Paul Michael Glaser: From Starsky to Tsarist Russia

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Whether it was launching himself across the bonnet of his red Torino or running through cardboard boxes to catch the bad guys, Paul Michael Glaser is instantly recognisable as the curly-haired cardigan-wearing cop, David Starsky, from the 1970s show, Starsky and Hutch.

The on-screen car chases catapulted Paul and his co-star David Soul to international stardom and was screened in 67 countries around the world. Now 70, he looks back at that time with great fondness.

Paul Michael Glaser

Paul Michael Glaser

‘Anything you’ve done in your life you tend to look back on with some nostalgia. All in all, I’m very proud of having done that, and so many people love it.’

When we speak, he’s taking a break from rehearsals in London for the new stage production of Fiddler On The Roof set in Tsarist Russia in 1905.

It premieres at the Mayflower Theatre, Southampton, from September 5-14, but the original Broadway production, which opened in 1964, ran for more than 3,000 performances.

After playing Perchik in the 1971 version of the film, Paul is returning to the musical to play the central character Tevye, a milkman who is troubled by the need to find husbands for his five daughters.

Including songs such as If I Were A Rich Man, Matchmaker Matchmaker, Sunrise Sunset and To Life and Tradition, the musical follows Tevye as he tries to convince his wife and town that the girls are marrying for tradition they believe in – not love.

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Paul Michael Glaser stars as Tevye in Fiddler On The Roof when it arrives at the Mayflower Theatre, Southampton, from September 5-14.

Tickets: £19 to £37 on (023) 8071 811.

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Paul explains: ‘We’re all having a great time and I’m having a good time here.

‘I haven’t been to Southampton before but I’m looking forward to it. It will be interesting to visit wonderful communities and see areas of the country I haven’t seen before.’

In recent years he has retreated from the spotlight, but made his return to acting in a pantomime production of Peter Pan in 2007.

Arriving back in the UK in late July, Massachusetts-born Paul had previously been based in Los Angeles. But he upped sticks to tread the boards once more.

He says: ‘They asked if I would be interested in doing it, and it was as simple as that really. Of course I wanted to do it and we went from there.

‘I knew a little bit about Fiddler before. It’s such a wonderful role and musical. I did the movie, but I’ve never seen a stage production of it.’

As a young actor, Paul was appearing in a venue next to where Fiddler was running. He happened to be seeing a girl in the company and would meet her to watch the last 10 minutes of the show from the wings.

The show is still the fifteenth longest-running show in history, and was nominated for 10 Tony Awards (winning nine). But what is the universal appeal?

Paul adds: ‘Tevye is such a brilliant character on so many levels. He’s in every man and he’s dealing with the thing we all deal with in life – change. He learns how to let go of things he believes in and deeply cares about.

‘The story is cross-generational and cross-national. It’s been performed all over the world and everyone seems to be able to relate to it.’

As an actor, Paul has appeared in more than 50 roles in regional, repertory, off-Broadway and Broadway theatre, plus British pantomimes But he’s also written, directed and produced films.

Deciding what he loves to do most in his career isn’t an easy choice.

Paul explains: ‘When I’m working in film I miss acting, and when I’m working in acting I miss filming.’

He loves being on stage. Paul feels it’s the home of any actor.

He says: ‘Theatre is the actor’s medium. It’s where the curtain goes up, and it’s just you and the audience.’

And he’s branching out into the written word too with a young adults’ novel, Chrystallia and the Source of Light, which was self-published in 2011. Paul’s clearly very fond of his first novel.

‘I’m so proud of it. I basically wanted to show people what I’ve learnt about loss, because I’ve learnt and grown so much. I decided to write this book to the child in all of us.’

Loss is certainly something that Paul knows, after a blood transfusion led to the deaths of his wife Elizabeth (who he met when pulling his car up beside hers after making the pilot episode of Starsky and Hutch) and their daughter Ariel from Aids - the disease which their son Jake, 28, is still infected with.

He’s now the honorary chairman of the board of the Elizabeth Glaser Paediatric AIDS Foundation, a non-profit organization.

It’s committed to ensuring better medical treatments for children and preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV. He was also chairman of the board of directors from 1996 to 2002.

Paul continues: ‘The novel is set during the last Christmas the two children have with their mum, and on Christmas Eve they find themselves in a world of crystalline life forms.’

Maggie and Jesse must move through crystal planes and canyons as they do battle with King Bloo, the princess Red and Orange, and Holy Clear – which leads them to discover their greatest strength.

‘They are searching for the meaning of life. I want to make it more accessible for people in England, and if it’s well received, or what we deem as successful, then there will be three titles overall.’

But Paul’s plans for the future aren’t completely set in stone, and he’s willing to see what it will bring.

He says: ‘I’m taking it a day at a time. I packed up my apartment, I sold my car and I gave my dog to my son.’

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