CALIFORNIA: BACK in the 1970s the highlight of Saturday nights was Starsky & Hutch, two undercover cops bent on cleaning up crime in California. Starsky was all dark curly hair and sparkling blue eyes and wisecracks. Hutch was tall and blond and cerebral. Through 93 episodes, from 1975 to 1979, they ignored police procedure to crash through cardboard boxes in their red Ford Gran Torino, engage in shootouts, have romantic interludes that always failed to break up the bromance and touch each other just slightly too often.
I was a fan, with pictures of them torn out of Jackie stuck on my bedroom wall and would happily have traded my Wrangler flares to date either of them, but Starsky always had the edge. So when Paul Michael Glaser appears, running late after getting lost on his way to the Southampton theatre, where he’s kicking off an eight-month UK tour of Fiddler On The Roof that night, I’m slightly thrown. The distractingly bright blue eyes still sparkle, the grey in his thick curly hair merely adds gravitas, the chambray shirt, jeans and trainers package a physique fit from running. As he rolls up his sleeves to reveal leather thongs and a bangle, and tucks into a healthy salad, he’s every inch the southern Californian.
Yet Glaser is 70, and to play the leading role of Tevye he’s grown a bushy white beard and allowed tarantula eyebrows to climb up his forehead. To slightly misquote the musical, I don’t remember growing older, when did he?
Time is an issue today, with hovering PRs reminding us that PMG’s schedule is packed. This interview is going to be a bit of a car chase. I want to know about Starsky & Hutch, how he coped with his wife and child dying of Aids, his Jewish heritage and playing the archetypal father figure of Tevye, his recent drugs bust, his children’s books, and did he live the life in the 1970s – all big hair and jacuzzis? But it’s immediately apparent that Glaser gives long, thoughtful answers that will not allow for a glib, “so did David Soul hurt his bum when he crash-landed on the bonnet of the red Torino during the opening credits?”. No matter, because allow Glaser to talk and he’ll get round to what you were going to ask him anyway.
After a lifetime of hard knocks, his spiritual equilibrium is fascinating, but with only five minutes left I can’t possibly leave without asking about his recent arrest in Kentucky for smoking marijuana.
He laughs. “I’m from the 1960s. I’m not a drinker, I’m a doper. If I’m going to relax I’m going to relax with marijuana. I was there to promote my book and afterwards smoked a little in my room and then I thought ‘I’ll go down to the jacuzzi’. On my way, I met three people who said hello and I said hello back and they must have smelt it off me and they reported it.”
But I read he had a California prescription for legal medical marijuana? Is he in pain? Is it his back with all that dancing and being on stage for the entire three hours at a time? Or was it the Starsky years, those 93 episodes in which he never missed an opportunity to slide over a car bonnet rather than walk around it?