Detroit Free Press Article:

DAVID CRUMM: Plain-talking inspiration

Former tough-guy TV reporter now tells spiritual stories in his own way
May 20, 2006

BY DAVID CRUMM
FREE PRESS COLUMNIST

 

As metro Detroit’s newest spiritual guide, writer and TV producer, Jerry Stanecki comes across as a plain-talking guy’s guy. The foyer of his Bloomfield Hills home looks more like a hunting lodge than a temple, decorated with large displays of a well-worn cowboy’s saddle and an antique outboard motor.

“I just want to help people by telling them a little of what I’ve learned about life. I think there are a lot of guys out there like me,” Stanecki said, relaxing in his living room near hunting trophies and a fireplace. “A lot of us wake up each morning and find ourselves wrestling with anxiety, fear and tough questions about what we’re supposed to be doing.”

Like millions of Americans, Stanecki doesn’t find the answers in church. “Do I go to church anymore? No. But do I pray? Hell, yeah! I pray each and every day. And, more and more, I find myself praying very simply like, ‘God, steer the ship.’ Four words.”

Stanecki is best known for his work as a consumer reporter, called the News Hawk, on local TV back in the 1970s and ’80s. That tough-as-nails Hawk persona was typical of the hard edge to his career in TV and print. In 1975, for instance, he did an interview with Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa for Playboy magazine just before Hoffa was killed.

In recent years, Stanecki has revealed some of the rockier aspects of his private life, including his hard drinking. He’s been sober for 19 years and told the story of his 12-step recovery in a memoir, “Life is a Joke and God Wrote It,” which he published in 2001.

Now Stanecki is hanging out a new shingle as an inspirational storyteller. He has a new audio CD of personal reflections and quirky stories, called “The Bridge to Happiness,” which he’s selling through an Internet site and personal appearances.

That may be the strangest turn in a career that’s better known for in-your-face confrontations as a reporter than for spiritual solace.

His target audience is a crowd that’s rarely addressed in the tidal wave of spiritually warm-and-fuzzy media sweeping the country. His tales are more like haunting short stories by O. Henry than heartwarming nuggets from “Chicken Soup for the Soul.” He’s at his best talking bluntly to guys of a certain age, although he won’t reveal his own, except to say that he’s been around more than half a century.

“I think there are a lot of guys like me who grew up with ‘Leave It to Beaver’ and ‘Father Knows Best’ and who believed what we were told about working hard, becoming a father and, with that, we thought we’d automatically be happy,” Stanecki said. “It took a long time for most of us to realize that life doesn’t work that way.”

One of the eeriest stories on his CD concerns a crook known as Gino the Razor. According to Stanecki, Gino was an addict who couldn’t stay on a 12-step path to recovery and who accumulated so many dark secrets that those secrets finally killed him. The story is intended as a cautionary tale to guys who may make the fatal mistake of bottling up their secrets.

“That’s the only way I know to tell stories,” Stanecki said. “Real life isn’t all heart-warming stories of people being saved.Sometimes, like Gino, people don’t make it.”

But Stanecki knows how to woo a crowd and there are a few heartwarming tales, too, like a story from his boyhood about a magical walk down a city street with his father.

“I made the CD because I thought it might help people,” Stanecki said. “Like walking with my father that day, you know … sometimes it’s nice to know you’re not alone.”

Go to www.jerrystanecki.com for more on his CD.

 

Copyright – JS