Ted Danson: What I’ve Learned
Esquire, Oct 2015
It’s that guy from Cheers, Becker, Damages, Curb, Bored to Death and Fargo.
Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP
Read at Esquire
Consistency is not my strong suit, so I’ve never been able to stick to a maxim or a motto. When I’m not near the maxim I love, I love the maxim I’m near.
Third time is a charm, with marriage anyway: 20 years now. I truly believe that if I died today, I could say, “I got to experience heaven on Earth, that amazing energy that comes when you’re both loving each other genuinely.” And that’s because of my wife, Mary. It’s true.
It’s better if I don’t read about myself or see the movies I’m in. Because when I see myself reflected back, I become a judgemental dick. My day goes south. Better to just have fun in the moment.
My bachelor party was a bunch of my male friends in a drumming circle sharing stories about relationships. So, don’t ask me about the difference between the sexes. My hormone count is pretty suspect.
Woody Harrelson often asks me, “Ted, why are you so fearful?” And I am. Woody goes leaping off cliffs. But I think, “Oh, I’d better go home… Oh, I’d better not do that.” I have probably missed out on so many experiences and people because of my fear.
Men listen to find out what’s expected of them, whereas women just listen. I think they get the circular nature of life better than we do. If something’s wrong, they can allow it to circle around, whereas we men are like, “No, no, I need to fix it.”
When all is said and done, it’s all about kindness and gratitude.
It’s so funny with Cheers because I was never a bar guy. And I was never a baseball guy. No idea. Sorry!
You are a tube for money. You let it flow in the top and shoot through the tube. Don’t panic and squeeze the bottom of the tube so that it stacks up, because then it will stop coming. Don’t worry about money, worry about what it is you want to do, and it will come. I believe that. It will.
I announced I was vegan to great applause on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, and within days I had the bone of some animal in my mouth. So, I try not to make any declarations. I do believe in the god of ironies, though. Let’s say I’m vegan until 4pm then all hell breaks loose.
Don’t wait until you’ve made it before you turn around and give back to the world. Behave as if you’ve made it now, at whatever level you can afford. The world needs it, you will feel better, and you are more likely to create that reality of having made it.
My illegal drug of choice is marijuana, of course. I’ve never understood the desire to speed up. All I really want is to be a smidge stupider than I actually am. But who has the time? Marijuana is like golf — you need a good four hours. I’ll be a pothead in my late Seventies. By then, I’ll have earned it.
I think because women give birth they can deal with a lot more pain and chaos.
One of my definitions of wealth is matching socks and new shoes. If I could walk into a closet that looked like Barneys that would be it for me. Man, am I rich!
Male friendships are wonderful, relaxing — and beside the point. Because it’s women who have the answers. So, I never go hang with the guys and have a beer. I love working with guys, like doing this interview, but when it’s over, we’re probably not going to a baseball game together.
I’ve only been to Paris maybe seven times, but no city makes me happier. I feel lucky when I’m there. Especially at Christmas.
There are some absolute cringers in my life. But the things that I’m embarrassed and ashamed about are what made me grow.
Inviting the Clintons to your wedding is the perfect defence against paparazzi. Bill was President at the time, so everyone was frisked. There was no helicopter above getting photos because there was a frigate you could see from the house. We had Stinger missiles.
I moan about the aches and pains of growing older, but professional athletes play hurt all the time. This is just the professional athlete period of my life.
The good thing about divorce is you’re thrilled to discover you have two to three times more money than you actually have.
My mother chose to come home to die. Pneumonia. And I remember thinking all of my spiritual, philosophical thoughts and readings went flying out of the window. All I knew with certainty, is that I don’t know, I have no idea. So the best I could come up with was, “just do your best in every moment”.
This is something I learned from the Clintons. When someone shouts something in anger or criticism, you say, “Is there anything in there that’s true?” If there is, OK, I can learn from that. If there isn’t, that’s about them, not me, and I can let it go. That’s great advice.
I was a very slow learner, and a very lucky man.
Life is so full of suffering and so full of joy. You get a huge menu of experiences that you can focus on. So find what keeps you light-hearted. Stay in that joyful spectrum in life.
If you walk into a hotel, either everyone is looking at you or you think they might be because they were in the past. So we have a home in Martha’s Vineyard that’s really private. It feels like you went to some wonderful hotel, but it’s really just your home. That’s luxury to me. That’s what money buys us.
In the Eighties, I was really splashily messed up. Or a work in progress. But the headlines were beside the point compared to the work I was doing on myself back then, trying to change direction. I thought, good, talk about that, because what I’m doing over here is way deeper. And way more private.