Garden City native John Tesh has a new memoir, "Relentless: Unleashing a Life of Purpose, Grit and Faith," with an emphasis on "faith." In 2017, after the recurrence of an especially aggressive form of prostate cancer, he stopped further treatment, then "turned to relentless faith and divine healing Scriptures."
The longtime anchor of "Entertainment Tonight" (1986-96) was also a CBS Sports announcer, prolific composer — his "Roundball Rock" theme for "NBC on NBC" in the '90s is iconic — and keyboardist (the "Live at Red Rocks" series for PBS, and much else). For nearly 20 years, Tesh, 67, and his wife, Connie Sellecca, have hosted the national radio show "Intelligence for Your Life."
Here is an edited version of our recent chat.
How's your health?
Good. I'm completely clear of cancer. After a doctor gives you 18 months to two years to live and you end up getting cured, you have a little more energy in your step.
You've been on a faith-based journey, or specifically, a faith-healing one.
It's important to note that if I hadn't had faith in my doctors, I'd be dead right now. [But] faith is born when you don't have another choice, and I didn't have another choice.
Nevertheless, a huge decision to stop treatment.
I got cancer at 63 — the exact same age that my dad [who has since died] got cancer, and I was worried my whole life in surviving this number [and] talked about it [and] opened myself up for manifesting that disease. [But] DNA is just not that accurate [and] the message is, be careful what you let into your head.
What would you say to those who are struggling with COVID-19 right now?
Everybody is different, and my cancer challenge may not have been as virulent as COVID-19, but the one thing I do know — and I have a lot of people in my world who have been [faith] healed — is that God wants us well.
You write that overcoming disease "demands purpose and faith. It requires a why and how." What exactly was your "how?"
It could be just as simple as … I speak to anything that could come into my body — "no weapon will prosper against me" [and sometimes] you run out of words and speak in tongues. If you believe in divine healing, it's a process. You have to learn how to do it. But I'm not saying, 'hey, don't go to a doctor.' I'm saying, this is what worked for me."
Speaking in tongues? Wow!
Here I am, closing in on 68 years. I have authority to share my testimony [or] what Lance Armstrong once told me is the "obligation of the cure." Speaking in tongues? What choice do I have but to tell my story, [and] if you don't believe me, it was new for me [once], too.
In the book, you offer an arresting image of growing up in suburbia — of fathers wandering door to door in Levittown, not knowing which house was theirs. Was it like that for you in 1950s Garden City?
Betty Friedan wrote that women in suburbia were buried alive, but for me, when I got to college, and looked back, I realized I had been at a performing arts school [in the educational system] there.
Your Stewart Avenue Elementary school music teacher, Dr. Tom Wagner, set you on the path you are on now?
I had the opportunity before he passed away four years ago at the age of 93 to play for him at [NYCB Theatre at] Westbury. Everyone in the audience knew who he was! I barely got through it without crying. He was my Mr. Holland.
Every Tesh interview has to get to "Roundball Rock." Are you surprised it still resonates as much as it does?
It's like [the success of] "Tiger King" — it has tigers and crazy people and it's on Netflix, so everyone in the world can see it. In many ways, that's what happened to "Roundball." It was in the heyday of the NBA [with] Jordan and Magic, and you didn't have 35 sports networks, and NBC played it every two seconds.
Before leaving "ET," you write "I didn't handle my rising tide of fortune with any measure of grace." What happened?
I was just ungrateful and [even] my wife was calling me on it, too. My whole life, all I wanted was to be on stage [as a musician], and once it happened … I lost my mind.
Ha! Well, you did end up getting what you wanted, except not as much music anymore?
We do still do 25 concerts a year instead of 60 and we do have more of a family life. But to be honest, my wife does get sick of me — "hey, don't you have to go on tour?" I am hard to live with and am into everything. If you were to see my studio, there are wires everywhere. I am a very ADD kind of person and the worst kind of ADD person.