‘Saved By The Bell’ star brings words of inspiration

By Christine Blom
October 14, 2005

Jerry Zurek

At 8:09 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 5, the Dixon Center was filled with 200 anxious students as they awaited the arrival of the biggest celebrity to hit campus in the last three years. Students were chanting “we want Belding” in anticipation.

Dennis Haskins, also known as “Mr. Belding,” was America’s favorite corny principal on the hit 1990s television show, “Saved by the Bell.”

His performance started with a few film clips of all the shows and movies he has appeared in over the years. Haskins has been on shows such as ‘Law & Order,’ ‘J.A.G.,’ ‘7th Heaven’ and ‘Dukes of Hazzard,’ just to name a few.

He excited the audience when he pounced onto the stage and begun his performance.

“Thank you, Cabrini College,” Haskins said.

Haskins excited the audience as he complemented students on the larger-than-expected turnout. He has been touring colleges all over the state of Pa. for the last month, doing what he does best: motivating and energizing students with an important message.

Haskins was born and raised in Chattanooga, Tenn., which he actually compared to the suburbs of Philadlephia.

“I’m proud to be from Chattanooga,” Haskins said. “That’s where I got all my senses of right and wrong. People support me there.”

Haskins went to parochial school for the majority of his life. He was in the sixth grade when he got his first taste of acting.

“I was asked to play ‘Candlewick’ in the local university’s production of ‘Pinocchio,'” Haskins said.

“My best friend played Pinocchio and I got to hang out with college kids. After that I didn’t do any acting until college.”

Haskins attended the University of Tennessee – Chattanooga, where he majored in music production, later realizing that acting and sports were his dream. Needless to say, he stuck to acting.

“I took an acting class, I just wanted to make my dream come true, no matter what it took,” Haskins said.

At the age of “29-and-a-half” Haskins took a leap of faith and moved out to Los Angeles to get his first big break. Haskins auditioned for a part in the original “Dukes of Hazard.”

“They were looking for a ‘bad ass’ and I had long hair and a mustache at the time” Haskins said. “So that’s how I got the part.”

Several years later, Haskins auditioned for the part of a middle-aged, African-American principal. This was for the part of “Mr. Richard Belding.” After great persuasion and persistence, he was offered the job and had the opportunity to participate in what ended up becoming one of the most popular hit shows of the 1990s.

“Follow your dreams,” Haskins said. “Don’t let anyone tell you ‘no.’ If I had listened to everyone who told me no, I wouldn’t be here today.”

Mark Tripolitiotis, a senior and CAP Board president, served as the event’s host which gave him the privilege of interviewing Haskins. Haskins was shocked at some the questions because they were so creative.

“What was your favorite episode?” Tripolitiotis said.

“I have to say the episode where Belding’s brother, Rod, came to Bayside High,” Haskins said. “It really showed the relationship between the kids and Mr. Belding. That’s what our relationship was like on and off the set.”

Haskins was on ‘SBTB’ for 100 episodes, broadcasted for nearly a decade. After going into syndication, the show still runs on networks such as TBS and TNT, and is one of the best-selling television shows on DVD today.

Another question that Tripolitiotis asked Haskins was if he was still close with any of the cast members or if he still kept in touch with any of them.

Haskins relayed that he still speaks with most members, including Mark-Paul Gossalar, Elizabeth Berkley and Tiffani-Amber Theisen.

“Everyone is doing their own thing now,” Haskins said. “MP and his wife just had a baby, Elizabeth just married Ralph Lauren’s son, Greg, Dustin (Diamond) is doing stand-up comedy, Mario (Lopez) is doing ESPN Hollywood, and Tiffani just got married as well.”

Haskins then hosted a trivia session, made up of questions about the show. Each of the three winners received a picture of the cast, autographed by Haskins himself.

After the show, Haskins stuck around for an extra two hours to ensure that every fan received an autograph and a picture.

Loquitur welcomes your comments on this story. Please send your comments to: Loquitur@yahoogroups.com. The editors will review your points each week and make corrections if warranted.

Posted to the web by Tim Hague

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Christine Blom

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