Grilling the original ‘Starsky & Hutch’

Times Staff Writer

A female voice cried out “We love you, David!” at the Westwood premiere of “Starsky & Hutch” last Thursday when David Soul, who played the cool maverick detective Ken Hutchinson in the original TV series, made a cameo appearance in the movie.

The star-studded audience cheered when they recognized Paul Michael Glaser, who played Hutch’s equally cool partner in the cop show that aired from 1975 to 1979 on ABC.

The movie version of “Starsky & Hutch,” which stars Ben Stiller as Starsky and Owen Wilson as Hutch, plays it for laughs. But the original series was more of a dramatic shoot-’em-up, with romance and a bit of buddy comedy thrown in for good measure. Glaser and Soul were heartthrobs during the show’s tenure; Soul even had a No. 1 song, “Don’t Give Up on Us.”


And counting on the loyalty of those fans who decorated their walls with pinups of the actors and pined for the Gran Torino they drove in the show, Columbia TriStar has just brought out the first season of the series on DVD. The set includes interviews with Soul, Glaser and the show’s creators, as well as a funny send-up of all the show’s goofs and gaffes.

Both Glaser and Soul are 60. Glaser doesn’t look it; Soul does. Both began directing on “Starsky & Hutch,” and Glaser has parlayed that experience into a two-decade career as a director in TV and feature films, with his credits ranging from “Miami Vice” to “The Running Man.” His life has also had its share of tragedy. In 1981, his wife, Elizabeth, contracted HIV through a blood transfusion and unknowingly passed it on to their two children: Ariel, who died of AIDS in 1988, and son Jake, who is 19 and attending college. The same year Ariel died, Elizabeth Glaser co-founded the Pediatric AIDS Foundation. Elizabeth Glaser died in 1994; Paul Michael Glaser has remarried and has a young daughter.

Soul, the father of six and the grandfather of two, left Hollywood 10 years ago when he got an offer to tour New Zealand and Australia in a production of “Blood Brothers.” He appeared in a few miniseries for French TV and has lived in London for the last several years doing plays and episodic TV.

Though “Starsky & Hutch” concluded 25 years ago, the chemistry between Glaser and Soul is still apparent, as the following interview with the two attests.

Question: Have you remained close over the years?

David Soul: We have not necessarily seen each other a lot but ...

Paul Michael Glaser: We have seen each other more in the past ...

Soul: Four or five years.


Q: With the DVD coming out, did you watch any of the first seasons of the series?

Glaser: I never watched the show except the ones I directed. Film acting is a bit of a narcissistic trap; you either love yourself or you hate yourself.

Soul: We know ...

Glaser: Which [sentiment] belongs to whom.

Soul: Don’t we Paul?

Glaser: Don’t we David?

Soul: I watched every single one of them!

Glaser: And replayed them ...

Soul: Because I love myself so much!


Q: Both of you started your directing careers on the series. That was pretty much unheard of at the time to allow the stars to direct their series.


Soul: We had incredible support. We had a family we had lived with for two years [on the series] who got behind us and helped us.

Glaser: Not in the beginning. I remember my first show, they were just waiting for me to fall down.

Soul: The cameraman hated everybody and hated everything. I remember my first day out [as director] at Griffith Park and he walks up to me, looks at me and says, ‘So what is your first shot?’ ” He petrified me.


Q: You both have seemed to have had a love/hate relationship with the press and even won the Sour Apple award from the Hollywood Women’s Press Club in 1978 for being uncooperative.

Soul: That’s right, we did!

Glaser: I know I speak for myself, but I was at an age where I was naive enough to think that people wanted to know what I thought.

Soul: You hit it right on the money. You actually believed they were interested.

Glaser: And what [the press] wanted was you to keep performing the role. They wanted to hear all the things they wanted you to be. They don’t want to hear you talk of the status of the industry [and other issues]. They dismiss you immediately -- “Oh, he’s an actor.” The attitude was usually, “Wait a minute, man. You are a success. You should be thankful.” Really, all Davy and I wanted to do was make the show better. We were told at the outset you are lucky if you make two good shows out of 23.



Q: Paul, you have spent the better part of the last 20 years directing. But you acted in “Something’s Gotta Give” and on a few TV series recently. Have you officially returned to acting?

Glaser: The expression I use is that I am playing all the arrows of the quiver. I didn’t miss ...

Soul: We missed you, Pauly.

Glaser: Thank you, Davy. I think it was something that I felt I had worked on for a long time and had a modicum of success at it and I ought to try it again.


Q: Did you both realize early on in the filming of “Starsky & Hutch” that you had a real chemistry?

Soul: I can say from the very beginning there was an instinctive thing.

Glaser: We had a few things in common in terms of our age. We had a view of how we saw the potential of being an actor and doing something and doing it well. We shared values. Also, we had a real good sense of competition. We haven’t talked about that a lot. I joke about the first season -- I pulled out the stops. I used every single trick I knew that I had picked up in theater and stock. There was not only a caring, but there was also a really healthy competition between the two of us.

Soul: But it wasn’t petty. It wasn’t about lines.

Glaser: There was a tremendous amount of energy exchanged both in harmony and competition.

Soul: It deepened over the years. I knew where he was all the time, and he knew where I was most of the time!