If You Would Have Told Me: A Memoir
By John Stamos, with Daphne Young
Henry Holt and Co.
ISBN: 9-781-2508-9097-9
352pp.

Most people in Pakistan know him as the long-haired Uncle Jesse from the American sitcom Full House, but there is more to John Stamos than meets the eye.

The actor never considered himself as another pretty Italian boy when he stepped into showbiz; in fact, he was flipping burgers at his dad’s fast food joint before becoming a household name in the 1980s.

In his recently released memoir, If You Would Have Told Me, he has spoken about his highs and lows, his ups and downs, in detail for the first time. Some might like his truthfulness and some might not but, on the whole, this book gives us all an insight into the life of one of the few stars who have managed to stay relevant since making their mark decades ago.

Penned with Daphne Young, Stamos has taken a leaf from the recently departed actor Matthew Perry’s autobiography, which came out two years ago. Like his Friends co-star for an episode, Stamos talks about his journey into showbiz, where General Hospital turned him into a teen idol, Full House made him a star and ER saved his career, which he managed to prolong through Fuller House and Grandfathered.

In an intimate trip down memory lane, Stamos takes the readers with him to his humble beginnings, his decision to become an actor, and his passion for music. On the way, the 60-year-old actor also thanks all those people who have helped him in his career, starting from his parents, who supported him when he told them he wanted to be an actor, and his Full House co-stars led by Bob Saget, Lori Loughlin and Dave Coulier, who stood by him no matter what.

In an intimate trip down memory lane, Stamos takes the readers with him to his humble beginnings, his decision to become an actor, and his passion for music. On the way, the 60-year-old actor also thanks all those people who have helped him in his career, starting from his parents, who supported him when he told them he wanted to be an actor, and his Full House co-stars led by Bob Saget, Lori Loughlin and Dave Coulier, who stood by him no matter what.

He also appreciates all the help he could get after his first girlfriend, Teri Copley, left him for actor Tony Danza, and also opens up for the first time about his divorce from former Victoria’s Secret-model-turned-actress Rebecca Romjin.

What makes this book an interesting read is the fact that Stamos minces no words. He talks about his success and failure on TV, mixes it up with his Broadway stints, and mentions some of the misses as well, including the leading role in Nip/Tuck, for which he ‘credits’ his ex-wife.

For those who saw him in General Hospital and later in ER, he shocks with details that no one knew before. For example, when he quit General Hospital to pursue other roles, producer Gloria Monty warned him that “you wouldn’t work in this town again”, whereas ER folks rejected his first audition, only to bring him back without any, a few years later.

However, for fans like me — who loved his later years TV show Grandfathered — or the newer audience who discovered Full House through its Netflix sequel, there isn’t much about the two shows when there should have been.

Stamos with his young son Billy | Instagram
Stamos with his young son Billy | Instagram

Which film legend was influential in getting Stamos to perform for the first time as a drummer on TV? Which Rat Pack actor told him to quit long before he left General Hospital? Which comedy legend treated him like a son? Which actor advised him to be himself when he called him before taking up his role on Broadway? Don’t be surprised if you find the names of Sammy Davis Jr, Dean Martin, Don Rickles, and Dick Van Dyke as the answers, because Stamos mentions them all with gratitude on these pages.

What you also get to know through this book is that, after filming the pilot of his most famous show, Full House, Stamos wanted out because he couldn’t stand the fact that actress Jodie Sweetin was taking all the laughs in the reading session, that a teen idol like him was being upstaged by babies Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, and that the story didn’t revolve around him, as he expected.

So, before becoming the world’s favourite uncle in Full House, Stamos tried to get the 11-month-old Olsen twins fired from the show. He describes it as an “either me or them” moment, after which a new pair of twins were brought in who were so “quiet, calm and homely” that Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen had to be recalled.

He does explain his surprise on receiving news about his co-star Lori Loughlin’s involvement in the 2019 college admissions bribery scandal and discloses that he was the one who alerted his Full House wife that she had become breaking news.

Although he doesn’t make the connection that while his onscreen wife was named Rebecca in Full House, and his first wife was also named Rebecca (Romjin), he does talk about his falling in love with his first wife, as well as the bitter divorce that followed seven years later.

Yes, he admits that, while his wife was successful and he wasn’t, he became insecure when she was working with handsome men such as Antonio Banderas. But he explains that this was nothing compared to the treatment he received from her, especially during the divorce proceedings.

Details of the proceedings that resulted in their divorce are mentioned and will make you lose your faith in love, just as the actor did. Thankfully, he is now a happily married individual again, who became a father at the age of 55 and loves every minute he spends with his young son Billy.

And then there are the details about his occasional stint as a drummer with the rock band The Beach Boys, which began with his first meeting with them as a fan and continues to this day. He cherishes being an honorary Beach Boy the most and is the happiest when he is talking about his band members.

However, he loses it completely when he talks about the deaths of his mother and his best friend Bob Saget in a span of a few years. The chapters where he writes about his last meeting with both individuals and how he felt after their deaths give you an insight into Stamos’s sensitive side.

He also talks about his lapses in confidence, while opening up about being sexually abused by a babysitter, slipping up with substances, or blowing auditions, but also credits those who helped steer him in the right direction. The book which chronicles his career most perfectly also features handwritten notes from his mother, who was his biggest supporter until her death, and who kept backing him when the chips were down.

His getting into trouble with the law, which saw him go into rehab, also makes it to these pages. He also talks about a connection with serial killer Richard Ramirez, his brush with Scientology long before Tom Cruise joined the church, and the many TV shows he thankfully passed up, including one which would have had him play Charlie to hookers instead of Angels!

To sum it up, Stamos’s account of his career is something people growing up in the 1980s and the 1990s would relate to because of Full House, and the later generation would be interested in because of his stint in ER, Fuller House and Grandfathered, which was recently even made into the Bollywood film Jawaani Janeman.

Stamos speaks from his heart and keeps the readers grounded, just like his family, friends and fans kept him grounded all these years.

The reviewer is a broadcast journalist, who also writes on sports, film, television and popular culture. X: @omair78

Published in Dawn, Books & Authors, March 17th, 2024

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