Sex, drugs, rock and roll. And comedy, of course. Thus has been the life of TV’s Craig Ferguson. But there’s much more than that. Inside his new autobiography you discover perhaps the last of true American patriots.
Craig Ferguson is best known to modern television audiences as the hilarious host of the Late Late Show on CBS, appearing nightly after the Late Show with David Letterman. Next, Ferguson is likely remembered when he portrayed Mr. Wick, the insufferable English boss of Drew, on The Drew Carey Show. He is also the author of his new autobiography, American on Purpose: The Improbable Adventures of An Unlikely Patriot.
Ferguson’s career goes back further to a handful of earlier TV shows, American and British, stand-up comedy, vaudevillian escapades and even punk rock, where he was a drummer for several bands in the 1980s.
But all that is simply Ferguson’s career. It’s his public face, how he has related to general audiences over the years on both sides of the Atlantic and elsewhere.
Craig Ferguson is more than that. He is also a recovering alcoholic, free from the drink and drugs since 1992. He is a father to one son, and has been married three times. He is a son of Scotland and a lover of the United States of America, having become a citizen of that nation in 2008.
Still, some of that could be considered superficial, merely the icing on the layered cake of Ferguson’s inner self. To be blunt about it, at times Ferguson was a right bastard. He admits to it. However, he is not proud of the fact. He spent much of the late 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s in a haze of drugs and alcohol and promiscuity that damaged not only himself, but others he loved, and might very well have lost him the love of his life, English actress Helen Atkinson-Wood.
In his autobiography, Ferguson is quite upfront about his torrid past, though he does not brag about his misadventures. If anything, there is a trend of sadness to his life’s story, but a strong hope for redemption. Part of his recovery from alcoholism was an atonement of sorts, contacting people he had emotionally harmed over the years and trying to make amends the best he could. But that was only a beginning. It’s seems Ferguson not only had to redeem himself in the eyes of others, but he had to redeem himself for himself.
Which is partly where America comes to play a major role in his life.
Born in Glasgow, Scotland, Craig had wanted to move to the United States ever since he visited New York City at the age of 13. America held a special place in his heart. America not only offered an opportunity for new beginnings, but it was also a land of historic value to the young Scotsman. Ferguson’s parents had been living in Glasgow during World War II when the Nazis had bombed the city. His parents survived the attack, but the impact of American GIs helping to free Britain and Europe from the Germans was still fresh in the minds of the survivors and their children, such as Craig and his two sisters and brother.
Also, growing up in Glasgow, Craig commonly witnessed the anger and violence brought about by religious differences between protestants and Catholics. In one instance, Craig actually witnessed a young man draw a sword and threaten to kill another fellow unless he begged for his life, all in the name of religion. For Ferguson, America represented a separation of church and state, a separation from the violence that played a part of the history of religion.
Most importantly, America was a land that promised Craig redemption from his own faults. Where else could a Scotsman from a working-class family go and become a star television host?
All in all, Ferguson’s autobiography is a quick read and a straight-forward look into the life of a trouble young man who eventually went on to a certain level of success. But Craig never gets maudlin about his wild days. He doesn’t spend page after page bemoaning everything. No, but he does pull few if no punches on himself and lays it out there for the world to see. Don’t worry, though, because you’ll still love him. Bits of humor are tossed in here and there, including Ferguson’s meeting with former U.S. President George W. Bush.
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