Actor, game show host, and former presidential speech writer Ben Stein’s idea of paradise is walking around New Haven and lying in bed with his dog.
Speaking to packed Yale Political Union meeting on the topic “Resolved: Man Ought Buy a Dog,” Stein LAW ’69 waxed philosophic about the elements of an enjoyable life and regaled the audience with humorous stories from his past. Stein repeatedly pointed to his time at Yale as a law student as one of the best points in his life.
“Yale in the sixties was fabulous,” Stein said. “The flower power generation had arrived. In the morning we had demonstrations for the Black Panther political party. Then we would come back to the dining hall for lunch, and eat on linen table cloths, with monogrammed plates and waiters in uniforms.”
Stein’s time at Yale allowed him to experience the posh side of the Ivory Tower while still imagining himself as “the vanguard of the proletariat,” he said.
Though Stein was valedictorian of his law class, but he was quick to point out that he was elected to the position, and not because of his grades.
“One day I showed up to class, and I was just high as a kite on Demerol,” Stein said. “My professor called on me to answer the first question, to which I responded that there was no answer, and he was just jerking us all around. I then threatened to take off all my clothes if he didn’t stop jamming this [expletive] down our throats.”
The professor left the room immediately, resigned his position as a faculty member, and became a lawyer on Wall Street, Stein said.
YPU President Steven Christoforou ’04 remarked on the numerous careers Stein has had since law school.
“He is a noted economist, game show host, speech writer and actor,” Christoforou said.
Stein also tried writing scripts for Hollywood movies. After a script he pitched was rejected, Stein said, he wistfully remembered his days at Yale.
“I thought ‘what happened to the great days when I would be walking around New Haven?’” Stein said. “I was sitting in my study when I had a revelation. The key was my dog Mary. When I was hugging my Mary, I thought that this is how life is supposed to be. I am just being.”
Stein was thrilled when John Hughes got him involved with the now-famous movie “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”
“I started doing something that made me really happy. I would act, and then I would just go home and lie in bed with my dog,” Stein said.
Stein’s love for his dog was by no means a fling. He said he declined to take his game show “Win Ben Stein’s Money” to the Game Show Channel so he could spend more time with his dogs.
Stein said his involvement with the peace movement during his youth influences how he tries to live his life now.
“I realized that I could be more effective in the peace movement by being more peaceful myself. Dogs are born with this knowledge,” Stein said.
Stein pointed to caring for one’s parents as an opportunity for being more canine. He said that two of his most rewarding experiences in life have come when his parents sent him thank you notes for being a good son.
YPU Floorleader of the Left Roger Low ’07 praised Stein’s talk for its witty brilliance.
“It was a very odd combination of humor and soul searching,” Low said.