From the early days of Ledbury, Willie Geist has been part of the family. He has shown us endless support – from hosting the Pauls on Morning Joe, to sitting on the panel of our Launch Fund, to continually sporting our shirts on air. Needless to say, we’ve formed a great relationship with Willie over the years. When we heard the news that his most recent book release, Good Talk, Dad, was written with his father, Bill Geist, we jumped at the opportunity to talk with him about the experience.
What prompted you to write a book with your dad?
Many people have suggested we do some project together – whether on TV or in print. We just never were quite sure what that would be. We went to lunch one day with Gretchen Young, an editor from one of my previous books, and started telling family stories. She stopped and said, “Wait! This is the book!” So we sat down with my mom and my wife and culled through the best of those often insane Geist family gems and wrote them up in “Good Talk, Dad.”
How does your perspective of these stories differ from your father’s?
It’s often two versions of the same story. For example, my dad sent me off to what he thought was a model summer camp in New Hampshire, out in the woods and on a beautiful lake. What he didn’t read in the fine print was that many of the counselors were in a summer program to rehabilitate gang members. That made for a rather different camping experience. There were knife fights in the parking lot, and battles for territory over the camp nurse. My dad says now he knows why he got such a nice discount.
When sharing personal experiences, it’s safe to say that we often learn characteristics of one another that are somewhat unexpected — something we may not have realized before. Did you have any of these moments when sharing stories with your dad?
My dad and I have a great relationship and I know him very well, but there was one hole in his life we’d never discussed: his year in Vietnam. I couldn’t square that tour of duty with the mild-mannered, humble, funny guy I knew. He never talked about his service, but for this book I got him to tell the whole story. It gives me chills every time I read it.
What’s your favorite story that made it into the book?
There are a lot of them: these are our greatest hits. The camp story is right up there when you read all the details. Another favorite is that my parents realized when I was 19 years old that I hadn’t ever been baptized in the church where we were members. I figured we could let it slide or at least do it in a quiet, closed-door setting on a Wednesday. Nope. My mom and dad sent me up there in front of the congregation on a Sunday morning – 19 years old, 6’ 4” tall, and probably hung over after a Saturday night home from college. I stood there with the mothers cradling their sweet infants and got myself baptized to the great amusement of my old man.
Have you worked with your father before on any other projects?
This is the first big project we’ve done together professionally and it’s been a blast. Writing the book, but also touring around and spending time with my Dad. I hate to see it go.
What are you doing with your dad this Father’s Day?
We’re lucky because my parents live three blocks from us in New York and my sister, with her husband and two kids, lives about 15 blocks away. That means we can all get together for some BBQ and some bourbon.