John Stamos wants to read you a story. In fact, he insists.
Sure, you could pore over the 352 pages of his new memoir, “If You Would Have Told Me,” to be published by Henry Holt on Oct. 24.
But wouldn’t you rather listen to him narrate the audiobook as he guides you through his 60 years with his voice, his emotions?
“I mean, yes, you can put your own thoughts of what things look like or what they sound like,” he said, “but it’s just so real for me.”
Howard Stern took Stamos’s suggestion and listened. “Then he left me the longest message on why he loved it,” Stamos said, replaying it in his Los Angeles office, guitars on the wall behind him, drums to the side, the charm and hair and sincerity that he parlayed into playing bad boys with hearts of gold — Blackie Parrish on “General Hospital,” Uncle Jesse on “Full House,” Dr. Tony Gates on “ER” — still front and center.
Stamos’s read was excellent, Stern said. He didn’t overplay it, he didn’t underplay it — he played it perfectly. And the anecdotes were compelling and even self-effacing. Stamos didn’t really put down anyone, even when discussing his alcoholism and divorce.
“It did show us a real sign of intelligence, so I think the book’s a home run,” Stern added in the message. “You definitely had a story to tell.”
It’s also the first time Stamos has revealed some of it publicly.
“In a month, whoever decides to read it, they’re going to know a lot,” he said. “I saw a lot of deep, dark stuff. And I thought, ‘If I’m not 100 percent honest, then why am I doing this?’ But I’ve never been 100 percent honest before in my life. It wasn’t the way I was raised. My dad was like, ‘Don’t talk about politics. Don’t talk about religion. Keep it light. Keep it surface-y. Be Dean Martin.’”
“And here I was for many years not seeing a clear picture because I was drinking and stuff, trying to fulfill someone else’s idea living vicariously through me,” he added. “I felt it was my duty to be that guy.”
Dark isn’t what typically springs to mind when you think of Stamos. His mother liked to say that he decided to be an actor sometime between being born and arriving home from the hospital. An Orange County kid obsessed with Disneyland, he was intent on being famous. It never occurred to him that he wouldn’t be.
“Then I spent the next 20 years trying to get back to that fearlessness, which I think is where I’m at now,” he said. “Sobriety, I’m telling you, is a huge thing. Because I would go into a party or a meeting, and I’d have to get a little drunk. ‘Hey, that makes me charming, that makes me funny — that makes me fuzzy.’ And people saw that. There was a fuzz around me, women, the business. If I would’ve straightened out 10, 15 years sooner, I think I’d have been closer to a George Clooney career than I am now.”
“It was a blessing and a curse,” Stamos said of his eight-year run as Uncle Jesse on “Full House.”Credit…Sinna Nasseri for The New York Times
Stamos doesn’t shrink from that darkness in the book, starting with the first chapter when in June 2015 — his marriage to Rebecca Romijn long broken, his parents not long deceased, his career not quite the one he’d dreamed of — he swerves in his Mercedes down Rodeo Drive while fans, recognizing that Stamos is dead drunk, yell at him to pull over.
He finally does, and the police find him passed out, put him in an ambulance to the hospital and charge him with a misdemeanor D.U.I. When he wakes up, his “Full House” co-star Bob Saget is at his bedside. “No judgment, just concern and love,” Stamos writes.
Concern and love abounded.
Even before she really knew Stamos, Jamie Lee Curtis had thought he’d be perfect to play her father, Tony Curtis. “They have the same comic energy, captivating flair, sharp humor, keen intelligence, childlike passion and, dare I say, deep sadness behind the mask of a ridiculously handsome man,” she writes in the book’s foreword.
She had witnessed that sadness firsthand. “I had seen him at a business party in New York, when he wasn’t sober, and looked into his gorgeous eyes, and tried to communicate with mine that there was another way for him.”
By the time he and Curtis co-starred in the series “Scream Queens,” in 2016, Stamos was newly sober and in a relationship with Caitlin McHugh, the actor and writer who would become his wife.
“I have people I talk to every day,” he said. “One of them is Jamie.
When Stamos finally agreed to write his memoir — collaborating with the writer Daphne Young, who helped him add structure to what he called vomit drafts — he tackled the chapters he thought would be the most daunting: his D.U.I. arrest and the unexpected death of Saget in January 2022, which gutted him.
“It’s like he never left anything on the table,” Stamos said of Saget. “When he died, I knew he loved me. I knew he cared about me. He told me every day. So that’s one of the lessons that you learn: Tomorrow’s never promised, so make the best of where you’re at, who you’re with. And by the way, these are all easy things to say. They’re hard to do.”
Stamos’s bad boys with hearts of gold, from left: Blackie Parrish on “General Hospital,” Uncle Jesse on “Full House,” Dr. Tony Gates on “ER.”Credit…ABC, via Getty Images (“General Hospital,” “Full House”); NBC, via Getty Images (“ER”)
But as it turned out, those two chapters weren’t his most difficult.
“Guess what the hardest stuff to write about was,” he said, then answered. “‘Full House.’”
Stamos knew how much affection viewers had for the sitcom. But after eight years, he couldn’t wait to leave the show that had made him.
“It was a blessing and a curse,” he said — one that it took him five Broadway plays, including “Cabaret,” “Bye Bye Birdie” and “Gore Vidal’s The Best Man,” to persuade audiences, and perhaps himself, that he wasn’t a one-note wonder. He had range. He had skills.
“It’s always killed me that that’s what everybody knew me from, that mullet-headed ding-dong,” he said.
Lori Loughlin, who played Becky, Uncle Joey’s onscreen love, in “Full House,” and has known Stamos since their daytime television days, was increasingly aware of his pain.
“He is supremely talented in many different areas, and I think people are finally starting to recognize, ‘Oh, this guy’s the real deal. He’s the whole ball of wax,’” she said in a phone interview. “But early on, he had to work to prove that.”
“Then the minute he got his ducks in a row, along came Caitlin, and the birth of Billy has been the greatest gift ever to John,” she said. “I’m sure he’ll tell you that his family now is everything.”
Billy has inherited his father’s charm and looks, though his child’s bathroom humor is closer to Saget’s, but Stamos wants to keep him as unsullied as possible. “It’s going to be great for him, and it’s going to be hard,” he said. “I don’t want him to be living” — he stops — “He can be anything in the world he wants except for an Instagram model.”
Following his D.U.I., Stamos went into rehab, where he finally accepted responsibility for his role in the disappointments that plagued him — and, upon leaving, acknowledged how much he still had to lose.
“I still remember what it felt like the next morning, what it tasted like,” he said of his drinking. “It’s still very fresh to me. I was like, ‘I don’t want that at all.’”
A couple of days before our interview, Stamos had played drums with the Beach Boys at the SeaHearNow festival in Asbury Park, N.J. — something he has done when time allows since 1983 when, at a concert in San Diego, Mike Love watched girls scream and chase after Stamos and decided to tap into that frenzy by bringing him onstage for “Barbara Ann.”
“The reality of it all is beyond my wildest dreams,” Stamos writes of that experience. “The minute it ends, I want to do it all over again. It’s like great sex; that lusty, primal moment where you suddenly find your groove and figure everything out.”
But he wasn’t so sure when Love told him about SeaHearNow — something about it not being the right place for an oldies group and an ex-teen idol. Then he acquiesced.
“There were probably about 50,000 of our closest friends there, and he was drumming like a champ, and everybody was at the top of their game,” said Love, who officiated Stamos’s wedding to McHugh. “John was really, has always been, an inspiration and a little bit of extra energy and absolutely a whole lot of charisma.”
Then, as Stamos walked offstage, he saw that Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters was behind him, videotaping. Eventually, the whole band came to his trailer. So did the drummers from Greta Van Fleet and Weezer.
“I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “I’m not normally a cynic, but all of a sudden you get some respect from these younger people. It’s sort of an elder statesman thing. And then you’re like, ‘Well, what’s next? Death?’”
“But you can’t think like that,” he went on. “Just keep creating. That’s where my head is — get better at what you do.”