Dr. Angelou is joined by award-winning writer, director and actor Alan Alda. Best known for his role as Hawkeye Pierce in the television series M*A*S*H, Alan more recently earned critical acclaim for his role in NBC's The West Wing and Martin Scorsese's The Aviator. Now, Alan opens up about some lesser known aspects of his personal life, and talks about his memoir, childhood and family.
Alan writes candidly about his life in his autobiography, Never Have Your Dog Stuffed: And Other Things I've Learned. In the book, Alan reveals that as a young child he used to hang out backstage with the performers who worked at the burlesque theater his father operated.
Alan also reveals that his mother struggled with mental illness. When Alan was six years old, he witnessed his mother attack his father with a knife. Alan says his mother's condition resulted in misunderstanding and confusion that he gradually came to understand later in life. "She didn't mean to be cruel, she was a loving person, but in her weakness, it was a mild form of abuse … but she didn't know any better," he says.
In his book, Alan also shares the "sad, funny" story of how he took his deceased pet dog to a taxidermist to be preserved. He says the incident not only provided his book with a title—it was the theme of his life.
"What I was trying to accomplish in my life was to learn how to live spontaneously and to be alert and awake while I was alive," Alan says. "And that involved not turning myself into a 'stuffed dog,' not having ideas that were 'stuffed dogs,' not having relationships that were 'stuffed,' but to be awake and alive and alert to what was happening to me."
Alan also shares he has been happily married to his wife, Arlene, for nearly 50 years. They have three daughters and seven grandchildren. "The world is sort of like quantum mechanics," Alan says. "If you can be happy on average, that's good enough."