Starring in the the hit show M*A*S*H helped solidify Alan Alda as one of America's favorite television stars. The show started in 1972 and lasted for 11 seasons, and still remains one of the highest rated television shows in history. Millions of peopled loved to watch it, and Alan Alda was probably the best part.
Alda played Haweye Pierce, the Chief surgeon and Captain of the group. He has had an interesting career and life, and there are probably a lot of facts that you didn't know about him!
He commuted cross-country every week
Alan Alda was obviously super successful in his career, especially while on M*A*S*H. Even though the show went on for 11 years, and he starred in 251 episodes, he never made the official move to Los Angeles. He actually lived in New Jersey with his wife and daughters and would commute to LA each week to film. Apparently he "didn't know how long the show would last".
He was a last minute addition to the cast
Even though he is probably one of the most defining characters of the show, he didn't officially sign on until about six hours before the pilot episode started filming.
He had interesting demands in his contract
Even though the show was primarily a comedy, he wanted to make sure that the war aspect was properly explored. Part of his contract included that each episode have at least one scene inside of an operating room to show how horrific war was.
Outside of M*A*S*H, Alda's life was even more interesting...
He actually was in the army
Alda was in the U.S. Army Reserves. He served six months in a tour of Korea. Apparently he spent a lot of his weekends while in training at Fort Benning going to visit his now wife Arlene.
He likes to swear in unusual ways
He doesn't like swearing with the regular words we all use, instead he claims his favorite swear word is "horse". He said that it became his favorite after an outburst he had on set where he went through every option in his vocabulary until he ran out. He then yelled "horse!" as loud as he could and it made him laugh.
He was in the newspaper as a toddler for smoking
The headline read "Child of Two Smokes Pipe, Once Broke Mother's Nose". He says that it was originally a publicity stunt for his father's theater performances. In his memoir he said "I don't remember my mother telling me I had broken her nose," as for the pipe, "my mother was quoted as saying they'd hoped I'd get sick and never smoke again but that I liked it."
He almost died while filming a show
He was in Chile recording Scientific American Frontiers when he started to experience intense abdominal cramping. His belly started to swell up to twice its usual size and when they rushed him to the ER they realized he was suffering from a life-threatening intestinal obstruction.
He had a choice, either fly to a bigger hospital in Santiago that was two hours away, or have the surgery in the small hospital he was at. He opted to stay at the smaller hospital after they told him he may not survive the trip to the larger facility.
Even though he was near death, he couldn't help himself from making jokes. He said "Oh, You're going to do an end-to-end anastomosis." The surgeon said "Yes. How did you know that?" and Alda's reply was "I did many of them on M*A*S*H." The surgeon laughed and Alda said that "My real illness, it seems, is my compulsion to amuse. Apparently you can offer to disembowel me, but I'll still see if I can make you laugh."
Obviously, he survived the surgery and has gone on to do some truly remarkable things. He will always be one of America's favorite actors!