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About the Author
Tom Bergeron is the current host of Dancing with the Stars, for which he's received two Primetime Emmy nominations. He is also the host of America's Funniest Home Videos and the former host of Hollywood Squares, for which he won a Daytime Emmy in 2000.
Read an Excerpt
I'm Hosting as Fast as I Can!
Zen and the Art of Staying Sane in Hollywood
Can You Hear Me Now?
It was a Saturday night in 1972. I was a seventeen-year-old high school senior, sitting alone in a dimly lit radio studio in my hometown of Haverhill, Massachusetts. I was barely aware of the music I'd put on the turntable. Other things competed for my attention, most prominently my nerves.
My heart hammered against my ribs. My throat tightened. I stared at the toggle switch, which controlled the microphone and the dial directly under it, which controlled its volume. I reached out to touch the switch . . . and then pulled back. Oh, shit, what am I doing here? Why did I think I could do this? I knew that the moment I flicked that switch and turned that dial, there'd be no turning back. My voice would be out there, "on the air," for the very first time.
Who would be listening? My family? Certainly. My friends? Sure. But who else? This was a 1,000-watt radio station. It was 6:10 on a Saturday night. Who knew how many others could be out there? Hell, there could be dozens! I tried to swallow but couldn't. My peripheral vision collapsed, and all I could see were the toggle switch and the dial, the toggle switch and the dial, the toggle switch and the dial . . .
The song was ending; the music was fading. Only seconds left. Oh, shit, I have to pee. Or faint. Or both. First I'll faint and then I'll piss myself. Gotta prioritize.
No, I had to do it. I could do it. I adjusted my headphones, flicked the switch to the right, and cupped my hand over the dial. The last notes of America's "A Horse with No Name" gave wayto the crackle of the needle bouncing against the album's center. It was now or never. I turned the dial clockwise, took a deep breath, and, for the first time on the radio, said my name. I had officially begun my career as a broadcaster.
And I sucked.
Truly, I did. I'm not exaggerating. My proud grandfather recorded the entire six-hour show, and I eventually listened to about twenty minutes, just enough to consider entering the witness-protection program. I don't remember where those tapes disappeared to or what exactly I said in those first moments as a broadcaster. I do remember that my tone was akin to a dental patient trying to chat casually while watching the approaching Novocain shot; or like Barney Fife pretending to be James Bond. I wasn't fooling anyone—with the possible exception of my grandfather. He thought I did great. At least that's what he told me. Maybe he was just being supportive. A white lie or two for his only grandson. Of course, he'd lived through the Great Depression and World War II. He'd witnessed real disasters. Grading on that scale, I could've strangled kittens all night and still not been all that bad.
The Monday after my virgin broadcast, walking the corridors of Haverhill High between classes, I was quickly made aware of some other members of my radio audience.
"Hey, Bergeron," the ringleader of a small group of assho— . . .
I mean, students—yelled, "heard you on the radio. You sucked."
See? It wasn't just me saying it.
But it wasn't all bad. It was mostly pretty damn good. Not my performance; you couldn't have saved that with an exorcism. I mean my situation. After all, I was a high school student actually being paid to host a radio show at a professional (well, more about that later) broadcast facility! Who cared if I sucked on my first attempt? Next Saturday night, I reasoned, when I flicked that switch and turned that dial, I'd suck a little less. And I'd be even less sucky the Saturday after that; assuming of course that the station manager was willing to keep paying a buck seventy-five an hour for only marginal leaps in quality.
Getting my foot and quavering voice in the door of the radio station, WHAV, was the culmination of a deliberate campaign hatched the moment I discovered that one of the high school's English teachers, Edwin Johnson, worked there part-time as a newscaster. I signed up for his public-speaking course and set out to impress the hell out of him. When, months later, he asked his brownnosing A student about his career goals, my answer exploded like a sneeze.
"Radio! I want to be on the radio!"
Upon hearing that, he generously offered to introduce me to WHAV's owner/station manager/sales manager/program director and hallway monitor, an eccentric and curmudgeonly chap named Ed Cetlin. I accepted the offer with similar sneezelike velocity. Within weeks, a meeting was scheduled. I was ecstatic. I was going to have a job interview at a radio station! My promising career as a supermarket-shelf stocker, begun in my freshman year, was about to be tossed aside like so much bad lettuce.
When I met Ed Cetlin, he asked me, "Why do you want to work in radio?" in a tone that suggested I'd aspired to developing carcinogens. He chewed on the ends of his glasses and squinted as he talked. I almost suggested he wear the glasses rather than gnaw on them, if only to help with the squinting, but thought better of it. Instead, I blathered on about my love for radio, how I'd always dreamed of being a broadcaster, and how hard I'd work if given the chance.
He shook his head in dismay. "You'll never make a living in radio. It's not a career. I'll prove it to you. I'll give you a job."
And, at a dollar seventy-five an hour, he set out to prove his point. But first, he said, I had to get my third-class operator's license. I'd need to learn how to take meter readings and monitor the transmitting equipment, a common requirement at low-power radio stations in the 1970s. To get that license, I'd take a test at the FCC office in the Customs House in Boston. No big deal. Until I took it, that is, and flunked.I'm Hosting as Fast as I Can!
Zen and the Art of Staying Sane in Hollywood. Copyright (c) by Tom Bergeron . Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Table of Contents
1 Can You Hear Me Now? 1
2 There's No Place like Om 7
3 Dulcet Tones and Hidden Gin 11
4 A Mime Is a Terrible Thing to Waste 19
5 I'll Always Have (South) Paris 25
6 Sometimes a Low Road Is a Highway 29
7 Frozen Dishes, Bottled Pigs, and Flexible Tubing 35
8 Thoreau Another Log on the Fire 41
9 Hopping Planes and Achieving Orbit 47
10 (Much) Better Red Than Dead 51
11 Physics and Bliss 55
12 Long Days and Short Spurts 59
13 Nuts, Sluts, and Heads of State 65
14 Lassie's Choice 71
15 Howdy Doddy, Bye-Bye Boston 77
16 Ready for Breakfast 83
17 And Now for Something Completely Different (with Apologies to Monty Python) 87
18 Why the Red Face? 93
19 Kill the Puppet 97
20 The Peter Principle Pox 103
21 Salmon Chanted Evening 107
22 Viva Liz Vargas 111
23 Live McCree or Die 117
24 Whoopi's Cushion 121
25 The Adventures of Captain Spasm 125
26 Tic-Tac-Toe-Hold 135
27 Game Changer 145
28 Coffee with the Captain 151
29 The Agony and the Annuity 155
30 Something's Amiss America 165
31 "Marco," "Polo," and Watts 169
32 Six Weeks of Sequins 175
33 A Step in Time Saves Mine 185
34 Dance Partners 193
35 Something to Plinko-ver 203
36 Yin, Yang, and Your Mama 209
37 But Enough About Me 223
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Having met Tom three times as guests of Breakfast Time, I found what you see is what you get. Tom is the best TV host you will ever meet, he is a very kind person. That said I was looking forward to reading the parts about Breakfast Time the most and he didn't let me down there. The rest of Tom's climb to TV fame is very well written as well. I enjoyed the whole book.
Tom Bergeron, currently best known for hosting shows like Dancing With The Stars and America's Funniest Videos, has written a laugh-out-loud memoir about his career in television, titled "I'm Hosting as Fast as I Can! Zen and the Art of Staying Sane in Hollywood." Bergeron's writing is both hilarious and self-deprecating-a much needed antidote to the current dark mood sweeping the nation in the wake of the economy. His first media exposure was a DJ position at a local radio station, while still in high school. Ironically enough, his boss at the time warned Bergeron that there was no career in radio. Fast forward several years and Tom was not only still hosting radio shows, but alternating between a string of TV jobs. Through his narrative, Bergeron takes us on a wonderful journey from a small radio station in Haverhill, Massachusetts to Hollywood, California. Ultimately, each job opportunity stems from his previous experience as Bergeron's star is on the rise. What I find most admirable about Tom's story is that he is not born with a so-called silver spoon, but truly achieves his modern success through old fashioned hard work-and manages to laugh at himself in the process. Various gigs at a Boston television station include hosting a kids show, a crazy talk show, and even reading lottery numbers which leads to hosting an improvisational breakfast show in New York whose most popular character is a puppet called Bob. This ironically becomes Bergeron's ticket into national television. Also mentioned is Bergeron's following brief stint in Good Morning America (a catty co-host included), the reason why he will never be a guest on Regis and Kelly, his time on Hollywood Squares, the surprising reason he was chosen as the host for America's Funniest Videos, and why Tom almost turned down the chance to host Dancing With the Stars. Besides his successful TV resume and various backstage gossip, Tom frankly reveals the struggles he has to endure along the way -health scares, bicoastal existence, the conflict between family and career, as well as many hilarious mishaps. In the face of constant change and personal turmoil, Bergeron shares his Zen philosophy of staying calm and looking at life from a glass-half-full perspective. Generously interspersed throughout Bergeron's narrative, are intriguing parables and comedic conversations with himself-which serve to underscore this optimistic way of interpreting life. As Tom puts it, Zen is essentially about acknowledging that all events in life are connected-a philosophy that can certainly be applied to events in Tom Bergeron's captivating life. Overall, Tom Bergeron's memoir is both highly entertaining and inspirational-a story that anyone can relate to, regardless of demographic, and one I would highly recommend at least for a good laugh.
My favorite host on the air today!
Great read and as I learned...a great human being!
I definitely recommend this book for anyone who is thinking about branching into a career in media whether it be radio or television o(but of course, it'd be most applicable if it were television). Tom is a hilarious author, he doesn't censor what he truly felt and what went on in his head when he reflects unpleasant anecdotes about himself or others. I find this to be the most attractive feature in his autobiography because he doesn't care how people will judge him but that he was purely being truthful when writing this memoir. So instead of having a priority of "would people think badly of me if I wrote this?" he was probably thinking "heck, this is my book, I'm going to write whatever I want!" Tom gives a good overall reflection (with some boring details) (sorry Tom!) of how he became a talk show host and the obstacles he went through to be where he is now. He does it in a very optimistic and hilarious way! He also describes how he manages (a.k.a. negotiates with TV networks) his family and his work life since he lives on the East Coast but has to work on the West Coast. I wouldn't say that this is a good random book to read but you'd definitely enjoy it if you are already a fan of Tom and/or you want to know what it is like to be in television media, particularly the show hosting sector. And if you do find yourself enjoying it, you can also follow Tom on Twitter to get more glimpse of his life (gosh I should be his PR)!
As a Bergeron fan, my wife bought me this book for Christmas. It is a very humorous look at Tom's life and the Laws of Attraction. If ever there was a man that could point to this philosophy in his life, it is Tom. Why am I a fan of this man? He is cool under pressure, glib at times and sarcastic when the moment is right. And all of this is pulled off in a very natural, unforced way. You certainly don't get the impression of scripted, over-practiced babble. According to the book, he loves live television and prefers the NOW aspect of performance. Live Television? That takes guts aplenty. From the critical side, Tom states that he started off life with a bad temper. Maybe so, but the few instances he details in this tome sound pretty tame to me. If this is a bad temper, then me and everyone I know are more akin to Attila the Hun. That is to say, it is not too difficult to repair something that really isn't broken but only needs a light oiling. Maybe I missed the message or Tom left out some of the more brutal details. More disappointing is the lack of detail behind "why" he got into Zen. I would like to know the beginnings of this journey and why this practice is superior to others. In the excellent book Sacred Hoops: Spiritual Lessons of a Hardwood Warrior, Phil Jackson delves into this area providing enough insight to satisfy. Tom does not. Some reviews stated the book was ego-maniacal. I disagree. Others stated that they wanted more "dirt" (for lack of a better word). I didn't expect any as Tom is still gainfully employed and I suspect would like to remain in this state. Still other reviewers stated the book skipped around too much. Well...this is personal taste. I rather enjoyed the editing. Overall, I really like the book and will recommend it to others. I hope you find this opinion helpful. Michael L. Gooch Author of Wingtips with Spurs
If you are looking to learn more about Tom, and hear it in his own voice, this is for you. It is also great for long time fans, to remind you of why you became a fan, and take you back to the earlier days. (anyone remember Breakfast Time?) Good life lessons, lightly given, while telling his own story. He is sans ego, and does not spare himself in his close look at how life in the limelight can work. This sounds like him, and is funny like he is. It also is insightful, so escapes being fluff by a long shot. I read it and gave it to the family. Enjoyable for all ages.
I absolutely loved this book! It was entertaining plus honest without being trashy. Made me want to look more into meditation. Loved the respect he shows his family. Will look forward to seeing more of him on TV.
I loved this book! If you like him on Dancing with the Stars and AFV you will enjoy this book. Just a very nice story, the whole family would enjoy. Funny!