The star-filled career of one of America’s most famous entertainment show anchors, complicated by true confessions of a spectacular fall from grace.
When Charlie Sheen tells you, “That was an excellent effort, my man,” it’s probably time to take stock of your life. That’s where O’Brien (Talkin' Sports: A B.S.-er's Guide, 2008, etc.) found himself in 2005 when a series of sexually graphic, drug-and-alcohol–fueled voice-mail messages appeared in the tabloid press. Recorded during an epic drunken blackout, the messages were just one red flag for a man racing toward destruction. “Mine is a story of daydreams and fulfilled and unfulfilled ambitions,” he writes in the introduction, “of the craving for love from strangers and for belonging at the table, of failure and of redemption.” From there, the author tells a rich and well-written—if not overly complex—history of his rise from modest roots in South Dakota to becoming one of the most well-known media commentators in the country. In addition to being quite entertaining, there’s something for everyone in O’Brien’s story. Sports fans will thrill to anecdotes about legends like Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson, told with obvious nostalgia for the 1980s and ’90s, when the author covered the Olympics, NBA Finals, Final Four and Super Bowl, among other sporting events. Consumers of tabloids will enjoy the juicy tales from a host who readily admits he’s a name-dropper. “And it goes both ways; there’s a reason people want to talk with us,” he writes. “We are the link to the fans. So, it’s not me, folks, it’s the profession. If I didn’t get to know people, I wouldn’t be around long.” In the final third of the book, O’Brien covers his dramatic descent into a brutal, life-threatening alcoholism that took two stints in rehab to survive, complete with notes from his doctors that read, “Surrender or else.”
A familiar, relatable story of dependence and repentance, filtered through the glam of Hollywood.