Monday, June 30, 2014


In honor of Father's Day, father and son Bill and Willie Geist held an open conversation, with TV anchor Ann Nyberg as moderator,about their new book which they wrote together "Good Talk, Dad The Birds and the Bees...and other CONVERSATIONS We FORGOT to HAVE." (Grand Central Publishing)  In a most unlikely place, the loading dock of IKEA in New Haven, Bill, the well-known quirky storyteller on "CBS Sunday Morning," and Willie, the respected co-host on NBC's "Today" show and MSNBC's "Morning Joe," finally got around, after almost four decades, to having the big and little talks they should have been having all along. Talks on everything from sex to drinking to how to catch a fish (well, maybe they did have that last one, but it was short, shorter than the fish they caught).

The book was probably prompted by the fact that Bill managed to keep his diagnosis of Parkinson's disease a secret from his millions of fans for 22 years and from his children for over a decade, from everyone but his wife, Jody.  In this literary collaboration, the two men deal openly and honestly and hysterically with what growing up Geist really means.

Not every family can boast of having a giant plastic cow in their front yard, or would want to...or report it stolen and be happy when it was returned.  How many families would claim among its membership a truly eccentric Uncle Herb who made a famous punch bowl concoction "Herbnog" and kept a wild animal collection as well as being not just a fan of the Rolling Stones but a worshiper.

Maybe the two men didn't talk all that much but they did love their outings together, ones they christened ceremoniously with the designation "Dad, this reeally sucks."  It could be uttered while fishing, playing golf, at a Broadway musical or at a modern art exhibit.  The Geists liked to celebrate the birth of the King, Elvis that is, every January 8th.  When it was time for Willie to go to sleepover camp, Bill managed to find the one camp where the counselors were rehabilitated gang members, who "forgot" they were reformed.  This is just one example of Bill's exceedingly unusual parenting style.

The book is stuffed with stories, "folksy stories that we relate to," and includes "their greatest hits."  While Bill admits he's "a sucker for fun," he does get serious in two chapters:  the one that deals with his Parkinson's (for a man who didn't voice his problems for 22 years, he's now a spokesperson and an inspiration) and his year as a photographer in Vietnam ( a story that he never told his own children about, like the Bronze Star he won).

Their family life, their journalism and television career paths, the wives, Bill's Jody and Willie's Christina, the grandchildren, Willie's sister Libby and her clan, are all revealed with laughter and humor at the center.  To spend as much time with your children as possible, to be respectful, to keep smiling to help you get through, to live a good life and work hard, to always have happiness in your house, to find the road to laughter and to lead by example are all the lessons Bill passed down to Willie and now Willie is passing on to his own kids Lucie and George.    Even though Father's Day is over, this is a great book to read any day of the year. Good luck, guys. Keep on talking.

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