Starsky still in the chase ; From cop show to musical, Paul Michael Glaser is on his way to the Midlands. He tells ROZ LAWS about loss and trying to dance
HE was the wise-cracking cop who entertained millions as half of iconic 1970s duo Starsky and Hutch.
As Starsky, Paul Michael Glaser was known for wearing chunky cardigans, driving a red Torino with a white stripe through cardboard boxes and joking with his partner Hutch.
What we didn't see him doing was thinking deeply about the meaning of life, loss and fear.
But then Paul is a different beast from the character he played - and has suffered more tragedy. If his life was a storyline in a TV drama, we might call it far-fetched.
In 1981, his teacher wife Elizabeth needed an emergency blood transfusion after giving birth to daughter Ariel.
Four years later, the little girl became ill with a mystery virus and was finally diagnosed with AIDS. Elizabeth had been infected through the transfusion and passed the virus on through breast feeding. She also infected her newborn son Jake and Paul was the only family member to escape.
Ariel died in 1988, eight days before her seventh birthday, then Elizabeth died in 1994. Jake survived and is now a producer in his 20s. Both he and Paul work for the Paediatric Aids Foundation set up by Elizabeth, which raises millions for research into mother-to- child HIV infection.
For years after his loss, a grieving Paul understandably retreated from the spotlight. But he chose Britain to make his acting return in 2007.
In a somewhat surprising move, he decided to come here to play Captain Hook in pantomime in Bromley.
Now he's back treading the boards in the UK. He will play the lead role of Tevye in a new stage production of Fiddler on the Roof, on a six-month tour which includes Wolverhampton's Grand Theatre in October.
It feels like his career has gone full circle, as he made his film debut in the 1971 movie of Fiddler on the Roof. Tevye was played by Topol while he played radical Perchik.
Which brings us to his deepthinking nature.
Tevye's most famous song is If I Were A Rich Man. So perhaps the obvious question is, does Paul consider himself a rich man? "I would definitely not say I'm a rich man in terms of money," he insists, although he is speaking from his not-so-shabby home in Venice Beach, California.
"But I'm very fortunate to have learned a lot in my life and feel spiritually rich."
He wants to pass on what he has learned through a fantasy novel he wrote under the name PM Glaser called Chrystallia and The Source of Light.
"It's my proudest achievement in my life so far," says Paul, whose dark curly hair is greying at the temples but he looks pretty good for 70.
"It is told in the voice of Chrystallia, a 14-year-old girl. She and her nine-year-old brother find themselves on a journey through an underground medieval kingdom in search of the source of light.
"It's a metaphor for my life. I wanted to share with people what I have learned about loss and helplessness in an entertaining way. "At its heart it asks the question: 'What is the purpose of fear in our lives?'. I felt it was an important thing to share.
"So no, I don't think I am rich in monetary terms, though I get by. People put a lot of weight on monetary wealth, but I think we can see by the shape of the world that doing that is not a prescription for happiness."
So it's clear that divorcee Glaser is not someone who would take part in a reality TV show for the cash. It's been rumoured several times that he's about to appear in Celebrity Big Brother but he's turned down every offer.
"A lot of shows have their own value, but these are all about celebrity," he says scathingly.
"I've never been close to traf-ficking in my so-called celebrity. That's not the most important thing to me. My creativity and my work on myself as a human being, that's important.
"I just don't feel comfortable going on a show as a celebrity."
Not even Dancing With The Stars, the American version of Strictly Come Dancing? This might be the one to tempt him, perhaps.
"My friends said 'You should go on that'.
"But the only reason I would possibly do it is to get in shape.
"The trouble is, I have never been great at dancing and learning choreography. "When I made the film of Fiddler on the Roof, I had to do a dance. We rehearsed in England with the dance coach.
"Then we went to shoot it in Yugoslavia and the director Norman Jewison said 'let me see this dance'.
"I did it and he said 'he looks like a cowboy!'.
"So as much as I like to dance, I don't feel it's something I really want to do."
There's a Strictly connection to the new version of Fiddler on the Roof, as it's directed by judge Craig Revel Horwood.
It's about milkman Tevye and his headstrong daughters who want to eschew tradition and marry for love.
It's full of songs like If I Were a Rich Man, Matchmaker Matchmaker, Sunrise Sunset and To Life. "Fiddler on the Roof was my first film and I learned a lot, especially watching Topol.
"Everything rubs off on you, so I'd be a fool to think I would create this role all by myself, but it will be my version.
"I want to have a lot of fun with it, it's a fantastic role with great songs."
So how is his voice? And did he ever contemplate becoming a pop star like his Starsky and Hutch co-star David Soul? "My voice is good enough, I guess!" he chuckles. "Hopefully it will do. Releasing records was David's thing and I didn't feel like competing with him. He was quite good at it.
"Although for a time I was trying to make a film on the life of singer Jim Croce, so I learned all those songs, but it never came to fruition." Now Glaser will get to sing his heart out around the UK, from Southampton to Salford and from Canterbury to Cardiff, with Edinburgh, Belfast and Dublin thrown in.
"I love the UK. I've been around a bit beyond London, but I've never been to Birmingham or Wolverhampton so I'm looking forward to coming there.
"I'm especially looking forward to spending time in Scotland and Ireland. I'm going to bring my golf clubs and do some fishing, too."
Fiddler on the Roof comes to Wolverhampton's Grand Theatre from October 15-19. For tickets ring 01902 429212 or visit www.grandtheatre.info.
'' People put a lot of weight on monetary wealth, but I think we can see by the shape of the world that doing that is not a prescription for happiness. PAUL MICHAEL GLASER
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