intellectual of the first order who was prepared to push you if you couldn’t defend your position or the text didn’t support your views.
For a while, people used to joke that Wayne Rogers must have financially regretted leaving the cast of M*A*S*H after just three seasons because of a contract dispute. But trust me, Wayne got the last laugh. At the root of his departure was what he described as his attraction to puzzles, most of them involving how to make money in a wide range of businesses and endeavors. As I recall, the first deal that Wayne told me he was involved with was river barges, and because Wayne could tell a story, he made a business story about river barges seem like a pirate’s adventure along the Mississippi.
He went on to to be involved in a multitude of other businesses including wine making, banks, investments for some of his acting friends, such as Peter Falk, and perhaps most famously he was co-owner of a little bridal shop in New York called Kleinfeld. You may have heard of it because Wayne produced one of the most popular reality shows ever based at the shop called “Say Yes to the Dress” as just one of the many businesses he was involved with. In short, Wayne did just fine.
I’ll always remember Wayne for his energy and drive, his generosity with this time, the passion with which he lived his life, and his firm and unyielding commitment to the principles of liberty. He loved playing what he called his “one string banjo” – his tendency to emphasize a point again and again until he convinced you of his position. He was one of a kind, and as part of a one of a kind show, Wayne fit right in at the 4077th. And he would have loved Tom’s discussion of the show’s classical liberal themes.