Most celebrities don’t have their first controversy until at least their teens. However, M*A*S*H icon Alan Alda was the center of controversy at only 2-years old after posing with a tobacco pipe for publicity. Alda’s father was actually in burlesque shows, so his family was often on the road.
Before some Burlesque performances in Toronto, Alda’s father had him pose with a pipe for the papers. According to MentalFloss, the headline read. “CHILD OF TWO SMOKES PIPE; ONCE BROKE MOTHER’S NOSE.”
Of course, people weren’t too happy seeing a baby with a pipe. The photo caused some serious controversy, but hilariously probably drummed up the necessary publicity for the burlesque shows.
“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,” Alda wrote in his Novel, Never Have Your Dog Stuffed. 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.”
Alda has done a ton of incredible things during his life. But he’s perhaps best known for his role as Hawkeye on M*A*S*H. Now, at 85, Alda is an activist. He speaks out against misinformation and discusses the importance of proper science communication in the information age.
Alda says ‘People are Dying’ Due to Society’s Poor Communication
After his success on M*A*S*H, Alda soon went down the path of science communication. He even founded the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University in Long Island, New York. In a 2017 book, he laid down a lot of his philosophy.
“When patients can’t relate to their doctors and don’t follow their orders when engineers can’t convince a town that the dam could break when a parent can’t win the trust of a child to warn her off a lethal drug — they can all be headed for a serious ending,” he cautioned.
In an interview with AARP, however, the actor recognized that he would need a lot longer to achieve his mission and that there are too many people out there that just distrust science.
The ‘M*A*S*H’ Star Has His Own Podcast
Now, in the age of misinformation, the M*A*S*H star is trying to do his best not only to combat it when he sees it, but promote positive and effective communication on his podcast Clear + Vivid With Alan Alda. On the podcast, he talks to a variety of guests about science, communication, and the information age.
It’s a pretty long journey from tobacco pipe touting baby to TV star to a science communicator, but Alda’s made the whole journey look effortless. If you want to catch up with Alda, Clear + Vivid comes out weekly. You can also always rely on old episodes of M*A*S*H.