Alan Alda pictured in John Dietz, Argo (2013) Credit: Copyright © 2013
For movie star Alan Alda, trying to evade a pair of kidnappers armed with pistols in 1962 had particular difficulty because they dragged him to his car in secret. “I looked down at my hands, which were encased in silk, in an attempt to summon something, anything — sense, intuition, logic — that would help me get away,” the “M*A*S*H” actor wrote for The New York Times. “They looked at me blankly. Then, towards the back of the car, they dumped me off and drove away.” Alda, now 80, was found almost a month later on the outskirts of Chicago by a Navy lieutenant who had heard the TV news reports of the kidnapping. “At first, I was in terror,” Alda recalls. “When I was finally able to gather myself and ask what had happened, I remember being astonished to find the officer had no idea who I was.”
For Alda, the trauma was not that of being kidnapped but rather of being taken in the first place. “I was ashamed, I was frightened, I was annoyed that I had been dragged away from my home and being separated from my family,” he writes. “And I was just downright confused by the whole thing. And I was terrified that I was about to lose my father. My father was angry and stern and quite unpleasant and I took my rage and frustration out on my mother in spectacular fashion.”
“I begged and pleaded with my parents to get me back immediately,” Alda recalled, “but my dad kept on insisting I was off limits — they had given me a great deal of trust. And I was desperate, frightened, and confused.”
“My father suggested that I should use my real name at the front desk of my hotel. I told him that I would never even try,” Alda writes. “He said he would drop me off at the train station for the trip home. I spoke with some movie stars and took it easy, thinking it would all be over soon. I asked for a cheap motel. I accepted. I wondered what it all meant, because I had no idea why I had been snatched from my apartment.”
But Alda says he was relieved that he was able to escape, and that he took the time to mull over what had happened. “For those first weeks,” he wrote, “I took it as a kind of dream, a reminder that one is not fully formed until one has suffered some kind of anguish or loss.”
Even though the authorities eventually tracked down and rescued Alda and his wife, Annie, he credits the Navy lieutenant with becoming a father figure to him. The late lieutenant — named John Dietz — passed away earlier this month at the age of 91.