Sally Kellerman, original Hot Lips from ‘M*A*S*H,’ dead at 84

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Sally Kellerman, the Oscar nominated actress who played US Army Maj. Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan in the film “M*A*S*H,” has died.

Kellerman passed away Thursday morning at 84 in California after a battle with dementia, her son, Jack Krane, told the Hollywood Reporter.

The whiskey-voiced beauty famously appeared in Robert Altman’s “M*A*S*H” as well as the 1986 comedy “Back to School,” opposite Rodney Dangerfield. She appeared in TV shows including “The Outer Limits,” “12 O’Clock High,” “Ben Casey,” “That Girl” and “Mannix.” More recently, she played comedian Marc Maron’s mom on the IFC show “Maron.”

Of her award-winning “M*A*S*H” role, she said she eventually welcomed always being remembered for it. 

“There were times in my life when I felt I had to go out and prove that I’m not just Hot Lips,” she told The Post in the 2010 interview. “But at this point, just call me anything you want!”

Kellerman starred in Robert Altman’s M*A*S*H
Kellerman starred in Robert Altman’s M*A*S*H along with Donald Sutherland and Elliott Gould.
20th Century Fox
In "Back to School," Kellerman starred opposite Rodney Dangerfield.
In “Back to School,” Kellerman starred opposite Rodney Dangerfield.
Orion Pictures Corp

Born in 1937 in Long Beach, California to an oil executive dad and piano teacher mom, Kellerman came of age in Hollywood’s shadow.

In 2013, she told the Los Angeles Times that she was a waitress in Hollywood in the late 1950s.

“I waited on more stars than I worked with in my entire career,” she said.

She tried her hand at jazz and stage productions before auditioning for her famous role.

Kellerman also appeared in the "Star Trek" episode, “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” as Dr. Elizabeth Dehner.
Kellerman also appeared in the “Star Trek” episode, “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” as Dr. Elizabeth Dehner.
CBS via Getty Images

“It was like summer camp,” she said of working with Altman, who often advised her to “just giggle and give in.”

In a 2012 interview, Kellerman said when she first met with Altman, she attired herself appropriately for the “Hot Lips” part. “I just got a meeting and wore lipstick that day. I was usually always hiding my lips, because I didn’t want anyone to see my mouth, but before I left the meeting, Bob said, ‘I’ll give you the best part in the picture.’”

“I’ve had such a lucky, wonderful career as an actress and singer,” Kellerman told the audience at a celebration of her 81st birthday in 2018. “I have just had the most wonderful life.”

At the same event, Kellerman saluted Robert Altman. “He was a rebel. Always making trouble. It made you better and made it fun,” she said. “It’s so great to do what you love and have it be fun and people enjoy it.”

She and Altman went on to collaborate with 1970’s “Brewster McCloud,” 1992’s “The Player” and 1994’s “Pret-a-Porter” (1994), as well as an episode of 1997’s “Gun.”

Sally Kellerman.
Sally Kellerman was 84 years old and her career spanned TV, film and music.
©20thCentFox/Courtesy Everett C

Kellerman is also rooted in “Star Trek” history. Fans of the original series will remember her role as a psychologist in the third episode, “Where No Man Has Gone Before” — which actually was originally filmed as one of two pilots for the sci-fi series.

Other roles included 1986’s “The Boston Strangler,” 1969’s “The April Fools,” 1973’s “Slither,” 1976’s “Welcome to L.A.” 1986’s “That’s Life!” and 2005’s “Boynton Beach Club.”

She also had a part in the soap “The Young and the Restless.”

Besides her extensive roster of film and television roles, Kellerman also delved into music, releasing an album in the 1970s and performing live, including at New York’s Metropolitan Room in 2010.

“I wanted to be the real deal,” Kellerman told The Post that year. “Who knew it would take me another 30 years to get to this place where I feel free?”

In fact, music never took a backseat for her. “My music has just been a passion that just wouldn’t die,” she said in 2015. “And I never wanted one without the other. But I wanted soul, and so I wanted to be the real deal –– a real singer, not just an actor who sings, you know?

There was a time when Kellerman felt she was not cut out for Hollywood.

“All I ever wanted to be was an actress,” she told film critic Roger Ebert in 1980. “But I was fat. I was always reading about those diets where you can have one ounce of protein every 17 days whether you need it or not.”

Sally Kellerman still got recognized as Hot Lips.
Sally Kellerman still got recognized as Hot Lips.
WireImage

“It doesn’t matter how long the series was on or how long it’s been gone, I’ll go somewhere and hear a truck driver say, ‘Hey, Hot Lips!’” she said of her most famous role. “I’ve made about 50 movies –– a lot of good ones and some hummers, you know along the way [Laughs]. But it just doesn’t go away.”

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