Mississippian Sam Haskell may have been unknown to most All-American baby boomers prior to May 2009, but they sure know who he is now. The Amory native has been on the national interview circuit since the April 26 publication of his memoir, “Promises I Made My Mother.”
From network morning programs to evening cable interview shows, the tall, drawling fellow with the warm smile has been charming the country with anecdotes from his book. Publisher Ballentine/Random House has tagged “Promises” a “hot title” and USA Today listed it as a top five new book pick for Mother’s Day – along with “Someday You’ll Thank Me For This” by fellow Mississippians Gayden Metcalfe and Charlotte Hays.
Twenty-six years with the prestigious William Morris Agency made Haskell a Hollywood legend. At retirement, he was the talent giant’s worldwide head of television with a dazzling client roster: Cosby, Romano, Dolly, Clooney, Delta, Regis, Kathie Lee, Whoopi, Liza and more. His entertainment projects have left an indelible touch on America via beloved television shows. Haskell “packaged” series such as “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” “Sisters,” “Murphy Brown,” “Lost,” “Who Wants to be a Millionaire,” “Everybody Loves Raymond” and even the “Miss America Pageant.”
Many Mississippians knew Haskell’s name before his book tour because they have benefited from the generosity of the impresario and his wife, vocalist Mary Donnelly Haskell (Miss Mississippi 1977). Perhaps the Haskells’ best-known state project is the star-studded biennial extravaganza “Stars Over Mississippi,” raising scholarship funds. The unforgettable, nationally televised “Mississippi Rising” aided Katrina victims.
So, how did a kid from Amory with a fresh Ole Miss diploma rise from mail room to Hollywood boardroom in record time? It was not by cutthroat tactics; instead, Haskell kept childhood promises made to his momma. She gently taught him to know himself and be accountable for his actions – characteristics that made him more unique among the show-biz fray than a corny accent or Southern manners. And that’s what “Promises I Made My Mother” is all about. Co-authored with David Rensin, Haskell writes with enough humor, tasteful honesty and name-dropping to make these recollections as inspirational as they are entertaining.
It is too late to wrap up a copy for Mother’s Day, but “Promises I Made My Mother” is just right for graduation, Father’s Day and pleasant Mississippi afternoons in the hammock. Check with statewide independent booksellers for signed copies.
—Mary Dayle McCormick
McCormick Book Inn, Greenville
Promises I Made My Mother
by Sam Haskell