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Tommy Habeeb of ‘To The Rescue’: “Save your money for the downtimes”

After covering many genres, including reality TV that pushed the envelope, I felt that it was time to do something important to me and my family at this point in my career. I readily admitted that doing a show about dog rescue was not necessarily going to be a rating’s hit among my followers, but […]

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After covering many genres, including reality TV that pushed the envelope, I felt that it was time to do something important to me and my family at this point in my career. I readily admitted that doing a show about dog rescue was not necessarily going to be a rating’s hit among my followers, but also, little did I know how it would change my life. “To The Rescue” is not just a show about dog rescue. It’s a show about humanity. It’s a family show that appeals to young and old, with lessons about life and the importance of treating all creatures with care. The stories we tell inspire me, and the show has become some of the best work of my career.


As a part of our series about stars who are making an important social impact, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Tommy Habeeb.

“To the Rescue” host Tommy Habeeb began his acting career decades ago, working both in front of and behind the camera. Guest roles in daytime television and emceeing pageants around the world led to a successful career in documentary storytelling, sports reporting, reality TV, and film. Habeeb continues to revel in both behind the scenes producing while being dedicated to bringing stories of redemption and hope to the screen.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you share with us the “backstory” that led you to this career path?

Growing up watching actors like Dean Martin, Bob Hope, and Fred Astaire, I knew what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I thought I was going to sing and dance my way through Hollywood, but as it happened, I couldn’t really sing or dance very well, but my comedy timing seemed to suit me better. Now, after many years and over hundreds of hours of broadcast television producing, writing, acting, and hosting, I’m amazed that I’ve accomplished more than I could have ever imagined. When I helped introduce reality television to the world in 1998 with my show “Cheaters,” I had no idea that I would ever sustain such a rewarding career.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career? What was the lesson or take away that you took out of that story?

I had the extraordinary opportunity to get to know and become friends with the legendary comedian Buddy Hackett, who became a dear friend and golfing buddy. I remember the first time he took me to play golf at his country club. It was an early morning tee time. I arrived before dawn, and Buddy led me through the club and into a large, dimly-lit ballroom. Across the room hung a single light over a round bar table with about ten people seated around. From a distance, I couldn’t make out anyone, and all I could hear was laughter. As we got closer to the table, I could make out a large cigar, and the voice was unmistakable. All I could think was, ‘Oh my god, it’s George Burns!’ He sat stoically with several other old comics. After a puff on his cigar, he said, “Hey Hackett — who’s the flat belly?!” Buddy said, “This is Tommy Habeeb, a newby,” and George proceeded to do 15 minutes of comedy on my last name. I never laughed so hard. Buddy finally interrupted the fun with, “Tommy, come on, let’s go tee off!” All I could think was ‘Hell No… let’s stay right here and hang out!’ What a priceless moment that was.

What would you advise a young person who wants to emulate your success?

As I tell my teenage sons, the cliché holds true — do what you love, and you will never have any regrets. Also, don’t be scared to take a chance while you’re young! There’s plenty of time for regret later in life.

Is there a person that made a profound impact on your life? Can you share a story?

While bouncing around as an actor in guest parts on TV and films, I found myself hosting events where I was lucky enough to meet and learn from the great Dick Clark. In passing, he would shoot tidbits of advice to me, such as the importance of controlling my destiny by telling me to create personal projects I could control both creatively and monetarily. Soon, I began writing and producing my own projects. I don’t think he realized the impact he made on my career with his valuable advice.

How are you using your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share with us the meaningful or exciting causes you are working on right now?

After covering many genres, including reality TV that pushed the envelope, I felt that it was time to do something important to me and my family at this point in my career. I readily admitted that doing a show about dog rescue was not necessarily going to be a rating’s hit among my followers, but also, little did I know how it would change my life. “To The Rescue” is not just a show about dog rescue. It’s a show about humanity. It’s a family show that appeals to young and old, with lessons about life and the importance of treating all creatures with care. The stories we tell inspire me, and the show has become some of the best work of my career.

Can you share with us the story behind why you chose to take up this particular cause?

As a child, I always had dogs as treasured pets in my life. As a young adult, I left home to go on tour around the country playing Foosball. There was a lot of fun had and a lot of lonely times as I was the youngest and only one of five siblings who left home. I had a Weimaraner that was my travel companion; he never left my side, and he got me through all of those tough ups and downs.

Later, when I was working as a young actor, the spcaLA asked me to host their telethon and join their celebrity board. I learned about the importance and dedication of dog rescue organizations. At this point in my career, it was time to use my knowledge and platform to make a difference.

Can you share with us a story about a person who was impacted by your cause?

There are a couple that come to mind. After work in Los Angeles for many years, I created a television show in Texas, and an old friend asked if he could come work on the show and teach him the business. I said, “Sure, of course.” Twenty-five years later, when he was retiring, he reminded me that I started him in the business that changed his life.

Are there three things that individuals, society, or the government can do to support you in this effort?

  • Support your local animal rescue organizations.
  • Spay & neuter your animals, and don’t overbreed.
  • Treat animals humanely and remember there are no “bad” dogs, just as there are no “bad” children.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or an example for each.

Okay…because I am a thespian, parts of this answer will be tongue & cheek…

-Get your education in finance and accounting.

-Save your money for the downtimes.

-Follow your dreams, but don’t try and do too much.

-Stay focused and always follow through.

-Get a 9–5 job and let someone else worry about payroll.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂 Simply put, I would encourage a movement of recovering mutual kindness, respect, and humanity.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you explain how that was relevant in your life?

Here I must defer to my wife’s favorite quote by Mary Oliver, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

We are blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Politics, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?

He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Hmmm….perhaps it would have to be two people Bill Gates or Sheryl Sandberg — I would surely have fun bending their ear.

Thank you so much for these amazing insights. This was so inspiring, and we wish you continued success.


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