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10 Reasons to Love Alan Alda at 80

The milestone birthday is a great excuse to celebrate Alda's life and career

Alan Alda is best known for playing Benjamin Franklin “Hawkeye” Pierce on M*A*S*H. That’s one great reason to admire the award-winning actor, but in honor of his 80th birthday on Jan. 28, we came up with nine more.

The Acting, for Starters

1. That time in 2005 when he played the questionable Senator Ralph Owen Brewster in Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator, going toe-to-toe with Leonardo DiCaprio’s Howard Hughes, and got nominated for an Oscar for it:

2. That time in 1966 he was nominated for a Tony award for Best Actor in a Musical (he sings!) for the Mike Nichols-directed The Apple Tree. (He also was nominated in 1992 for Best Actor in a Play for Neil Simon’s Jake’s Women, and again in the 2005 for Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play for David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross.)

3. That time in 2004 he did a two-year stint on Aaron Sorkin’s hitThe West Wing, playing yet another senator:

4. That time in 1979 he won an Emmy for outstanding writing on M*A*S*H and literally did a cartwheel on his way to the stage to accept his award:

5. That time in 1983 on the last episode of M*A*S*H when “Hawkeye” broke down in one of television’s saddest, most gripping moments:

And There’s More

6. That time from 1993 to 2005 he hosted PBS’s Scientific American Frontiers, informing the public about new technologies and discoveries in science and medicine and exploring topics such as how the subconscious mind can influence decision making, revealing hidden gender and racial biases:

(You can watch full episodes of Scientific American Frontiers here)

7. That time in 2010 he hosted a popular three-part PBS series The Human Spark, exploring the nature of human uniqueness and recent studies on the human brain:

(Watch full episodes of The Human Spark here, via PBS)

8. That time in 2009 he helped create the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University and its annual Flame Challenge, an international competition in which scientists are challenged to answer a question in a way that is most appropriate for 11-year-olds.

9. That time he spent 10 years campaigning for the Equal Rights Amendment, was appointed by President Ford to serve on the National Commission for the Observance of International Women’s Year in 1976 and later named “the quintessential Honorary Woman: a feminist icon” by The Boston Globe.

10. That time in 2015 he told reporters about the moment he knew his wife of nearly 60 years, Arlene, was the one:

“Pretty much the first time we met — we had met once before, but I was too shy to even say, “Hello.” So, the next time, we’re at dinner at somebody’s house. The woman who had invited us had made a rum cake for dessert, and she had it on top of the refrigerator, and the refrigerator shook while it worked and the rum cake slowly moved to the edge of the refrigerator and fell splat on the floor of the kitchen, and Arlene and I were the only two people who got up with spoons and ate it off the floor. So, that’s how you know if people are going to be together. Just throw a cake on the floor and see who goes for it.”


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