I like to think I’m OK at what I do, even if it’s currently a mere shadow of the level of accomplishment I’d prefer still to have. I’ve been blessed with encountering literally thousands of people who are far more successful, respected and loved who inspire and challenge me to continue to improve, even as I’m so often reminded of how much better they are than I am. Fortunately, a few such people actually seem to still respect and encourage me nonetheless. And one just happens to have written a new book.
Virtually no one I’ve ever met is as exemplary of all of the incredible qualities I’ve just mentioned than is Teresa Lynn Strasser. I first was graced with her presence when she was an Emmy-winning writer, both for Los Angeles print publications such as The Jewish Journal, where she regularly contributed columns about her own inexplicably unsatisfying dating life, in a style of self-reflection and candor that put Carrie Bradshaw to shame, and for game shows such as WIN BEN STEIN’S MONEY. In other words, my concept of the most ideal person on Earth. And, if you can fathom it, she was even more attractive than then she is now.
So, yes, I’m admittedly biased. Especially since despite whatever delusions I may have had (and arguably still residually possess) that I could have been her romantic savoir, she bestowed upon me the nickname “Mr. Television”. It’s a badge of honor I wear proudly, especially considering the source. Because you may know her name from her varied successes ocer the past three decades, including on-camera personality, currently on the syndicated series THE LIST and once the host of TLC’s WHILE YOU WERE OUT (and a damn good celebrity Pyramid player in the ill-fated Donny Osmond era). morning radio sidekick to Adam Carolla, podcast superstar teamed with Gina Grad, and, now, the author of a just-released best seller called MAKING IT HOME: LIFE LESSONS FROM A SEASON OF LITTLE LEAGUE. Where she shares with the same degree of heartfelt, endearing style and candor that she demonstrated in her earlier work what she’s been up to lately. Which is far and away her greatest talent of all. Being a supportive, loving mother, wife and daughter to far more deserving men than I. Including the brother she cherished who was taken from this world at the far-too-young age of 47, a victim of a rare cancer that left behind a young widow, small children and a grippingly still- grieving sister who paints a picture of the late Morgan “Mugsy” Strasser that will make you realize talent and beauty was clearly in her DNA.
But an even more uplifting story is the one she tells of her reconnection with her father, who she had a complicated relationship with during her youth and younger adulthood. Nelson Strasser is depicted as flawed, challenged and impulsive, qualities people who I once considered friends have mercilessly accused me of. He also once had a career working with car batteries and doing garage work, the exact same profession my beloved and still-missed paternal grandfather had. He has survived a marriage to a woman who, if nothing else, inspired one of Teresa’s most honored pieces, a column about her stepmother’s passing that opens with this:
What do you do when you lose someone? Someone you really hated?
It’s a little awkward, I’ll tell you that much. Last month, my stepmother of more than 25 years died at age 67 of lung cancer. It was a terrible death, one I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, which, incidentally, she was.
In even more self-revelation than what she demonsrated in that Los Angeles Press Club-winning piece, we learn a lot about about this Cruella DeVille who threw a wedge into her relationship with her father. And while one could almost root for this stepmonster’s demise, the fact she lost her actual mother–another complicated parent, but one you can mourn–mere months after her brother’s death makes my heart ache. So yes, looks are deceiving. This brilliant, stunningly beautiful, almost unfathomly talented woman has suffered hearbreak and grief that I wouldn’t wish on MY worst enemies.
Fortunately, she is now surrounded by people, especially men, who do provide support. As well as her dad, now reunited with her in Phoenix where she now works , she has a truly loving and handsome husband, one she describes as sweeeping her off her feet first and foremost because he had dental insurance. (I’d offer there were other reasons, but I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt here). Who coaches their two athletic sons in Little League, the same organization where her brother was a star of the Santa Monica Angels in his youth. Who evoke the memories of Mugsy when he was young, healthy and a source of parental pride for Nelson Strasser and a big brother for Teresa Lynn. And now these lucky survivingmen provide her with the most supportive, healthiest and most healing form of grief therapy one can imagine.
Better still, they provide her with the inspiration to tell their stories of encouragement, true love and hope. How this extraordinarily talented and yes, still stunning woman draws her greatest pleasures from rooting for her sons to succeed, learning nuances of the game and the world of Little League from her dad. who is now getting the second chance many of us only dream of, to be both a loving relative and a baseball savant. How, seated in the folding director’s chairs that parents and grandparents all over schlep around to diamonds around the country on weekend mornings in good weather, she gets to become an even more supportive and invested mom, daughter and wife all at once. Far from the glam and the hot studio lights. And yes, by the time you’re a few pages in, you too will be as invested in her world and her storytelling than I am.
It’s abundantly clear she doesn’t need someone like me in her life, and I was a fool to ever think I could be. I’ve had a similar thunderstruck experience more recently, as you know, and there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t cry and lament the lack of closure that one still leaves me with. But when I read how Teresa has found some degree of peace and, to the extent possible, closure of her own through this world, I appreciate far more the people, one in particular, now in my life who support and inspire me to persevere, put one foot in front of the other and simply live life, if for no other reason than there are so many others who don’t have that option. I came within nine hours of being one of them, and far too often still have days where I have remorse and dark moments where I’m not so sure I’m all that better off. Teresa’s prose is a wonderful reminder that surviving is a far, far better option than any other.
I may or not be Mr. Television; my track record these days hardly suggests that. But clearly Teresa Strasser has reminded this lucky world that she is at the top of her her game in not just television, but audio and print to boot. And, most importantly, in the game of life. If you’re a dad, brother, child or fan, I can’t think of a better summer read.
So thank you, Queen of All Media. For reminding me not just of what I don’t have, but what I do. And inspiring me to be just a little better today than the previous day. You clearly are.
Until next time…
You can order MAKING IT HOME by clicking on the link below. But try to find it at a physical bookstore if you can. You never know the kind of people you might meet if you try.