What’s kind of neat is that Starsky & Hutch has continued to have a worldwide affection. It’s nice to give continuity so, by my presence, I can say all that was not just some commercial flash in the pan. It really meant something.
Regarding the longevity of Starsky & Hutch: You have no way of gauging that. If you did, everybody would be out there with a hit record, wouldn’t they, or a hit television show? You basically go and do your job and do it as well as you can. On the other hand, you have to build the show over a period of time, and you can’t do that so much anymore. Today if you don’t have a show that’s a success within the first five or six shows, it’s gone. So those were the days when actually the business built the shows, and if they believed in something, they stuck with it.
I read the script and decided, No, I’d rather play Starsky, if at all.
Both of us were very skeptical about the business of television. We sat down and looked at each other and said, ‘Whatever happens out there, it’s me and thee.’ So in a sense, the me and thee of Starsky & Hutch was the me and thee of David and Paul. . . . It was a huge surprise to me. I didn’t have a clue that it was going to be as big as it was. It was a job and I was just going out to do it. I never thought it would take on a life of its own the way it did.
I didn’t expect it. I’m an actor, I’m not a star. I started out that way, and that’s what I thought I was. It was an opportunity to work, and all of a sudden – BOOM – it went skyrocketing. How can you suddenly change who you are overnight? How do you balance all that stuff? I look at it now with a little more circumspection. I’m very open about the period and so forth, because I think it’s important to understand that dynamic and reflect on it. I think there are things that can be learned. I think it has something to do with what it is we communicate to each other and how we communicate. My particular interest in it is in the world of feelings.
There were some pot shots taken at us . . .one time they called us two prime time homos. The point is that there were moments of tenderness, moments of concern, as much as there were frivolous moments, and moments of fun too. There were fights, there were punch-outs, there were misunderstandings. It was about friendship. That’s what the show was about. It was about friendship. There were two men who cared about each other who happened to be cops . . . not just two cops.
It’s really a love story, a relationship between two men, which separates that program so completely from every other police story on the air. But nobody from the network on down — through advertisers, public relations, anyone — ever sold that show based on that relationship. … But people put blinders on and are afraid to look directly at two men. When people really don’t know what to do with strong male relationships, they call them gay, which is stupid you know. I think when you have a friend that’s a male and a really good friend, there’s no bond that’s stronger. Probably the strongest relationships you can have are between two men. Hell, it goes back to Spencer Tracy and Clark Gable. … But it’s also private, honest moments that are shared between two people — not necessarily between two men. …we are pulled to that sort of thing; we like to see it happen. We like to see people caring about other people.
Spelling was one of those characters in Hollywood that doesn’t exist too much anymore, in that he re-used his people. He created a kind of family life, so I did lots of shows with him. … He was genuinely interested in his artists, his actors, and I think in his heyday, he was very supportive . … The Seventies was a period of when we were outlaws. There was no such thing as P.C. in the Seventies. We ran the studio, and they would pull their hair out. …and Aaron alone, he liked that kind of rebelliousness to some degree. He liked to be part of the team of guys. … He had a formula that worked. Sometimes it worked to my liking and sometimes it didn’t. We went into Starsky & Hutch the last two years, and we fought tooth and nail to raise the quality of the show. … Paul and I found a way to make the show our own. What Spelling did allow was for our own innovation, our own improvisation. When he saw where that was going and how the chemistry of the show was working, he’d love it. He gave us reign, he gave us freedom, and we had to fight for it. And that’s good. If you fight for something you believe in, and you’re not just doing something different, but you’re doing something better, it’s worth fighting for.
Some of the subjects we covered in Starsky & Hutch were also in kind of the forefront of television then. Starsky & Hutch wasn’t afraid to touch areas that shows often had not touched before, and I suppose because the relationship itself was so strong, we could do that.
When asked about how women reacted to the original series and to David and Paul: That’s part of it … a lot of that’s fantasy. It goes with the territory. It’s when you start believing it yourself that you’ve got a problem. But I think you find a way to work through it.
Although Starsky & Hutch was a seminal and happy time in my life, a man doesn’t live in or on the past. He’s gotta move on … as I have.