Face it, there's plenty you don't know about the handsome, shaved-headed talk-show host Montel Williams. If you don't work the unemployed circuit or have a flexible start time at your job (his show airs at 10 a.m. in St. Louis), you probably even lump this New Yorker-by-way-of-Baltimore and father of four into the same category as the ringleaders of the former scandalous talk-show circus (i.e. Jerry and Jenny). Shame on you! Unlike their shows, the Emmy-award-winning Montel Williams Show just began its fifteenth season, and despite the fact that its firm-but-loveable host was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1999, the show (and Montel) are going strong and helping people, including those affected by Hurricane Katrina. Plus, contrary to popular belief about daytime talk programs, there's a noticeable absence of paternity tests on Montel's show -- we don't want to name names, but enough already! Anyway, in order to clear things up for you, we're going to provide some deeper insight into Montel, the man, the legend, and we're going to start from the beginning!
After high school Montel served in both the Marines and the Navy, and during his enlistment he studied Chinese and Russian. He says he hasn't used his Chinese in more than twenty years, but he does manage to rattle off some Russian (incomprehensible to us) and then says, "Last night, I had an event here in town, which was, believe it or not, the Dance Music Hall of Fame awards. Wow, huh? It was over the top! I mean Gloria Gaynor, Nile Rodgers, the group the Trammps...all of them were there." He continues, "One of the stagehands happened to be Russian. And I sat backstage for about five minutes trying to figure out how much of this language I forgot."
So Montel's trilingual-ish. But some of you may have already known about his stint in the military -- yet his free time is still a bit shrouded in mystery. Here's a tidbit: "I'm an addicted snowboarder -- I snowboard about 110 days a year," Montel confesses. And while he chases snow all over the world, he admits, "I mostly snowboard out west -- I'm a Champagne snowboarder."
A bit of insight, true, but you can really learn a lot about a person by checking out the company he keeps. So, seriously, what's up with that psychic Sylvia Browne? Montel answers, "She's my girl. She's the only one of that ilk that I've ever had on my show.... I don't believe in psychics at all, but I believe in Sylvia Browne. There's something about her. I don't know if I want to call her a psychic, but I'm gonna tell you, the woman trips me out every time she's in the studio." Well, all right, we'll accept that explanation.
Even for having a life that seems so full -- and fulfilling -- Montel sure is modest. When asked about his greatest achievement, he says, "I'm not done yet.... If you were walking in [my shoes], you'd realize that I walk around oblivious to accolade. I'm driven to 'do,' not to ponder what I did.... If you really want to know my deep-rooted Montel issues, it's that I'm one of those people who, like so many others, have probably one of the worst self-esteem or inferiority complexes there could possibly be." But, he continues, "There are things that need to be done; I want to get them done. That's how my mind works: Get things done."
Learn more about Montel when he's at the Touhill Performing Arts Center on the University of Missouri-St. Louis campus (1 University Drive at Natural Bridge Road) as part of the Vision Speakers series at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, October 4. Tickets for his talk, titled "Overcoming the Odds," cost $25 to $35 at 314-516-4949 or www.touhill.org.