Amy Yasbeck Reflects on 7 Years Without John Ritter
By Nicki Gostin Posted Sep 15th 2010 08:00AM
Seven years ago, John Ritter collapsed unexpectedly on the set of his sitcom, '8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter,' and died later that day of an undiagnosed aortic dissection. His widow, actress Amy Yasbeck, has penned 'With Love and Laughter,' a beautiful and heartfelt memoir of her life with John that gives us a glimpse of what type of guy he really was. Turns out, he was as terrific as you thought. Ritter left behind three children from his first marriage and a daughter -- Stella, who turned five the day her dad died -- with Yasbeck.
Why did you decide to write this book?
I've been writing it in my head certainly since I've known John. I didn't know if I had it in me to get it all out and put it onto the page. When I met John, everything was a story, his childhood stories were fascinating [his father was country and western singer Tex Ritter], his showbiz stories were fascinating to me and he would share them very freely to anyone who would ask him questions. He was such an entertaining storyteller and I hoped to get some of that across. I wanted to share that part of John that was shareable and keep that going, the part that the kids and I got to see.
Was it cathartic?
Cathartic to me means some sort of purging, but for me it was about focusing. It was kind of nice to be able to organize my thoughts and be able to visit things in chapters and chunks, and I know I digress in every story I'm talking, but that's how John was and that's how I am. I was writing if for my daughter Stella and the rest of the world.
What do you think would surprise people about John?
How actually connected he was to the rest of the world than just through his comedy and his work. What an amazingly caring guy he was, how he could simultaneously be entertaining millions of people on TV but also just one on one with every waiter, every cab driver, everyone who came into contact with him. I heard Maya Angelou on the radio say, "Good that's done anywhere is good that's done everywhere," and that was clearly John's philosophy. I think people would be surprised at how consistent that was. People say to me, "Oh God, I loved John," and they're surprised when I say, "He loved you too." Because he did, he loved the connection and the world in a really genuine way.
Does the grief get any easier?
In the book I say instead of time heals wounds, time salts the wound. The truth is, everybody's journey is completely different and the five stages of grief are good and interesting guidelines but you can't beat yourself up when you jump from one to another unexpectedly. There are good days and bad days for me, but having Stella and John's kids and brother absolutely means he lives on. I think that's what makes it better and better. I see him in them all the time. Of course, I miss him as much as anybody could miss anybody. I talk about him everyday. He's still actively loved and still loving people. It's amazing when somebody has lived their life on stage and in private at the same time and the world and the family are on the same page with how he was awesome.
How's Stella doing?
Thank you for asking. She's doing wonderfully; of course, everyone struggles when they lose a parent. There's a fascinating amount of John's nature in her. All of us who know and love Stella are devoted to her becoming herself, which was John's thing. He was real specific that his kids have the green light to become whoever they were going to be.
Was John "on" at home?
No, he was just a naturally entertaining person. He wasn't "on" because he needed something from you or approval. He would genuinely be entertaining because he would do whatever tickled him and he had good taste in comedy. It wasn't like living with Benny Hill in fast speed, although he would do it if you requested it.
Is it weird catching him on TV?
I think it would be odd if I was flicking through the channels and all of a sudden there was a movie with my grandmother on. For us, it's the family business. Sometimes everyone gets called into the room to watch or you hit TIVO and watch it later because that's what he loved to do. It's actually great, not many of us get to see the work of our relatives who've passed on.
How did people respond to you when John died?
There were some people who completely dropped out of our life because they had no idea what to do or say, although that seemed to be a very small minority. More surprising were the people who reached out to me who had never met John but felt such closeness to him, as if they had lost a family member. Oh, do I hear a little one in the background?
Yeah it's my kid. I've got 'Yo Gabba Gabba' on to keep him quiet!
In our day, it was 'Teletubbies.' When Tinky Winky was accused of being gay, John went out and bought two Tinkys. It was adorable. He supported Tinky's lifestyle like nobody's business. John was very liberal when it came to Tinky Winky and anybody's lifestyle.
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