It’s a very special time for Jamie Farr. The actor best known for playing M*A*S*H’s Corporal Klinger recently celebrated his 60th wedding anniversary with his wife, Joy. He’ll enjoy another milestone later this summer when he turns 90! Jamie will also be one of the original cast members sharing memories in M*A*S*H: The Comedy That Changed Television, a new two-hour special airing January 1 at 8 p.m. on Fox. “I still enjoy watching the show because it’s like looking through a family album of all the people we no longer have with us but that we dearly loved — Harry Morgan [Colonel Potter], Larry Linville [Major Burns], Wayne Rogers [Trapper John], Bill Christopher [Father Mulcahy] and David Ogden Stiers [Major Winchester],” Jamie tells Closer. “These were all wonderful souls who became friends.”

Did you ever take any day jobs while you were waiting for your big break as an actor?

“I used to have a lot of odd jobs when we didn’t have any money and had to pay the rent: a salesman in downtown L.A., an airline reservationist. I worked for a messenger service delivering scripts and did janitorial work at a chinchilla farm.”

Early in your career, you became close with comedian Red Skelton.

“He was like a second father to me. On The Red Skelton Hour, Red and I were playing two sailors coming back from Korea with an abandoned baby that Red’s character, Cookie, wants to adopt. But the only way he can do that is if he’s married — so he dresses me up as his wife. I had no idea I was going to be having a career in a dress!”

That’s ironic!

“When I got drafted by the real army, Red gave me a St. Christopher medal to bless me so I’d be safe. Red told me it was going to be tough for me to get back in showbiz after my honorable discharge, so he put me under contract to do his show and travel with him. We entertained the troops all the way up to the 38th parallel and the DMZ [in Korea]. When he passed away, I was asked to be one of his pallbearers along with Bob Hope and Milton Berle.”

It is true that Klinger was only supposed to be on M*A*S*H for one episode?

“Yes. I got this call from my agent: ‘They’re doing the TV series at 20th Century Fox. It pays $250 for the day.’ On the lot, they took me over to the dressing trailer and there was a woman’s Army Corps uniform hanging there. I thought, ‘Am I dressing with an actress?’ They also had these gigantic high heels — I think the brand name was El Grande. I literally needed to pay rent and buy food, so I put them on. Of course, I also have hairy bowed legs. When they took me out to the stage, the whole crew started laughing.”

During your time in the real army, did you ever meet anyone like Klinger, who pulled stunts to try to get a discharge?

“I never met anybody who wore a dress, but there was a guy in boot camp who used to jump out the window to try to break his leg. You know, the idea for Klinger came from [comedian] Lenny Bruce. [While serving in the Navy during World War II,] he showed up wearing a dress. He got thrown in the brig; I got 11 years on a TV series.”

Klinger started off as a hilarious visual gag, but he became a fully fleshed-out character.

“Yes, the producers and writers trusted me that I could pull it off. I get a lot of fan mail that says I made people laugh, but at the same time, there were those serious moments that were very touching. They made those characters 100 percent and gave them complete souls.”

The cast of 'M.A.S.H.' on set
FilmPublicityArchive/United Archives via Getty Images

It seems like you all had a great time working together.

“Oh, there’s no question about it. I mean, I’ve done a lot of shows where the actors are never that friendly with one another. For our series, they built a special little area for us away from where they set up the cameras. We would sit in there and we would run the lines back and forth until we had those scenes crackling. It was a perfect dream cast.”

How is Alan Alda doing?

“I have not talked to him in a while. I know his wife, Arlene, is looking after him with his Parkinson’s disease. Tony Danza is a good friend of mine and lives in Alan’s building. Tony tells me Alan jumps rope and does a lot of exercise.”

The M*A*S*H writers had a ball making fun of your nose.

“I used to kid Milton Berle, Dean Martin, Vic Damone and Gene Barry that they all had my kind of nose but got them fixed. They used to kid me back by saying, ‘We know you had yours fixed, too — you had them make it bigger!’”

When you meet other veterans, are they excited to talk to you?

“Last year, I just happened to end up on one of these honor flights where they take veterans from World War II, Korea and Vietnam to see the memorials in Washington, D.C. When they saw me and found out that I’d also been in the military, they went crazy.”

You played the Sheik in the Cannonball Run movies. That looked like a blast.

“They were so much fun. I don’t think any of us had a sober breath. The movies got destroyed by the critics but made a ton of money. I was supposed to be the ugliest son of Ricardo Montalban. I remember him saying afterwards, ‘At MGM, I got to kiss Lana Turner, Esther Williams, and I end up kissing an orangutan.’”

You got to visit the Middle East when you filmed The Love Boat. Was that fun?

“I was in Jerusalem visiting the Church of the Holy Sepulchre with my wife, Joy, Linda Evans, Eva Marie Saint and Bernie Kopell’s wife, Yolanda. The tour guide told me I couldn’t wear my Bermuda shorts inside, but I knew I’d probably never get back there, so Eva, Linda, Yolanda and Joy formed a huddle around me, and we all walked in hoping that nobody saw me. What a lucky guy I was, right? I ended up being escorted out by the holy guards while fans are taking my picture.”

You recently celebrated your 60th wedding anniversary. What’s your secret for making a marriage last?

“Say yes. It’s not easy, and we had a lot of tough times when I was out of work. But when you have arguments, you know you’ll never win, so just give in.”