Alan Alda is a catchy name, but like so many showbiz names, it’s not the name the “M*A*S*H” star was born with.
In a 2000 interview with the Television Academy Foundation, the actor revealed his birth name. Alda’s parents named him Alphonso D’Abruzzo, which was also his father’s name.
When Alda’s father was a young man, he made a new last name from the first two letters of each of his names. After that, he used the name ‘Alda’ constantly instead of ‘D’Abruzzo.’
“He never changed his name legally, and neither did I,” Alda said. “But I use it [Alda] for everything.”
‘M*A*S*H’ Star Changed His First Name as a Teen
Alda was already using a different last name from the one on his birth certificate, so it wasn’t too much of a leap to change his first name, too. His dad suggested ‘Alan.’
“Since he had named me Alphonso to begin with, I took his advice when I was about 16 and took the name Alan,” Alda said. “I never particularly liked Alan, but that’s… He chose it, and I figured he had the right to choose it, so I let him pick it.”
The “M*A*S*H” actor was born in Manhattan but grew up on the road. His father was in the burlesque industry. Alda said some of his earliest memories are of being on trains, waking up as the train pulled into the train station in a new city.
“It was not nearly as raunchy in those days as ordinary television is today,” Alda said of his dad’s business.
Watch Alda’s interview here:
The Young Alda Went on to Have a Successful Acting Career
Alda got into performing when he was 16 years old. He made his Broadway debut in 1959 in “Only in America,” according to Biography.com. Alda continued to appear in Broadway plays into the early 1960s, eventually taking on starring roles in productions like “Paper Lion” and “Jenny.”
In 1972, Alda joined the cast of “M*A*S*H.” The hit TV show would give him opportunities to write and direct as well as act. That earned him more than 20 Emmy Award nominations over the years, with wins for Outstanding Lead Actor, Outstanding Directing and Outstanding Writing.
During the 1970s, Alda also branched out into movies. He appeared in “California Suite,” “The Seduction of Joe Tynan” and “The Four Seasons” during that time.
More recently, Alda has appeared on “The West Wing,” which landed him an Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actor, “The Blacklist,” “The Big C” and “30 Rock.” He also returned to Broadway in 2005, taking his acting career full circle, back to where it all began.