Alec Baldwin went from singing “Hallelujah” on the season finale of Saturday Night Live to jetting to balmy California to talk for the first time since a 2011 casual comment to the New York Times about having Lyme disease.
“They had me hiding in the bushes over there at a Lyme disease benefit,” Baldwin said as he went on the stage for the Bay Area Lyme Foundation (http://www.bayarealyme.org) LymeAid benefit for research at a private home in the woodsy enclave of Portola Valley, Ca outside Palo Alto on Sunday. “I have ticks all over me. I’m joking.”
Baldwin has been reluctant to talk about the disease, and Bay Area Lyme Foundation Executive Director Linda Giampa said that she has been trying for years to get him to come to their event. He finally agreed to do it last year, but then the appearance was almost derailed by Baldwin’s decision to do the SNL finale.
“We had already sold out the event for 350 people on that night when I was told. I asked if he would do it the next night and he graciously agreed,” Giampa said. “I think he just felt the time was right to talk about it.”
Baldwin said that he believed he had chronic Lyme disease even before he was diagnosed with it. He was bitten about 17 years ago, and got a shot. Then he was bitten again a few years later.
“I got the classic Lyme disease (symptoms) for each successive summer, for five years, every August, like this black lung, flu-like symptoms, sweating to death in my bed,” Baldwin said. “The first round (was the worst), and then it diminished, at least that’s how I perceived it.”
“The first time was the worst of all,” he recalled. “And I really thought this is it, I’m not going to live. I was alone, I wasn’t married at the time, I was divorced from my first wife. I was lying in bed saying, ‘I’m going to die of Lyme disease,’ in my bed and ‘I hope someone finds me and I’m not here for too long.’ ”
Baldwin went on to say that now he and his wife Hilaria constantly check their children for signs of tick bites.
“I want my kids to grow up riding horses and bikes and enjoying themselves every day and not have to spend every day with us going over them with a magnifying glass to make sure they don’t have any ticks on their body or their dogs, but that is part of the lifestyle of where I live,” he said.
He then lightened things up with his impersonation of President Trump and a joke about New York being a Red State. After an audience groan, he shot back, “I have Lyme disease. A little sympathy here.”
The benefit dinner and concert raised more than $800,000 of which 100% will go directly to fund research for Lyme disease.
This article originally appeared on PEOPLE.