Actress Eileen Saki, best known for her recurring role as Rosie on the TV series “M*A*S*H,” died of pancreatic cancer in Los Angeles on May 1, according to Variety. She was 79.
She appeared in eight episodes from 1979 to 1981 as the owner of a bar on the sitcom, which was set during the Korean War at the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital. Saki was the third actress to play Rosie — who was based on a real person — after Shizuko Hoshi in Season 3 and Frances Fong in Seasons 5 and 6.
Saki also had a small role in a Season 5 episode as the head madam of a group of prostitutes.
Jeff Maxwell, who played Pvt. Igor Straminsky on “M*A*S*H” and co-hosts a podcast with Ryan Patrick called “MASH Matters,” posted a tribute to Saki: “In all my years on ‘M*A*S*H’ … I never had the opportunity to shoot a scene in Rosie’s Bar or with any of the three actresses who portrayed Rosie.
“A million years later, Ryan and I thought it would be fun to feature Eileen Saki, the last of the three Rosies, as our guest on ‘MASH Matters.’ After all, Rosie and her infamous bar were a staple of the show. Neither of us knew Eileen or had any idea how the interview would go, but we hoped we would at least unearth some moments of interest.
“It turned out to be love at first guest.
“I think it took two, maybe three minutes for us to fall in love with her. She was gracious, funny, engaging, insightful, adorable, filled with ‘M*A*S*H’ stories and exhibited more energy than I remembered having 20 years ago. She spoke with great love for all the cast members, but was particularly appreciative of her interaction with executive producer and director Burt Metcalfe.
“The visit with her was pure joy as she filled every word with joy, life and love.
“Ryan and I hosted a 50th anniversary celebration at the original ‘M*A*S*H’ set located in the hills of the former Fox Ranch. Eileen and her husband, Bob, surprised everyone by attending the event. It was wonderful to finally connect with her in person and enjoy the excitement and love shown to her by all the celebrating fans.
“A special woman, Eileen captivated you with a twinkle and smile in her soul. I am very grateful to have had that experience. It’s one I will cherish forever.”
Born in Japan in 1943, Saki, whose real name was Minako Borgen, wanted to perform from an early age. Her father, who worked in the theater in Japan and as a gardener in the U.S., set aside money to pay for her singing and dancing lessons. She landed her most well-known role by sneaking onto the “M*A*S*H” set at 20th Century Fox and asking Metcalfe, whom she had never met, for work.
She also knocked on the door of Mel Brooks and landed a role in his 1981 movie “History of the World, Part I.” Her other big-screen credits were “Policewomen,” “Meteor,” and Ron Howard’s “Splash.”
Saki’s other TV credits included “Good Times,” “ChiPs,” “The Greatest American Hero,” “Gimme a Break,” “Sidekicks,” “Without a Trace,” and the TV movies “Enola Gay: The Men, the Mission, the Atomic Bomb,” Victims for Victims: The Theresa Saldana Story,” and “Boys Will Be Boys.”
Most recently, she acted in commercials, including one for Uber Eats with Aaron Donald of the L.A. Rams last year.
Survivors include her husband, Bob Borgen, a former producer of L.A. Kings hockey telecasts.
Sources: IMDb, Legacy.com, Monster M*A*S*H