This M*A*S*H cheerleader became a ''female Andy Warhol''
"Henry in Love" was written for Kathrine Baumann, who became a famed handbag maker.
Inset image: Kathrine Baumann / Heritage Auctions
In the second season of M*A*S*H, Henry Blake falls in love. This is a problem because it's not with his wife, but rather with a typist half her age named Nancy Sue Parker. Blake meets her in Tokyo, but soon she comes to visit him in camp.
For "Henry in Love," Nancy Sue is played by Kathrine Baumann, who was a runner-up for Miss America four years before the episode aired and had since become a model and an actor. She even graced posters with Farrah Fawcett.
Just before that, though, she was Miss Ohio in 1969, and just before that, she was Miss Independence in 1966. That earlier designation came from her Ohio high school, where she was, much like her appearance on M*A*S*H, a cheerleader.
You see, it was no coincidence that she was cast as an irresistibly positive, chipper young dollface on M*A*S*H. Producer Larry Gelbart reportedly wrote the episode just for her, and her character draws a lot from her personal life. Nancy Sue Parker is also a cheerleader from Ohio, and in the episode, Hawkeye even gets her to do one of her old cheers after she gets reminded of the good old days by a fight song played on the jukebox during her visit.
The tension in this episode is centered on Henry Blake, who is going through a midlife crisis and must decide if he's really going to throw away his happy family life to start over with Nancy Sue. Fortunately for fans of the original 4077th leader, Hawkeye helps Henry make the right choice, and it's possible once Nancy Sue walked offscreen, you forgot all about her.
Well, let us tell you what happened since you saw young Nancy Sue Parker on M*A*S*H.
Through the 1970s and ’80s, Baumann appeared on many shows, including The Dukes of Hazzard, CHiPs, Fantasy Island, Knight Rider, and a special role in a two-part episode of the M*A*S*H spinoff Trapper John, M.D.
But, she then found herself in a scary medical situation herself. She walked into a sliding glass door and ended up getting 272 stitches in her left leg.
Unable to do much, she started paying attention to people walking by on the street and she noticed something. The handbags they carried caught her eye, and she decided to become a Beverly Hills "baglady" – only she didn't want to design any old black purse.
Inspired by Judith Leiber's whimsical bags in the shapes of hot dogs, tubes of lipstick, a slice of pizza, or a martini glass, Baumann decided to make extremely intricate handbags that captured her favorite pop culture icons.
From this idea sprang the most glamorous Miss Piggy purse on earth, as well as handbags modeled after the Titanic. These ornate bags glittered, clutched by elites walking the red carpet at the 1997 movie premiere. Her other designs include Tweety Bird, Dorothy's slippers, the green M&M, Mickey Mouse, and Barbie.
She also looked at some of the same everyday objects that inspired Leiber and other famous pop artists, which is why CNN once dubbed Baumann the "female Andy Warhol." Check out her other handbag designs, sparkly renditions of recognizable items like champagne bottles and Campbell soup cans.
Once TV host Larry King asked her why handbags and not dresses? She answered, "Well, because I was an actress, I know what glamour is. And I've had my own premiers. And I think that the dress is imperative; it's like the skeleton. But you have to also add to it."
She clearly has a deep love for accessories, and these handbags today still sell for thousands of dollars, even leading some to create knock-offs of her highly original work. She told Larry King why special handbags are worth spending extra to look like a million bucks: "It's not just the dress; it's the look that a stylist creates. And that's why they're so important."
Love the Muppets? Don't miss our next episode of Collector's Call "Meet Chris Stulz" this Sunday, May 31, at 9:30PM | 8:30C!