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INTERVIEW: Starsky's Paul Michael Glaser as he appears at The Mayflower
THE decades could hardly have been more different.
Paul Michael Glaser achieved international superstardom in the 70s as one half of the TV phenomenon, cop duo Starsky and Hutch.
But the 80s brought heartbreak as AIDS tore his family apart. An infected blood transfusion led to the deaths of first his daughter, Ariel, at the age of just seven and then his wife, Elizabeth. Their son Jake, now a healthy 28-year-old, is still infected.
Glaser, who also has a 16-year-old daughter, Zoe, says it has taken him until now, as he enters his eighth decade, to find contentment in a whirlwind life.
“My ambition is just to take my next breath. Thinking about the future is about as constructive as worrying about the past, you can do nothing about either, but you can do something about the here and now and that’s the key. I don’t think about anything else.
“I know in my 20s and 30s, I would talk about how things would be. Had I learned the value of the present when I was younger, I probably would have been more content at an earlier age. I don’t feel I found that until the last five years.”
The 70-year-old, whose portrayal of detective, David Starsky from 1975 until 1979 was screened in 67 countries around the world, also played Diane Keaton’s ex-husband in the acclaimed movie Something’s Gotta Give and directed Arnold Schwarzenegger in hit action thriller The Running Man.
His success as a director, he says, has changed the way he works as an actor – a huge help in his latest role as Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof.
Having previously played Perchik in the 1971 film, he jumped at the chance of taking the lead role, giving up his Los Angeles apartment, selling his car and giving custody of his dog to his son.
The world premiere run of a brand new stage version, a Mayflower co-production backed by the Daily Echo, is in Southampton until next Saturday, directed by Craig Revel Horwood.
As I watch them work in a rehearsal space close to London’s Kings Cross, the pair clearly have a mutual respect, but the judge is yet to persuade Glaser to sign up for Strictly Come Dancing.
“We do joke about that,” he laughs. “I love any challenge, but I’ve never been a fan of reality shows. I don’t think it’s something I’d enjoy.
“In the beginning, I found celebrity to be fascinating. I suppose some of me was frightened by it, but the larger part of me really wanted to be a celebrity. When I got there, I couldn’t believe that had been something I’d wanted.
“I understand the pressure directors have. When it’s a director like Craig, it’s great.
He is a really good listener, open to ideas and we have a good communication and mutual respect. That’s very valuable because as an actor, when you get a director who doesn’t know what he’s doing, the whole thing just doesn’t work. I think I appreciate having directed what a responsibility it is and it does make me more aware.”
Multi-talented, Glaser is also writing and illustrating a series of books, the first of which is Chrystallia, which he describes as a metaphor for his life, refusing to consider an autobiography.
“It relates to the particular choices I’ve made in life. It was a release in some ways and shows what I’ve learned about dealing with loss and hopelessness.
“I’ve been asked to do an autobiography many times and in all honesty, I don’t remember a lot.
“I liken my journey through all the AIDS stuff to what it must have been like to go through Vietnam as a soldier. It was just a case of putting one foot in front of the other and somehow getting through it.
“I suppose a biography would serve people’s interest, but I think it is more valuable what I can share of what I’ve learnt. “I try to conduct my life in such a way that my existence speaks for the experiences I’ve had in my life, but mainly I just don’t remember a whole lot.
“I suppose if I wanted to, I could always take sodium pentothal or something and have someone regress me hypnotically so I could remember all the stuff, but I don’t know if I’d want to go through a lot of it again.”
I have found him in philosophical mood, laid on a sofa with his feet up learning his script while wearing shorts, his white beard for the part of Tevye the only inkling of any ageing.
Golf clubs packed for the UK tour of Fiddler, Glaser is spending his free time in London catching up with his old pal David Soul, the Hutch of the famous cop duo.
He adds: “ It’s one of those relationships that has existed for such a long time that there’s a lot of heartfelt emotions and you know, I care for David very much and I know he cares for me. We try to see each other when we can.”
Neither has retired, Glaser baulks at the mere mention of it.
“No I don’t understand this notion of retirement. You shop ’til you drop. I have been blessed with good genes – I can’t take any credit for looking younger than I am.
“I think challenges are there to be met and they’re what makes life more vibrant. I try to live in the present and experience as much as I can the good and the bad.”
- Fiddler on the Roof runs until September 14.
- Tickets: 023 8071 1811 or click here>>