Philip Van Munching
New York Times bestselling author, Advice Guy,
Dad, and Slightly Above-Average Dancer.
Boys Will Put You on a Pedestal is a fresh, informative, and entertaining guidebook that's a must read for every young woman in America.
DR. PHIL MCGRAW
I really enjoyed Beer Blast. Interesting. Funny. Van Munching can really write, which should, I suppose, come as no shock: I can really drink beer.
ROBERT B. PARKER
author of the Spenser novels
(Van Munching) writes in a conversational style that is bound to make discussions of touchy subjects easier (and even entertaining).
Normally, this “about the author” stuff would be in the third person, and be about as dry as burnt toast: “Philip Van Munching is the best-selling author of…blah blah blah.” Which is swell in a press release – I’m not knocking the ‘just the facts’ approach – but you’ve taken the time to look me up on the web (for which I thank you most sincerely), so the least I can do is try to make this fun:
Hi. I’m Philip. Pisces. I love what you’re wearing. Do you come here often?
Sorry, couldn’t resist. Here’s a little bit about me: I’m the seventh of eight kids born to Peggy and Leo Van Munching, Jr. If my last name sounds familiar – which is more likely if you’re over the age of 40, and can remember hearing radio ads that ended with “Imported by Van Munching and Company, New York, New York” – that’s because my family imported Heineken Beer (and later Amstel Light) from 1933 until the early 1990s. My dad moved us around, a bit, as he opened various satellite offices of VM&Co. I was born at the tail end of his stint in Chicago, lived in Connecticut for a bit when he returned to the New York office, spent ages three to nine in the San Fernando Valley (like, fer sure, dude) when he opened the company’s Los Angeles office, and then settled back in Connecticut for the duration.
When all of my friends headed deeper into the Northeast for college, I decided to swim against the tide and head back to sweet home Chicago, where I spent four years ostensibly studying journalism at Northwestern…while actually studying the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley, the bars on Rush and Division, and the barbecued ribs at Norris’s. Aside from freezing what little rear-end I had right off, college in the greater Chicago area was a pretty sweet gig.
Training as a reporter taught me something very important: I had no desire to be a reporter. This is when a family business comes in handy. I signed on for what I figured would be a two-year stint at VM&Co., writing press releases and marketing materials. Two years turned into ten, thanks to a fascination with advertising and the realization that, because I’d married and had kids, a steady paycheck is a wonderful thing.
As it turns out, my time in the family business provided me with a point of entry to the career I’d always hoped for: it gave me fodder for my first book. Beer Blast, written for Random House’s Times Business imprint, is a look at the wackiness of the domestic beer business, where Bud and Miller duke it out in some wonderfully bizarre ways, and also at what happened to VM&Co when it was sold back to Heineken in the early ‘90s. (I’ll give you a preview: the geniuses from corporate screwed it all up. Don’t believe me? Heineken lost its #1 selling import status within two years of the departure of the last Van Munching.) Though I don’t actually even drink beer, it was a kick writing about everything from Spuds Mackenzie to Ice Beer. What a strange, strange business brewing has turned out to be.
As Beer Blast was being edited, I got an assignment from Workman Publishing – Peter Workman is the genius behind all kinds of successful books, including What to Expect When You’re Expecting – to do a joke book for people who can’t remember jokes. What a boondoggle: it took me all of a week to write the memory piece and all of the jokes, and Workman sent me all over the country to promote it. Which, essentially, meant that I got paid to swap jokes with radio show hosts and tell (decidedly tamer) jokes on just about every “Good Day, _____” show in the U.S. of A. Authoring a joke book may not qualify as “writing,” but it certainly qualifies as “smokin’ fun.”
I tell a longer version of this story in the book’s introduction, so here’s the Reader’s Digest on how my New York Times bestseller, Boys Will Put You on a Pedestal (so they can look up your skirt): A Dad’s Advice for Daughters came about: I almost bought the farm. Yep, yours truly tried to get across 5th Avenue against the light, and it almost cost me dearly. When I did that little self-inventory people do when they narrowly escape death, it occurred to me that I wanted to make sure I told my daughters, Anna and Maggie, certain things while I still had the chance…and their attention. Things about life…and faith, and sex, and grief, and self-control, and…you get the picture. All the stuff that most parents mean to pass along, but somehow don’t always get to. My dear friend (and unpaid editrix) Liz Auran took one look at some of the things I’d written down for my girls and said, “Uh, that’s a book, genius. Get crackin’.” When Liz speaks, I listen.
Of course, deciding to write it as a book was one thing: convincing a publisher that anyone else would want to share it with their own daughter was quite another. In fact, I heard the same refrain over and over from publishers: “We like you, and we like what you’ve written, here, but…you’re not a doctor. People don’t buy books like this unless they’re written by psychologists.” Finally, though, Geoff Kloske (then of Simon & Schuster) kindly decided to give me and the book a shot. I finished writing it under his watchful – and unerring – eye…and then some guy named Dr. Phil turned it into a national best-seller by having me on his show. I’ll forever be in debt to Dr. Phil for holding the book up in the air during the segment and declaring, “I’ll tell you what: I think every woman in America oughta read this book.” Judging from the way the sales figures jumped within hours of the broadcast, I’d say he did more for me in ten minutes of airtime than I’d managed to do for myself during the last few author tours.
Indirectly, Dr. Phil gave me the opportunity to write my next book, Actually, It IS Your Parents’ Fault: Why Your Romantic Relationship Isn’t Working, and How to Fix It. Because of the success of Boys Will Put You…, the good folks at St. Martin’s Press were willing to overlook my lack of credentials – it certainly helped that my co-author is a psychotherapist with decades of experience, of course – and take on a book that I was really keen to write. I’m endlessly intrigued by relationships; what makes them work, why we choose the people that we do, why some people stay together long after it seems as if they’re sick of each other, etc. That the brilliant Elizabeth Beier paid Dr. Bernie Katz and I actual cash money to spend time writing about such fascinating stuff is just further proof that I am leading a charmed life. (My secret is that I know how lucky I am…and I’m grateful.)
That video stuff above is culled from a stint at St. Luke's School in New Canaan, Connecticut, where the kind - and indulgent - folks let me teach an English elective on Westerns. The kids learned about High Noon and the American identity, and I learned what an honor it is to spend time among dedicated teachers and administrators.
So here we are. If you’re still reading, you know far more than you ever really needed to about the guy who wrote whichever book it is that you came here to learn about. I’ve spared you some of the seamier stuff – like my extensive rap sheet (kidding!) – and I figure you can do without my 5,000 word essay on why Bruce Springsteen is the most important American since…oh, ever. Thank you, in all seriousness, for finding your way here. There are plenty of other websites you could be wasting your time with…I’m honored that you’re wasting your time on mine. (Heh heh.)
St. Luke's Meditation: Overcoming Homophobia
St. Luke's Graduation/2010
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