Willard Scott is, he says, nothing more than a big, bald, uncomplicated guy, a "good ol' Southern Baptist boy who joined a union, moved north, and found happiness on the 'Today Show' in New York City."
Longtime Washington area residents will recall his 30-year tenure on local radio and TV. Starting as an NBC page, Scott became in 1953 a staff announcer (at 19, the second youngest in NBC's history) and later a popular disc jockey and highly successful announcer on scores of commercials.
He also clowned around on TV, to the delight of thousands of area children, first as Bozo and later as Ronald MacDonald, a character Scott created but never profited from. "Everybody made out on that deal except me. I didn't realize what the character was worth, so I had never bothered to copyright it."
But the turning point in Scott's career -- "a gift of God," he says -- came in 1980, when he became the weatherman on the "Today Show," in "the ionosphere . . . New York City itself, the Big Apple."
If you also regard that show as the holy of holies and if your interest in Willard Scott hasn't been satisfied by TV Guide or People (which once dubbed him "the clown wince of television"), then you'll enjoy this autobiography, Willard on Willard.
"When it comes to the sophisticated world of TV," writes Scott, "I'm a mutation. If you put me on an audition tape, everything is wrong, except for the fact that I have a nice voice. On radio I have no trouble. But if you were to look at my re'sume', you'd see that I'm 48 years old, I'm bald, I'm overweight, I don't make all the smooth moves, and I dress like a slob.
"I'd never come out of the computer as being a hit . . . yet . . . I take tremendous pride in the fact that I beat the system."
His success, he says, is based on his extraordinarily happy childhood, ("I had what every kid wants and needs: parents who let me know that I was a VIP in their lives") his perseverance, ("there are very few things I undertake to do that I don't think I can do. Like the Little Engine That Could, I tend to enjoy new challenges") and his religion ("my Jesus . . . was a real outgoing guy . . . if he walked on earth today he'd probably be on the 'Today Show' because he used every vehicle of his time to reach people").
Scott writes the way he talks, gushing boyish ebullience and cornpone, telling stories of his youth, his life-long love of radio, his Virginia farm, and his philosophy. Many of his anecdotes concern his parents, "gentle and patient" Thelma, his saintly mother, and his colorful father, Herman.
"He could be crude to the point where he could embarrass you, and he drank too much, which made him feisty and mean sometimes . . . but . . . no matter what came up, he always let me know I could count on him. He never let me down."
Scott's account of Thelma's long battle with Alzheimer's Disease and Herman's slow wasting away are particularly moving.
And fans of the old "Joy Boys" comedy show will enjoy the brief chapter on Scott and his radio partner and "closest confidant," Ed Walker--certainly one of the most talented people in radio. "The Joy Boys," which ran locally for 17 years, was one of the best things to happen to radio, a madcap production of satire, silliness, and Scott and Walker's zany characters. "The Joy of Living" would have been a better book had Scott treated us to more anecdotes about those years and his long career in broadcasting.
Unfortunately, as do many who achieve national fame, Scott casts himself as a pundit, advising his readers on almost everything. His book is filled with sermonettes on marriage, divorce, child-rearing, human relations and religion.
His philosophy is simple (his heroes are Johnny Appleseed and Gen. Robert E. Lee) and direct ("I'm an idealist. I believe in Walt Disney, I want the world to be what I think it is, and long for things to be the way they were") and it's obviously worked for him ("all I know is that I've always been happy"). But it doesn't always make good reading.
Still, Scott is a superb performer and many of his fans will welcome this book--that is, if they can meet the requirements he lists in his foreward:
"If you feel sad when you see a wounded bird; if you love your mother and father and would never think of hurting anybody; if you love homemade biscuits, a sip of Jack Daniels, mashed potatoes and meat loaf, you just might find something in the following pages that hits home."