Never Have Your Dog Stuffed: And Other Things I've Learned by Alan AldaNever Have Your Dog Stuffed: And Other Things I've Learned by Alan Alda

Never Have Your Dog Stuffed: And Other Things I've Learned

byAlan Alda

Paperback | September 12, 2006

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about

He’s one of America’s most recognizable and acclaimed actors–a star on Broadway, an Oscar nominee for The Aviator, and the only person to ever win Emmys for acting, writing, and directing, during his eleven years on M*A*S*H. Now Alan Alda has written a memoir as elegant, funny, and affecting as his greatest performances.

“My mother didn’t try to stab my father until I was six,” begins Alda’s irresistible story. The son of a popular actor and a loving but mentally ill mother, he spent his early childhood backstage in the erotic and comic world of burlesque and went on, after early struggles, to achieve extraordinary success in his profession.

Yet Never Have Your Dog Stuffed is not a memoir of show-business ups and downs. It is a moving and funny story of a boy growing into a man who then realizes he has only just begun to grow.

It is the story of turning points in Alda’s life, events that would make him what he is–if only he could survive them.

From the moment as a boy when his dead dog is returned from the taxidermist’s shop with a hideous expression on his face, and he learns that death can’t be undone, to the decades-long effort to find compassion for the mother he lived with but never knew, to his acceptance of his father, both personally and professionally, Alda learns the hard way that change, uncertainty, and transformation are what life is made of, and true happiness is found in embracing them.

Never Have Your Dog Stuffed, filled with curiosity about nature, good humor, and honesty, is the crowning achievement of an actor, author, and director, but surprisingly, it is the story of a life more filled with turbulence and laughter than any Alda has ever played on the stage or screen.



From the Hardcover edition.
Alan Alda played Hawkeye Pierce for eleven years in the television series M*A*S*H and has acted in, written, and directed many feature films. He has starred often on Broadway, and his avid interest in science has led to his hosting PBS’s Scientific American Frontiers for eleven years. He was nominated for an Academy Award in 2005 and h...
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Title:Never Have Your Dog Stuffed: And Other Things I've LearnedFormat:PaperbackDimensions:272 pages, 8 × 5.21 × 0.64 inPublished:September 12, 2006Publisher:Random House Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0812974409

ISBN - 13:9780812974409

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Reviews

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Read I grew up with Alan Alda on my tv everyday. His portrayal of Hawkeye always made me laugh and inspired me and this memoir was the same. It's smart and touching and an engrossing read.
Date published: 2016-12-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Never Have Your Dog Stuffed Alan Alda is a fascinating person. Always admired him as an actor and getting a chance to read his own words and find out a bit about the man himself was great fun.
Date published: 2015-05-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Never Have Your Dog Stuffed A funny and enjoyable read! Alan Alda writes as well as he acts! A talented man and a cute read. Alan's funny and witty sense of humour makes this book feel like Alan is sitting beside you weaving his story and speaking directly to you. His talents shine in this book. If you like Alan Alda, you will love his book......
Date published: 2013-10-04
Rated 4 out of 5 by from The Dad I Wish I Had When I was a kid I would sit in our playroom and watch M*A*S*H* on my black and white TV while everyone else was busy doing their thing. I remember Little House on the Prairie being on at the same time, so my sister and Mom must have been watching the Ingalls. And my Dad...well he wasn't interested in M*A*S*H*. He hated Alan Alda. According to my Dad, Hawkeye, and Alan Alda by extension, was a bleeding heart liberal, and the only things worse than bleeding heart liberals in our house were "fags" or true commies (and bleeding heart liberals were practically the latter). M*A*S*H* was too anti-war for my Dad, too anti-America, and the way Hawkeye criticized the military industrial complex, whether explicitly or implicitly, p*ssed my Dad off to no end. I doubt he'd admit those feelings today, or that he ever said the things he did. Not because he's changed his opinions in any fundamental way, mind you, but because he wouldn't want people to think he was intolerant. It was acceptable in my childhood to badmouth "fags" and say they deserved to be put on an island and nuked, just as it was acceptable to preach the commie menace. Nobody looked at him askance back then, but they would now, so he'd never admit he'd held his intolerant line. I loved Hawkeye's tolerance. It felt right to me despite what my father said. I loved that Hawkeye loved his father because I wanted that for myself. I loved that Hawkeye was funny and talented and fought injustice. So I would lose myself in M*A*S*H* whenever I got the chance. When it wasn't on TV that was okay because I taped episodes on my little hand held cassette recorder and listened to them until I had them memorized. I learned comic timing watching Alan Alda. I learned my first lessons in acting from the man, and I loved, when I was old enough to notice, that he wrote many of the episodes he acted in. I was worried when I picked up [book:Never Have Your Dog Stuffed: And Other Things I've Learned] that learning more about Alan Alda would disappoint me. I was expecting a lot about the M*A*S*H* years, and a William Shatner style musing on the pettiness of his cast mates. The big stars of big shows always seem to be forced to defend themselves in their memoirs, and I braced myself for the sad reality of narcissism and ego I was sure was coming. I shouldn't have been afraid. [book:Never Have Your Dog Stuffed: And Other Things I've Learned] barely mentions M*A*S*H*. There is one chapter and a couple of passing connections here and there but that's all. Instead, Alda's first memoir is as much about being a human as it is about being an actor. It's about his schizophrenic mother (which was particularly unsettling), his slightly distant, loving but guilt ridden father, the woman he has loved for almost fifty years, his strange obsessions with science, number systems, acting and, of course, writing (and whatever one makes of his acting, the man can write). It's about stuffed dogs and memory and bowel resections. It made me love him more than I already did, replacing my worship with genuine respect and a little touch of awe for his ability to really submerse himself in the best of life. Mr. Alda is another father who raised me despite my Dad's influence. I want to tell him how much he's meant to me...but I can tell y'all instead.
Date published: 2009-10-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An entertaining and engrossing read Before opening the cover of 'Never Have Your Dog Stuffed,' I wondered what Alda's approach would be to writing about his life; would he be articulate and glib, saying little of the 'real deal,' (that was and is his life), or would he share with us some of the tough roads he trudged on his way to stardom. I read the first act of the novel (Up The Tree Of The Knowledge Of Good And Evil), and, I was, instantly, convinced that what lay before my eyes was the 'real deal,' - the combination of life experiences he describes are too hilarious, too bizarre, and too tragic to make up. I was caught up in the novel and wanted more. I enjoyed this book because I saw extraordinary sides of a man I would never dreamed had existed. His childhood started out with his family's, ie., his father's job with a burlesque company, he was torn by having a mentally-ill mother who couldn't be a mother to him, and he was, and is, a dedicated father who took any and every acting job to keep food on the table. Alan Alda worked hard and took some chances, and, eventually, landed roles that paid well, and helped him earn his stardom. I was disappointed with his brief comments on MASH; the little he wrote about the show, I either knew, or could have guess. It was a series he worked on for eleven years. Surely, it was worth more than the couple of pages he used to cover the show. I must admit that two-thirds of the way through the book, I was getting bored. Alda was preachy from time to time, and his analysis of his mindful evolution was too much. The end does pick up when Alda tells the story of his 'near-death' experience. This is a remarkable tale. If you enjoyed Alan Alda's performances in productions like 'Four Seasons, 'The West Wing,' 'MASH,' or with 'Scientific American Frontiers,' you'll enjoy the memories he recounts of his days living his life, and working toward his goals to write, act, and direct.
Date published: 2008-05-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fabulous Read- Entertaining, memorable, meaningful Whether you like Alan Alda's acting skills or not, this is an amazing book. It tells the story of his life before, during, and after his quest to become an actor, using the amazing writing skills he has applied to the scripts of M*A*S*H and other top shows and movies. He uses such funny anecdotes that, despite the fact that I've read it 4 times, I continue to laugh when I pick up the book to read it again. I also recommend the audio version, as it is read by Alan Alda, and readers will benefit from hearing the story as he wanted it to be told. As well, pick up the sequel, "Things I've Overheard While Talking to Myself". I got that one on the first day it came out, and it was a fitting follow up to the first installment- entertaining and touching at the same time.
Date published: 2008-02-08
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good Read. Entertaining and Informative A rather fast read but interesting all the way through. Not at all a gossipy book but rather, a recount of Alan Alda's life from beginning to close to present day. His style of writing keeps the reader's attention as does his stories of beginning in vaudeville with his parents, his near-death experience, and his never-ending curiosity in science. All of this and more, wrapped up in the morale to "never have your dog stuffed". Highly recommended.
Date published: 2008-01-20

Read from the Book

Chapter 1DON’T NOTICE ANYTHING 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. We were living in a two-room apartment over the dance floor of a nightclub. My father was performing in the show that played below us every night. We could hear the musical numbers through the floorboards, and we had heard the closing number at midnight. My father should have come back from work hours ago. My mother had asked me to stay up with her. She was lonely. We played gin rummy as the band below us played “Brazil” and couples danced through the haze of booze and cigarette smoke late into the night. Finally, he came in. She jumped up, furious. “Where have you been?” she screamed. Even at the age of six, I could understand her anger. He worked with half-naked women and came home late. It wasn’t crazy to be suspicious. She told him she knew he was sleeping with someone. He denied it. “You are!” she screamed. He denied it again, this time impatiently. “You son of a bitch!” she said. She picked up a paring knife and lunged at him, trying to plunge it into his face. This was crazy. He caught her by the wrist. “What’s the matter with you?” They struggled over the knife as I pleaded with them to stop. When he forced her to drop it, I picked up the knife and rammed it point first into the table so it couldn’t be used again. A few weeks later, the three of us were at the small table by the kitchenette, eating. I was playing with the knives and forks in the silverware tray. I found a paring knife with a bent point and I looked up at my mother: “Remember when I stuck the knife in the table?” “When?” “When you wanted to stab Daddy?” She smiled. “Don’t be silly. I never did that. I love Daddy. You just imagined that.” She laughed a lighthearted but deliberate laugh. I looked over at my father, who looked away and said nothing. I knew what I saw, but I wasn’t supposed to speak about it. I didn’t understand why. I didn’t understand how this worked yet. Gradually, I came to learn that not speaking about things is how we operated. When we would visit another family, my mother was afraid I might embarrass them by calling attention to something like dust balls or carpet stains. As we stood at the door, waiting for them to answer our knock, she would turn to me, completely serious, and say, “Don’t notice anything.” We had a strange list of things you didn’t notice or talk about. The night the country was voting on Roosevelt’s fourth term, my father came back from the local schoolhouse and I asked him whom he’d voted for. “Well,” he said with a little smile, “we have a secret ballot in this country.” I didn’t ask him again, because I could see it was one of the things you don’t talk about, but I couldn’t figure out why there was a law against telling your children how you voted. One thing we never talked about was mental illness. The words were never spoken between my father and me. This wasn’t the policy just in our own family. At that time, mental illness was more like a curse than a disease, and it was shameful for the whole family to admit it existed. Somehow it would discredit your parents, your cousins, and everyone close to you. You just kept quiet about it. How much easier it could have been for my father and me to face her illness together; to compare notes, to figure out strategies. Instead, each of us was on his own. And I alternated between thinking her behavior was his fault and thinking it was mine. Once I learned there was such a thing as sin and I entered adolescence and came across a sin I really liked, I began to be convinced that my sins actually caused her destructive episodes. They appeared to coincide. This wasn’t entirely illogical, because they both tended to occur every day. I was convinced I held a magic wand that could damage the entire household. Like the earliest humans, I put together my observations and came up with a picture of how things worked that was as ingenious as it was cockeyed. And like the earliest people, in my early days I was full of watching and figuring. I was curious from the first moments—not as a pastime, but as a way to survive. As I sat at the kitchen table that night, looking at the paring knife with the bent point, I was trying to figure out why I was supposed to not know what I knew. I was already wondering: Why are things like this? What’s really happening here? There was plenty about my world to stimulate my curiosity. From my earliest days, I was standing off on the side, watching, trying to understand a world that fascinated me. It was a world of coarse jokes and laughter late into the night, a world of gambling and drinking and the frequent sight of the buttocks, thighs, and breasts of naked women. It seemed to me that the world was very interesting. How could you not want to explore a place like this? Chapter 2 NAKED LADIES I was three years old. It was one in the morning, and I was walking down the aisle of a smoky railroad car. I liked the feel of the train as it lurched and roared under my feet. My father was in burlesque, and he and my mother and I traveled from town to town with a company of comics, straight men, chorus girls, strippers, and talking women. As I moved down the aisle, not much taller than the armrests, I watched the card playing, the dice games, the drinking and joking, late into the night. I would fall asleep on a makeshift bed made of two train seats jammed together. A few hours later, my mother would wake me as the train pulled into Buffalo or Pittsburgh or Philly. I’d sit up groggily and gaze out the window as she pulled on my woolen coat and rubbed my face where the basket weave of the cane seat had left a pink latticework on my cheek. As the train crept slowly into the town, I could see the water towers, the factories, the freight trains jockeying across the rail yards in the gray early light. This would be the first sight I’d have of every city we’d travel to, and my heart would beat with excitement. And then, five or six times a day—at almost every show—I would be standing in the wings, watching. There would be an opening number in which my father stood on the side of the stage and sang while chorus girls danced and showed their breasts. The person who performed this job in burlesque was called, with cheerful clarity, “the tit singer.” My father sang well, and he was a handsome man. When he walked down the street, people sometimes mistook him for Cary Grant and asked for his autograph. But when he was onstage as the tit singer, no one looked at him. After his song, my father would be the straight man for a comic. Or, there might be a sketch with a couple of comics and a talking woman. A talking woman was a dancer or stripper who could also do lines. When a woman was new to the company, the comics would ask, “Can she talk?” Then there would be a strip. The lights would go out, and over the loudspeaker a voice would announce: “The Casino Theater is proud to present . . . Miss Fifi.” In the pit, the drummer would beat out a rhythm while she kept time with her pelvis. She would slip off a piece of clothing and toss it into the wings. It would land a couple of feet from me, and a wardrobe mistress would pick it up and fold it carefully. The stripper would walk around the stage in time to the music and finally pull off the rest of her clothing. Except for some fringe where her underwear would go, she was naked. Blackout. The muscle in her hip would graze my shoulder as she brushed by me. She would grab a piece of her costume and hold it against her bare chest as she walked briskly up the stairs to her dressing room. Upstairs was where heaven was. The chorus girls always brought me up to their dressing room. They talked with me; they patted my cheek and combed my hair. They were affectionate. I was like a pet. When they had to change costumes, they would say, “Okay, Allie, turn your back now.” While they changed, I stood with my face against the wall where their costumes were hanging. My face was buried in their silk clothes, and the smell of their sweat and perfume filled my nostrils. I heard the sound of their clothing sliding on and off their bodies. All of this was far more interesting for a three-year-old than you might imagine. But I wasn’t only the dancers’ pet; I was a plaything for the whole company. When I was six months old, the comics thought it would be funny to bring me out in a high chair in a schoolroom sketch. As they told me this story later, all the great comics were in this sketch: Red Buttons, Phil Silvers, Rags Ragland. I don’t know now if all these comics were actually in the same sketch; the story must have grown with each telling. They said they put a school bell in front of me on the high chair, and totally by accident, I would manage to bang on it every time one of them was getting to a punch line. “You upstaged the greatest comics in burlesque,” they told me. When I was two, the company was playing a theater in Toronto. A photographer from the Toronto Daily Star came backstage, and my father got the idea that if he posed me in a way that made me look as if I were smoking a pipe, the paper would be sure to print the picture and the burlesque company would get some unusual publicity. They dressed me up in my woolen suit and posed me gravely holding a pipe with tobacco in it. They seem to have invented a new name for me, too. I was born Alphonso D’Abruzzo, but that day I was Alphonse Robert Alda, “Ali” for short. The newspaper printed the picture and ran a story under it that, sixty-seven years later, is a gold mine of information on how not to raise a child. child of two smokes pipe once broke mother’s nose Alphonse Robert Alda, at the age of two years and three months, finds solace from worldly cares in a briar pipe. I don’t remember my mother ever telling me I had broken her nose, so this may have been invented to demonstrate how big and strong I was or maybe to account for a slight bend in her nose she wasn’t fond of. As for smoking, according to the myth dreamed up by my father, I had reached up and taken the pipe out of his mouth a year earlier. My mother was quoted as saying they’d hoped I’d get sick and never smoke again but that I liked it and had continued to smoke the pipe. Then they invented a “specialist” from New York whom they said they had consulted. “He told us,” my mother was quoted as saying, “provided moderation was shown, the smoking might not do Ali as much harm as the psychological aspect of denying him.” This bit of invented psychology looks even stranger when, later in the article, she says: “We don’t believe in pampering children. All you have to do to stop him if he starts to cry, which is seldom, is to tell him not to be a baby.” So, let’s review this. You’re two years old. You watch naked women shake their tits five times a day. You never get to cry or act like a baby. But denying you tobacco would be psychologically unhealthy. At the end of the article, my mother tells the reporter how much I like to act. “He wants to be an actor like his daddy,” she said. “Watch! Ali,” she asked, “what would you do if a man were chasing you with a big stick?” The little fellow spread himself against the wall, his face and eyes depicting horror and fright. Then she changed him to a “funny man,” and I switched to happy laughter; then sadness when the man fell down and hurt himself. The photographer took pictures of all of this, and they show a surprising range of emotion. The caption under them reads, “Alphonse wants to be an actor.” It might just as accurately have read, “Alphonse wants to please.” A couple of days later, everyone at the theater made a fuss over me and showed me my picture in the paper. I watched my father as he proudly held up the article and showed it around. I’d been told not to lie, yet we all knew I didn’t smoke (I drank a little beer with the comics, but I didn’t smoke). Now here was my father, proud of the gimmick he’d come up with. The picture of me holding the pipe was a clever way to announce that the company had come to town. For him, saying I smoked was no different from coming onstage in a sketch and saying, “Well, here we are in sunny Spain.” He and the audience all knew they were actually in Toronto. It was just a show, a way of capturing attention. And if you could capture attention, that was an accomplishment. It was the accomplishment.From the Hardcover edition.