Book excerpt: “You Never Know” by Tom Selleck

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Dey Street Books


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In his new memoir, “You Never Know” (published May 7 by Dey Street Books), Tom Selleck, star of such hit TV series as “Magnum, P.I.” and “Blue Bloods,” writes of the serendipity that launched his career.

Read an excerpt below, and don’t miss Tracy Smith’s interview with Tom Selleck on “CBS News Sunday Morning” May 5!


“You Never Know” by Tom Selleck

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The whole thing is stunning when you think about it.

A kid goes on The Dating Game and, through the machinations of a clever agent, two of the biggest studios in Hollywood each think the other is interested in him. This kid, who has no real acting experience and no real desire to become an actor, ends up bulls***ting with the president of 20th Century-Fox and is promptly invited into the studio’s New Talent program. And what seals the deal is college basketball. Go figure … You never know. And all of it happened so quickly, I never once stopped to ask myself, Why? Why am I doing this? I’m not sure I can answer that even now. I’d never had the slightest interest in acting. Ever. But in my own unplanned way, I had actually accomplished something. I’d been offered an opportunity that others would kill for. I was developing a healthy respect for serendipity.

Don explained the details. The pay would start at the Screen Actors Guild minimum, slightly over a hundred dollars a week, which sounded astronomical to me. I’d been making no more than expense money at my job as a campus representative for United Airlines. SAG minimum would be enough for me to get my own place after the semester and start to pull my weight financially. And did I mention my semester wasn’t going too well?

I went to see my dad at his office to tell him about the offer and get his advice. By then he was managing the Coldwell Banker office for the San Fernando Valley.

“I got this offer to sign a contract with 20th Century-Fox,” I told him. I explained everything. I may have accidentally left out the part about not graduating. He listened intently, probably for anything he could pick up between the lines. When I finished, he sat for a moment. When he spoke, it was forthright, direct, and unwavering. “Well,” he said, “I think it’s like your brother Bob when he had the offer to sign with the Dodgers. It’s one of those opportunities that’s considered special. And if you don’t go after it, you might get to be thirty-five and have regrets. You might wonder what if … ?”

That was all I needed to hear. I wasn’t really asking for his advice about what I could do. I was asking so I’d know what I would do.

It was at that moment that I was reminded of a phrase he used: “Risk is the price you pay for opportunity.” You know what? I’m not really sure whether my father actually said that or I just think he did. But either way, he’d lived it, that’s for sure.

Then he said, “You’re gonna have to tell your boss at United right away.”

I knew that, though I was secretly hoping he might say, “Aw, that’s okay, son. I’ll call ’em for you.”

That wasn’t my dad.

I said something inadequate, like “Thanks, Dad,” and I got up to go.

As I did, my dad spoke, almost to himself but not really. I definitely heard his words.

“Just don’t let ’em change you.”

Out of the blue: “Just don’t let ’em change you.”

I didn’t say anything else, but I realized how difficult it must have been for my father to give me that advice. Thanks to the management-training program I’d had with United Airlines for my two years at USC, he’d felt I had a leg up in a company whose business he actually understood. Working in L.A. as long as he had, he had to be well aware of the many risks of show business. He’d heard the stories of all the wasted lives. He certainly didn’t want his son to get sucked into that swamp. So he knew the perils. But he still gave his advice freely and without hesitation.

          
From “You Never Know” by Tom Selleck. Copyright © 2024 by Thomas Selleck. Excerpted by permission of Dey Street Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. Excerpts have been edited for length.            


Get the book here:

“You Never Know” by Tom Selleck

Buy locally from Bookshop.org


For more info:

  • “You Never Know: A Memoir” by Tom Selleck with Ellis Henican (Dey Street Books), in Hardcover, Large Print, eBook and Audio formats, available May 7



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