This last Sunday I was listening to “The Big Broadcast” on WAMU (three hours of old radio shows every Sunday), and I heard an episode of “The Jimmy Durante Show” [Baseball Season, 04/21/50 (NBC)]. I’d never Durante’s show before, so imagine my surprise when I heard a reoccurring character named “Hot-Breath Houlihan.” She was a sexy-voiced vixen, but that wasn’t what concerned me. I, child of the 60s, immediately thought of Maj. Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan, from the film and television versions of MASH.
Recall the scene: Hawkeye, Trapper, and a bunch of others have planted a microphone in her tent to listen while she and Major Frank Burns have a rendezvous. As they kiss, Margaret says that her “lips are hot.” The boys give her the nick-name of “Hot-Lips” Houlihan. Since the Durante Show was on in the early 1950s (simultaneous to or just prior to when MASH is set), the only conclusion is that the boys are listeners to the Durante Show and this is a reference to that.
This is further backed up by the following in-joke: Just prior to Margaret getting the nickname, Father Mulcahy overhears Margaret and Frank in flagrante. He thinks it’s a radio program, “The Bickersons,” which starred Don Ameche – the co-star of “The Jimmy Durante Show.”