A Road from Pageant to Politics

165505_493195442653_108167527653_6029100_7986541_n When the new Miss America, Theresa Scanlan, rang the opening bell of NASDAQ earlier this week, standing right along with her was someone familiar in Hollywood circles: Sam Haskell.

The former worldwide head of television for William Morris, Haskell has been spending the past few years laying the groundwork for a potential foray into politics and, a bit unexpectedly, serving as chairman of the Miss America Organization, the 90-year-old pageant that has been challenged to stay relevant in a pop landscape heavy in attitude and American Idol.

“The Miss America pageant is a slice of Americana,” says Haskell, backstage at the Planet Hollywood Hotel in Las Vegas, just minutes before showtime. “It is the only thing left that can create a star out of a Kansas farm girl or a Mississippi belle. It is the only thing that still, on one night, changes someone’s life forever.”

Six years ago, after he resigned from William Morris, his wife, Mary, a former Miss Missippippi who competed in the pageant in 1977, encouraged him to join the board. He only intended to serve a year, but that soon changed when the chairman was ousted and Haskell was elected to the top spot. He does it pro bono, but it is a full-time job.

At the time, not only was the pageant competing against the onslaught of reality TV, but it had lost its spot on a broadcast network, and instead was picked up by Country Music Television.

After landing better placement in the past few years on TLC, Haskell last year helped secure a three-year deal that had the pageant back on a major network, ABC. By wrangling sponsors like DSW, Amway and American Signature Furniture and others, “we bought the time and had the money to produce the show.”

More Voices

  • Hollywood Safe Workplace

    Why Hollywood Needs to Lead the Way in Showing How to Create a Safer Workplace

    When the new Miss America, Theresa Scanlan, rang the opening bell of NASDAQ earlier this week, standing right along with her was someone familiar in Hollywood circles: Sam Haskell. The former worldwide head of television for William Morris, Haskell has been spending the past few years laying the groundwork for a potential foray into politics […]

  • Seven Seconds

    Fighting the Racial Bias at the Core of Hollywood’s Cop Shows (Guest Column)

    When the new Miss America, Theresa Scanlan, rang the opening bell of NASDAQ earlier this week, standing right along with her was someone familiar in Hollywood circles: Sam Haskell. The former worldwide head of television for William Morris, Haskell has been spending the past few years laying the groundwork for a potential foray into politics […]

  • Harvey Weinstein Trial

    Column: Documentarian Barry Avrich Ponders Whether Harvey Weinstein Will Be Convicted

    When the new Miss America, Theresa Scanlan, rang the opening bell of NASDAQ earlier this week, standing right along with her was someone familiar in Hollywood circles: Sam Haskell. The former worldwide head of television for William Morris, Haskell has been spending the past few years laying the groundwork for a potential foray into politics […]

  • Janet Mock Pose

    'Pose' Writer Janet Mock on Making History With Trans Storytelling (Guest Column)

    When the new Miss America, Theresa Scanlan, rang the opening bell of NASDAQ earlier this week, standing right along with her was someone familiar in Hollywood circles: Sam Haskell. The former worldwide head of television for William Morris, Haskell has been spending the past few years laying the groundwork for a potential foray into politics […]

  • Tony Awards Sightlines Column

    How to Produce the Tony Awards: 5 Unsolicited Tips

    When the new Miss America, Theresa Scanlan, rang the opening bell of NASDAQ earlier this week, standing right along with her was someone familiar in Hollywood circles: Sam Haskell. The former worldwide head of television for William Morris, Haskell has been spending the past few years laying the groundwork for a potential foray into politics […]

  • Under the Silver Lake

    Cannes 2018's Hidden Thrill: The Opportunity to Find New Voices

    When the new Miss America, Theresa Scanlan, rang the opening bell of NASDAQ earlier this week, standing right along with her was someone familiar in Hollywood circles: Sam Haskell. The former worldwide head of television for William Morris, Haskell has been spending the past few years laying the groundwork for a potential foray into politics […]

  • Kathryn Bigelow Kathryn Bigelow poses backstage

    It's Time for Action, Not Promises, to Get More Women in Filmmaking (Guest Column)

    When the new Miss America, Theresa Scanlan, rang the opening bell of NASDAQ earlier this week, standing right along with her was someone familiar in Hollywood circles: Sam Haskell. The former worldwide head of television for William Morris, Haskell has been spending the past few years laying the groundwork for a potential foray into politics […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content