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Eileen Saki, who portrayed Rosie, the sassy boss of the popular watering hole that hosted Hawkeye Pierce, Hot Lips Houlihan and others from the 4077th on the legendary series M*A*S*H, has died. She was 79.
Saki died Monday in Los Angeles after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in January, her rep, Camilla Fluxman Pines, told The Hollywood Reporter.
The delightful Saki appeared as the owner of Rose’s Bar — which actually existed in Seoul during the Korean War — on eight episodes of the CBS series from 1976 until its 1981 conclusion. (Shizuko Hoshi and Frances Fong had played Rosie in previous installments.)
Earlier, Saki had portrayed the head madam of a brothel impressed by Cpl. Klinger’s (Jamie Farr) wardrobe on the show’s fifth-season premiere episode, “Bug Out,” which aired in September 1976.
She also showed up on other TV series including Good Times, CHiPs, The Greatest American Hero, Gimme a Break! and Without a Trace and in such films as Meteor (1979), Mel Brooks’ History of the World: Part I (1981) and Ron Howard’s Splash (1984).
Saki, who was born and raised in Japan, said she knew she would be a performer by the time she was 4. “We were very poor, and probably my psyche wanted me to be somebody else, to have a brighter and entertaining life,” she said on a February 2022 episode of the M*A*S*H Matters podcast co-hosted by Jeff Maxwell, who played Pvt. Igor Straminsky on the series.
Her dad, who had worked in the theater in Japan and was a gardener in the U.S., put aside money for her to take singing and dancing lessons, she noted.
Later, Saki read the Hollywood trades to learn the names of casting directors around town and snuck on the Fox lot, where she met M*A*S*H writer, producer and director Burt Metcalfe, who hired her to play the Korean madam. A year later, she was cast as Rosie.
The part “was written so well, I didn’t have to really work on it,” she said on the podcast. “I just remember going to a Korean laundromat where the head lady was so [businesslike], and I based my character [on her].”
After finishing up an episode of M*A*S*H, she walked past Brooks’ office on the lot, she recalled. “I thought, ‘OK, take a breath, knock at the door and see if he is in.’ … He was so sweet. I asked him, ‘Do you have anything for me?’ He said, ‘Well, it’s a little part.’ It was the part of the slave girl in [History of the World“].
Survivors include her husband, Bob Borgen, a former producer on Los Angeles Kings hockey telecasts.
Saki was recently seen on an Uber Eats commercial being escorted across the street by Aaron Donald of the Los Angeles Rams. Click here to see her in that, on M*A*S*H and in other projects.
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