Probably better known by his stage name, Alan Alda, he's written a terrific memoir titled Never Have Your Dog Stuffed (And Other Things I've Learned). He stopped by recently to chat with me about his life and craft -- and he was so there with me in the conversation, so emotionally available, that I got as relaxed as I think is possible for me at this point in my interviewing arc. Our conversation runs tonight at 7:30, and then will be repeated on Friday night at 10:30.
To give you a quick sense of the quality of his writing, here are the opening lines of his book:
My mother didn't try to stab my father until I was six, but she must have shown signs of oddness before that. Her detached gaze, the secret smile. Something.
By that point I was hooked. He tells his story in the tone of one who is still working out the sadness and ironies of it, and I got the sense, while reading it, that many of these issues didn't really get resolved until he'd written about them. His father, Robert Alda, was a burlesque performer who later became a leading man in Hollywood. His mother, tragically, suffered from paranoid schizophrenia -- a condition that was not diagnosed in her lifetime, and that caused her and her family enormous grief.
Sitting with Alda on the couch, I felt that he was letting me -- and, I hope, you, the viewer -- into his still-tremulous inner life. He spoke not as an extremely successful actor (his 11-year stint as Hawkeye Pierce on M*A*S*H being his most well-known role, of course, but he's been doing great work on stage and film lately as well) but as a person who's still fully engaged in trying to work out the meaning of everything.
And he ate a Rice Krispy Treat! I still can't get over that. ...
20 comments October 10th, 2005