Alan Alda, Naked Ladies, and a Stuffed Dog

Last week I was trying to explain to my friend, Penney Knightly, the difference between modern strippers and old-time Burlesque. Unlike today’s strip joints, Burlesque was an entire variety show. The acts included singing, dancing, comedy, juggling, animal acts, and more. Also, strippers. More accurately, they were strip teasers. A striptease often started with the performer fully clothed. She’d dance to live music, removing one article of clothing at a time, smiling and flirting with the audience. It was an exuberant performance with a joyful spirit.

To illustrate this to Penney, I looked for some examples on youtube. Search for ‘burlesque’ or ‘old-time striptease.’ You’ll find a few good examples there. But we really hit the jackpot on Netflix: Behind the Burly Q, hosted in part by Alan Alda, whose father, Robert Alda, was a major performer in Burlesque and a noteworthy screen actor. It seems that much of Alan Alda’s early childhood was spent on the road with his parents’ touring Burlesque company. Who knew?

A little additional research on Alan Alda revealed that in addition to acting, directing, writing plays and screenplays, he has also written two books. So I jumped over to Amazon and bought his first effort, an autobiography with the intriguing title “Never Have Your Dog Stuffed and Other Things I’ve Learned.” Irresistable!

I’m about halfway through it, now. It’s a great read, filled with wit, wisdom, humor, and tenderness. It’s rich with elegantly constructed phrases like this one about his car: “The windshield wipers stopped working, and when it rained the road looked like an impressionist painting coming at you at fifty miles an hour.”

I’ve already ordered his second book. There’s an excerpt from it on his website. Enjoy!