Jo Ann Pflug

Is M*A*S*H the best-known, of all the movie roles you've done?

Well, you have to understand something. After M*A*S*H, I was sought to do nudity. All nude roles.


This is because I was a "sex symbol." And I started Valerie Perrine's career. I turned down, as much as I'd loved to have worked with George (Roy Hill) - he did The Sting and Slaughterhouse Five - he wanted me to do Slaughterhouse Five, and he's a lovely man.

But ...

And I turned down a lot of pictures, because of the nudity. I would not do nudity, because of my upbringing. I'm not going to wait 30 years from now, and have children, saying "oh, there's Mommy, on the screen nude." No, I don't think so. You know, it's going to come back to haunt you, as some of these girls have found out. Things hidden in darkness will come out to light.

Publicity photo of "Lt. Dish," a popular pinup item with Vietnam troops (Courtesy Jo Ann Pflug)

And now, they're all over the web.

Yeah, exactly.

And, if you did a nude or topless scene that lasted for two seconds, 35 years ago, there are photos of it on the web now.

That's right. That's right. And that's exactly what Slaughterhouse Five was. It was topless. And I said, "Why should I show people what I have? Why should I show people what I don't have?" I don't care. I mean, I have a great figure. I'll wear a bikini, but I'm not takin' my clothes off. It would embarrass my family. And me! No, no, no. And, as for that "everyone's doing it," as I told my daughter, if everyone is sitting in the middle of the street, are you going to sit in the middle of the street? I don't think so.


And, there was no mention of, and there weren't that many, body models around then. And, back then, there weren't that many good roles for young girls. Now all the roles are for girls of 22, and there aren't many roles for women over 30. There are a lot of women now over 50 and they aren't getting work.
And, it goes back to that "good old boy" network, where the guys are gonna work. And it's that same thing, put the older man with the young girl. I mean, I played it; I know. All through my twenties and thirties I was playing opposite older men, number one, because of my height, and number two, because I'm very strong and it comes across.

Did you enjoy making M*A*S*H?

Well, I love Elliott (Gould), and I love Donald (Sutherland). My audition was actually with Elliott, and he is brilliant at comedy. Donald didn't understand it at first, because he's a gentleman. It was supposed to be the physicality of me going after him while he's coming after me, and all the time I'm saying, "No, no; I really can't do that." And all the time, pulling him toward me, kissing him.
I would never say anything unkind about Donald Sutherland. Never. It was just that the kind of comedy we were doing was something he didn't understand. It wasn't until after he'd seen the dailies that Donald got it. And he said, "Oh, now I see it." But, by then, it was too late. Bob had already cut it.

Cut it?

Yeah, the majority of my part was cut out. It was frustrating.

From Where Does It Hurt?,1972
(Courtesy Jo Ann Pflug)

And, you worked in another comedy after that.

Yes, I did Where Does It Hurt with Peter Sellers. The problem with that one was the director didn't shoot double endings. He shot toilet humor. And that was one thing I learned from Johnny Carson, when I used to sit and talk with him about comedy. We talked about comedy and how to play comedy and things. I learned about what's funny and what's not funny. Toilet humor is really not funny. I have never liked people that really went so far to what we would call cuss words.


That really isn't entertainment; it's going down to that lowest common denominator. And I never found that funny, the pits. And, when I saw that movie, I really didn't want to go and promote it. It was bad taste, for me. It crossed the line for me. And it was too bad, because it was fun to work with Peter Sellers. We'd go up for brunch, and we'd rehearse scenes. Or we'd be lying around the pool and we'd rehearse. And then, we'd get on the set, and he'd put his character on, and ... hello! He wasn't there. He would become that character, and he wasn't there. And I'd say, "Gosh, I'm so glad we rehearsed this scene (laughs). It was very strange, a couple of times.

The transformation.

Well, you know, it was like when Michael Caine was working on X, Y & Zee (NOTE: 1972 film. -- T.W.). And I'd say, "What's it like working with Elizabeth Taylor?" He said, "I never go to the dailies. Because when I see myself with Elizabeth Taylor, she's a movie star, and I'm wondering what I'm doing up there with her." Isn't that interesting?

Yes. Michael Caine is not exactly an also-ran.

I found that very interesting. I thought, "Gosh! An international movie star (laughs)!" But, I love entertainment; the people are wonderful. I think that's really what I miss. I mean, you come to work, you walk on a set and you leave all your problems behind. And it's all for one and one for all, and it's great fun. I miss all the creative people, and the crew.
I did Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil, and it ended up on the cutting room floor. I worked with John Cusack, and I had no idea who he was. He had no idea who I was (laughs). And my daughter was saying, "Mom!" But, he was great to work with.

With John Cusack and Clint Eastwood, 1997 (Courtesy Jo Ann Pflug)

Who were some of your favorites to work with?

Oh, I loved Jack Klugman; he was so much fun to work with. And (Darren) McGavin, he was fun to work with, too.

That was The Night Strangler, that led to the series Kolchak: The Night Stalker.

Yes. Right. And I really enjoyed that. I loved him, because they said, "Jo Ann's taller than you," and he said, "Who cares?"

With Jack Klugman, mid-1970s
(Courtesy Jo Ann Pflug)

And, you worked with Jack Klugman on Quincy.

Yeah. I did a few of those. His energy level was just so high. I mean, it's just infectious. I mean, someone just e-mailed me at my website and wanted to know if it was as much fun to work with him as it appeared. I mean, you gotta be kidding! Jack Klugman is the best. The best! I love him.

Well, my favorite things, after all these years, that Klugman has done were the Twilight Zone episodes that he did.

You know, I don't ... Oh, really?

Yes, he and Burgess Meredith each did four, more than anyone else.

Did he? Do-doo-do-doo ... I didn't realize he did that. I had to be careful about really scary things, I don't like those.

Well, Klugman had worked with Rod Serling on things like The Velvet Alley, which was a Playhouse 90 that Serling had written. But, a couple of those episodes are as good as they ever did; just incredible. And Klugman was amazing in them.

Oh. Well, you really know your history on everybody! That's impressive.

(Laughs) Hardly, but thank you.

But, people ask me if I knew Marilyn Monroe, and I want to slap 'em. I mean, I'm not that old. It's like that expression, "a woman that will tell you her age will tell you anything." You know, can't keep a secret about anything and make up things.

Will Rogers said something to the effect of, "There are two ways to argue with women. And they're both wrong."

(Laughter) That's right!

Well, you must have had fun with game shows, because you did a lot of those.

I met a lot of people who did game shows, like (producer) Mark Goodson, and they called me for all the pilots. But, I was good at it, and I'm sharp, and very quick. And, very shy (laughs).

Oh, certainly (laughs). And you did the pilot for Match Game, when they brought that back, right?

When they brought it back?

In '73.

Is that when they brought it back?


I didn't know they had done it before.

Answering a question on Match Game, circa 1973
 (Courtesy Jo Ann Pflug)

Yes, with a somewhat different format, it was done in the 60s.

Oh, I didn't realize that. But, yeah, I did the pilot. That was a hard one to do. Match Game was hard. I liked ($25,000) Pyramid, because that one was up to you. And I had to challenge myself. And, I loved Celebrity Sweepstakes. Because it always astounded me, how much I had learned in school.
Oh, who was the guy; I turned this show down, and it was a big hit comedy. One Day At A Time. The Bonnie part; Bonnie, Bonnie ...

Bonnie Franklin.

Yes. Bonnie Franklin. That part, the part she got. They wanted me to do that, and I just had my daughter, and they wanted to know if I could play the mother of a teenager, and I'm sitting at home holding a baby.

(Laughs) Oh, no.

But, anyway, the fellow that was on that. Who was he?

Pat Harrington.

Yes! Pat was on Celebrity Sweepstakes. He and I had more fun. We would laugh. We got so hysterical, on the air laughing, that we would double up in pain. We were like two mischievous kids in school. They had to finally separate us (laughs). And I wish I could find him. I just had a dream recently that I went to his house (laughs). He is the funniest man; I love him.

So, you don't really look forward to Tattletales popping up, ever so often, do you?

Oh, I'd like to get copies of some of those things. Because my daughter hasn't seen them. So she didn't see me with "the late Mr. Woolery."

"The late Mr. Woolery (laughs)?"

(Laughter) "The late Mr. Woolery."

There is a website - gosh, I can't remember which one - but it's dedicated to the game shows, and he has a ton of vidcaps of you on Tattletales, wrestling with the headset.

Oh, really! (Laughter) Oh, how funny!

And, there is another one somewhere where there are several vidcaps of many of the different sweaters that Fannie Flagg wore on Match Game.

Oh, yes; she had a ton of those shirts. Boy, she's one talented gal.

Absolutely. Very talented, and very funny. I had some of her comedy records from the 60s; she was very funny.

Oh, yes. She's a great gal.

From Adam-12, with Gary Crosby (Courtesy Jo Ann Pflug)

There's one acting part that I have to ask you about, because it's one of my favorite shows. Still is. And that's when you were the first female patrol officer on Adam-12.

Yes. That was a pilot, I found out later. I loved it. I had to learn to do "three from the ring," which is using this big billy, billy ...

Nightstick. Or baton, as it is sometimes called.

Right. Yes. I had to do this thing, where you'd take this nightstick up, and hit them in the chest, and bring it back and slam 'em in the stomach, and then in the groin with it.


I practiced that, and practiced it. And when I got on set, with this stuntman that I knew, I couldn't hit him. I would pull it. It's really funny, that when your adrenaline is really not up and you're not really fighting someone. I could slap somebody, but I could not hit him with that billy club. He kept saying, "Jo Ann! HIT me! HIT me! I've got pads ..." And I was saying, "No, I'll hurt you." And he'd say, "I've got pads." I think back on that, and I practiced so many times, and they had to edit it - boom-boom-boom - to make it look right. (NOTE: There is a photo from this scene on Jo Ann's website. -- T.W.)
It was fun. I knew Gary Crosby, from playing tennis. He was an old friend, and I knew them all, really. It was a fun show, and I liked being a cop. I think the funniest thing was, when I was in the hospital having my baby, and they ran that. I called the nurse, and said, "Come here; come here! That's what I really look like! (Laughs) I'm that skinny!"

But, yes, that is still one of my favorite shows.

Adam-12? Yes, it was a good show, and those guys, Kent McCord and Martin Milner, were such nice guys. Really nice.

Let's talk a bit about Candid Camera.

That was like going back to college. I learned, finally, that I have to write my own lead-ins. I told them, "Look, I have to do my own lead-ins. I can work off the cuff, and leave my mike open (during the clips). I'll laugh, and I have an infectious laugh (NOTE: The woman isn't kidding. -- T.W.), which will get the audience laughing."
But, Allen (Funt) ... I had met Allen years ago, when Fannie Flagg was doing (the show), and someone took me in there, and he scared me to death.

On the set of Candid Camera, with Allen Funt, circa 1976
(Courtesy Jo Ann Pflug)


Oh, yeah. He yelled and screamed at people. He was mean. Anyway, they called and wanted me to do the show, and I didn't want to do the show. But, I flew into New York, and we did all the funny ... little "sitcoms," as I called them, that we did. The little sketches. And then, when we came to Nashville the first day, to put the show together, I was sitting on the set, waiting for Allen. And he came in, and he started yellin' at everybody. And I saw everyone's body language tense up, and I thought, "Oh, no. Uh-oh. How are we gonna work; how am I gonna work? I can't work like this."

How did you handle it?

I realized, of course, that his bark was worse than his bite, and so I thought, "If I tease him, maybe I can get through to him." So, I'd say, "Oh, Allen, it's only money. Easy come, easy go," and he'd back off. Then he'd start up again, and I'd have to say, "Allen. I don't like cussing. Please don't cuss." And he said, "Oh, I didn't think it would bother you."
Then what I would do is grab him, and kiss him on top of his head. And he never knew what I was going to do next. I would grab him, I would punch him, and ... (laughs) Someone told me years later, that he said, "Jo Ann Pflug is crazy about me. She can't keep her hands off me." (Laughter) He'd say, "you want to go to dinner," and we'd say no. So, we'd give it back to him, and then he would be nice. But, he would do that to people to intimidate and control them.

Do you have a favorite part, from all the acting jobs you've done?

No, 'cause I've never really done what I wanted to do, which is a great musical comedy, and a great sitcom. To teach and entertain at the same time, without really getting preachy. But I do that in my seminars, I get people laughing. And when they laugh about things, they learn.

Talk about those seminars. What are they, how did they start and so forth.

They started because I had nothing to do (laughs), and I was trying to find some way to use a lot of knowledge I have. And I was with a friend who had bought some seminars, and I looked at them and I thought, "These things stink. I can write better ones than this," and I started working on things like attitude, appearance and we wanted another "a" and my husband came up with "attention." Listening.


So, I started working on those things. Attitude, taking a bad attitude and making it a good attitude. And I use a lot of songs, a lot of stories, of people that I've met. Same with appearance, and a lot of game-playing, improv. And those have just kept evolving, and I'm looking for speaking engagements, inspirational things, at churches and things. And, that's what I'd like to do, going through the ups and downs of starting a career, and really laughing at yourself.

(Courtesy Jo Ann Pflug)

When did you start the seminars?

I started a couple of years ago, with fear and trepidation, and when I started seeing it was more like show business, I started bringing in musical comedy, and I wrote a game show on dining manners. Two teams competing, with multiple questions. A lot of the young people don't know how to dine, they don't know manners. They only eat at go-throughs, they don't know how to order, how to cut food. But it's just basic things.

So, have you given up on Hollywood, or would you like to act more?

Well, I'd like to do some acting, but you'd have to stay out there for three months, you know. And I don't know any of the people anymore. The casting directors are, like, fourteen.

(Laughs) And, that number is about the same as the IQ of some of the writers.

Right. Or two. I look at some of those shows, and they're not even witty. They're toilet humor.

I'd rather watch Laurel & Hardy.

Yes. Laurel & Hardy. Something that really is funny. But, oh well, I'm not there. I miss the working and the fun of it.

So, what's the ultimate goal?

The ultimate goal is to put together some good series, some good talks, to go out and get people to look at themselves and realize that it's never too late to pursue your dreams. That life is what you make it; you make a decision every time you get out of bed in the morning, that it's going to be a good day or a bad day depending on what you think. I'm still working on a (TV show) for women, that I would like to do. It's a role model show, It's really a fun show, and that's what I would like to do. And I still really want to do a musical comedy. My forte is still live, on camera, talking with people, and I think I'd still like to do that. There's still plenty to do.