People Magazine has a new profile of Marc Summers, who was a staple of my youth as the host of Nickelodeon’s slime-filled kids’ game show, Double Dare. I read the article with my mouth open and actually said “oh wow” out loud because Summers’s life has been so harrowing. He suffered from extreme OCD and, upon revealing it publicly in the late 90s, was considered unemployable and couldn’t find a job. He eventually got hired as the host of Unwrapped in 2001 on the The Food Network. (I love that show and watch it with my kid, they show how various candies and treats are made.) In 2009 he was misdiagnosed, for months, with a fatal form of leukemia and spent that time believing his death was imminent, however he eventually got a correct diagnosis and beat the more treatable leukemia he did have. Then Summer got in a terrible car accident in 2012, breaking all the bones in his face and severely affecting his memory. It took him about a year to recover from that. Summers has a new documentary coming out about a one man autobiographical stage show he’s been performing. The documentary is called On Your Marc and you can see the trailer here. Here’s what he told People:
Summers, now 66, was suffering from crippling Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, a condition he hadn’t even heard of until he was diagnosed live on his own Lifetime talk show in 1995.
Going public put his career on hold — until the Food Network took a chance on him in 2001, tapping him to host its longest running program to date, Unwrapped.
“Most people weren’t aware what OCD was back in the late ‘90s,” he tells PEOPLE. “I was supposed to be hosting Hollywood Squares and then lost the job because people didn’t understand what Obsessive Compulsive Disorder was, and they were spreading rumors that I was difficult to work with and uncooperative, none of which was true. But people were not given the tools to learn what it was.”
He made it his mission to raise awareness and points to Howie Mandel, the Deal or No Deal host who’s open about his own OCD and germaphobia today: “I think in many ways, I was a pioneer.”
Still, Summers says compulsions — he’d clean his home incessantly, lie on the living room floor straightening the fringe of a rug and get stuck at the grocery store reading the label of every product lining the aisles — gave him focus and drive.
“I’ve had kind of a charmed existence,” he says.
Summers also worked as a magician, comedian (he rubbed elbows with Robin Williams at LA’s famed Comedy Store in the ‘70s) and TV producer (Ryan Seacrest and Guy Fieri consider him a mentor)…
In 2009, he felt pain in his stomach and underwent a surgery that removed 17.5 inches of his small intestine.
“I woke up and, being a stand-up comic, I sort of joked with the doctor, ‘Do I have cancer?’ And he says, ‘As a matter of fact, you do,’” Summers recalls. He was misdiagnosed with mantle cell lymphoma and told he had six months to live. Another oncologist determined the father of two was actually battling chronic lymphocytic leukemia, and he began two years of grueling chemotherapy with his wife of 43 years, Alice…
Then, in 2012, he broke every bone in his face when his taxi hydroplaned, crashing into a Philadelphia highway divider. He didn’t leave his house for months and suffered memory loss…
It took nine months to a year for Summers to fully recover. “It was really frightening,” he says, and forced him to realize, “there’s no time like the present.”
I was with him apart from the fact that he’s been a mentor to Guy Fieri. People reports that Summers is executive producing a new Food Network show with Fieri now. (I’m sure that there are plenty of other people behind Fieri and that we can’t blame Summers alone for his rise to fame.) That’s a shame that he couldn’t find work after being open about his mental health and it speaks to how far we’ve come in terms of awareness and understanding of these conditions. Summers says he’s “80 percent cured” of his obsessive compulsive disorder after cognitive behavioral therapy and says “it’s like retraining your mind not to have the intrusive thoughts and not to do the repetitive actions.” Again, I’m just astonished by how much he’s gone through but it’s heartening that he’s on the other side of everything now and is able to tell his story. Summers toured with the film this October and is taking a break now, but hopefully it will be available for the public soon. You can learn more here.
Today's ON YOUR MARC, update. World premiere in LA this Sunday at 1 PM. NYC HAS ONLY 30 seats left for OCT 12. Philly on OCT 13 will be a celebration where it all began. Did I mention that PAT SAJAK will be with me in BALTIMORE? Go to www.marcsummersmovie.com to get your tickets. See you all very soon. Thank you!
Look how cute he and his wife are! They’ve been together 43 years.