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Old 03-18-2011, 01:40 PM   #1
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Biggrin 1976 interview with Gregory Sierra and Hal Linden!!!!!

I found an old book via Amazon, published in mid-1976, called TV Talk 2, by Peggy Herz. It was published by Scholastic, so I think it was aimed towards younger readers. But it is still a fun read, and interesting to see what these sitcom stars of the time had to say. Here's all who was interviewed:

1. Lindsay Wagner (Bionic Woman)
2. Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams (Laverne & Shirley)
3. Gregory Sierra and Hal Linden (Barney Miller)
4. Mackenzie Phillips and Valerie Bertinelli (One Day at a Time)
5. Paul Michael Glaser and David Soul (Starsky & Hutch)
6. Gabe Kaplan, John Travolta, Ron Palillo and Lawrence-Hilton Jacobs (Welcome Back, Kotter)
7. Devon Scott (The Tony Randall Show)
8. John Schuck (Holmes & Yoyo)

I will transcribe each interview and paste it on the respective show pages - hope everyone enjoys!!
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Old 03-19-2011, 01:31 AM   #2
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Default Barney Miller: A Cop Show Without Violence

The cops in Barney Miller are like the doctors in M*A*S*H. Danger may be all around them, but they still laugh and cut up and have a good time. Barney Miller is an unusual show. It is a cop show without violence. It is also one of the funniest, best-written shows on TV.

Barney himself, played by Hal Linden, is a captain of detectives at New York's 12th Precinct house in Greenwich Village. His squad room is filled with all kinds of ethnic types. There's a Puerto Rican detective, a Pole, a Japanese, a black and a Jew. It is a melting pot of craziness.

The show came on ABC two years ago as a mid-season replacement. From the very first, it was different - and nobody watched it. The ratings were terrible. But the few people who did watch it began to talk about it. Word-of-mouth reports began to spread. A station manager in New England wrote ABC: "I don't care what the numbers are. We need this show to give the network class."

Letters began to arrive from real life policemen and their families. A letter from the Detroit Police Department's 12th Precinct noted: "The working conditions and characters shown in your program can be fairly well duplicated in our office. We laugh so much at times it hurts." One young fan wrote: "My father's police department is as crazy as yours."

ABC wisely decided to stick with the show. Its ratings began to climb as its number of fans grew. "It's the one show I try never to miss," one viewer told me.

"I think Barney Miller is much more real than any other cop show," Gregory Sierra told me. Gregory plays the Puerto Rican detective Chano. "The people in the show have real problems. Kojak never worries. He knows he's got it made. Everything is always under control on that show. You never see the frustrations of police work or the kind of joking that goes on among real policemen. Those are the kinds of things we show on Barney Miller.

"Not long ago I was talking to a California highway patrolman," Gregory said. "He told me they joke and carry on. You have to. When you're dealing with life-and-death situations, you can't be deadly serious all the time or you'd go crazy."

Hal Linden, who plays Barney Miller, has been a performer since he was a teenager. His career since then has had its ups and downs - but it is the role of Barney Miller that has made him a major star. The power of TV is enormous. When you're the star of a hit show, millions of people tune in every week to see you. Neither movies nor the stage come close to that kind of exposure. Hal admitted it is a heady sensation.

"Being in Barney Miller has done wonders for me and for my career," Hal told me. "There are so many things I want to do, and I hope this will make them possible. There is so much acting that I haven't done because I couldn't get jobs. I haven't done feature films or classic theater. I've only done one major Broadway musical..."

Hal began his career playing the saxophone and singing. "I started as a kid musician," he reminisced. "I was 13 when I started playing at local dances for $2.00 a night. I date my professional career from the time I joined the musicians' union at the age of 15. That was about 30 years ago!"

Hal grew up in NYC. "I went to the High School of Music and Art," he said. "Those teen years were painful times. We were a lower middle class family. My father was a printer. Even in the worst of times, though, my parents gave me music lessons. Music was very important to me. I didn't play sports all that much. I used music as a way of meeting people. By playing in the band, I could go to dances - but I didn't have to dance. I was very shy. I was not outgoing at all."

Hal majored in music at Queens College and graduated with a degree in business from City College, New York. He was touring as a saxophone player and singer with Sammy Kaye when the Korean War broke and he was drafted. But he didn't leave his music behind. He became a member of the U.S. Army band and eventually became involved in Army revues. How did the shy musician take to acting? Like a duck to water!

Following his discharge, he enrolled at New York's American Theatre Wing, where he studied for a year. He got his big break in 1958 when he was signed to understudy Sydney Chaplin in Bells Are Ringing on Broadway. Five days after joining the show, Hal went on in the leading role and eventually replaced Chaplin, co-starring with Judy Holliday in New York and on tour in the National Company.

"In 1959, I thought I had it made," Hal admitted. "But the next positive step in my career came in 1966! Those were seven years of famine. I didn't reach financial security until 1966. Those were depressing years. At times I wondered why I bothered. It went so far that I read an ad for a Voice of America announcer - and I wrote for an audition. They sent me a script I was to record and send back. That script sat on my desk for years. When things got bad I'd pull it out. I was depressed many times."

But he stuck with it and took any acting assignments that came along. He didn't want to be an announcer. He wanted to be an actor.

In 1966, he began to get better roles in Broadway shows. Finally, he was on his way. He got the starring role in The Rothchilds. He won a Tony, Broadway's highest honor. He won national critical acclaim - and he came to the attention of TV producer Danny Arnold. Danny Arnold just happened to be casting a show he had created called Barney Miller. He decided that Hal Linden would be perfect in the title role. And Danny Arnold, as he usually is, was absolutely right.

Barney Miller is the voice of sanity in the chorus of craziness. Fish is fighting with his wife? Wojo is afraid to fly? Snipers are shooting at policemen? Barney takes it all in stride.

"The best thing about the show is that anything can happen," Hal pointed out. "It's really become a play about a place rather than any one individual. The place takes over rather than the characters. This is satire. We may show 5 or 6 people who were arrested during the night for different infractions of the law. They have different stories - and they bring out the different personalities of the detectives.

"The character of Barney Miller," Hal continued, "is a combination of all the positive aspects of personality that I would love to have in my own makeup. I think Barney's biggest asset is his compassion for everybody. He tries to bring out the positive side of everybody."

Hal smiled. "I don't know if Barney is human - maybe he's a little superhuman. It's a constant search every week to find foibles for him. I try not to make him perfect or he would be pompous. We want him to lose his temper or be irrational occasionally or he would not be human. It took us awhile to get the characters into shape, but all of us know our characters pretty well by now."

When Barney Miller first started, Hal commuted between LA and his home in New York. He admitted it was hard on him, his wife Frances, and their four children. "I made 8 cross-country trips in 4 months and Frances made 2," Hal said. "Finally we decided to rent a house in California."

Hal has settled in for a long run in one of TV's wackiest - and best - shows. So have his fellow TV cops: Abe Vigoda as the tired, sad-faced Fish, Max Gail as the easygoing, gum-chewing Wojo, Jack Soo as Nick, Ron Glass as Harris, and Gregory Sierra as Chano.

I met Gregory Sierra a year ago. I had just returned to Los Angeles from Mexico, where the food had not agreed with me. I was feeling slightly green, in fact.

Gregory laughed sympathetically. "Several years ago I spent four weeks in Mexico during filming of the TV special Antonio and the Mayor," he said. "We were in a little village in southern Mexico. I lost 15 pounds. I looked like a cadaver. Wow! It was incredible!"

Gregory loves being an actor - and he loves being in Barney Miller. "I like a lot of the things I've done," he admitted. "I'm not one of those actors who is unhappy with his work. I like seeing myself on screen! Wow! Are you kidding? I think of all those guys back on my old block in New York and wonder what they're thinking!"

Gregory is a Puerto Rican who was born in NYC. He was raised by his aunt and his grandmother. "When I was a baby we were a typical Puerto Rican family," he recalled. "Everybody lived together - grandmother, grandfather, aunt, two uncles, mother, father...Gradually everyone went their way."

Gregory went to a high school called Cathedral College. "It was a preparatory school for boys who wanted to be priests," he said with a laugh. "I wasn't going to be a priest! It was hard to study to be a priest during the day and go out and plan gang warfare at night!"

Gregory grew up in a tough area of NYC. "I got knifed once," he told me. "We weren't all the bravest of guys. I had a good friend who was captain of the Dragons. Those guys were kind of crazy, but they saved us from some unhappy scrapes. We'd tell them we were in trouble and they'd come down and help us out."

One thing he missed, Gregory admitted, was having a father to talk to. "Kids need someone they can talk to," he pointed out. "I never really had a father. I couldn't say, 'Hey, Dad, how about this?' So I learned from the streets. I don't really recall much of my childhood. Obviously it wasn't one of the happiest of times for me. The one thing I loved was playing hockey. That was it! I played with a Long Island team for awhile. This was roller hockey. They had rinks where you played."

Gregory did well in grammar school, but by the time he got to high school he just wasn't into it. "My aunt and grandmother wanted me to stay in school, but they could see that I wasn't into it," Gregory said. "I left after 2 years and joined the Air Force. I was tired of school. By the time I was 15 the thrill of being in a gang and all of that had worn off.

"I had never thought of being an actor. I sang some." Gregory smiled. Then one day a friend asked Gregory to go to an acting class with him. "'Now that you're here, why don't you put on an improvisation?' my friend asked me. I didn't know what he was talking about," Gregory admitted. But he got up and did a routine at the spur of the moment. The teacher was so impressed he encouraged Gregory to take up acting. Gregory took his advice.

Gregory began to study acting and eventually began to get parts in stage productions and in movies and TV shows. Spanish was his first language. He learned English by watching movies and mimicking actors and their speech patterns. As a result, he is expert at dialects. He's played a wide range of ethnic types on TV. He was a Jewish militant in All in the Family, an Armenian in Kung Fu, an Italian in Banacek, an Indian in Gunsmoke, and a Hawaiian in Hawaii Five-O.

"Of course, there were times when I had no money and there was no food in the refrigerator!" Gregory exclaimed "But I never thought about giving it up! What would I do - be a Puerto Rican car washer? I knew I had a great deal to learn, and I still do. But when you find something that makes you happy and fulfills you at the same time - you wouldn't give it up!

"At this point in my life," Gregory added, "I just want to live as sane a life as possible. I don't smoke or drink. You can't run 5 miles every other day, as I try to do, and smoke, too. I want to be as healthy as I possibly can be. I have not always lived this way - but this way of living works better for me than anything else I've ever tried.

"You know," he continued, "we live in a society where smoking and drinking are social things. They're not worth it! It's a lot more fun to go hiking down into the Grand Canyon - at least for me."

Gregory and his wife, Susan, a dancer*, live in the beach community of Malibu. "I love the water," Gregory said. "I love the sound and the smell of it. I love everything except being in it. It's too cold!"

Gregory would love to have a bigger part in Barney Miller, he said. "All of us would like more to do. But it's only a half-hour show. Stories have to be divided among all the characters. That's the only way it can be. It's not a one-man show. It's a team effort."

A team effort it is - and what a team! They really make it work. Imagine - a cop show with no gun fights, no bloody bodies, no screaming auto chases. That's Barney Miller!


*There's a sad coda to the marriage: http://www.sitcomsonline.com/boards/...d.php?t=262633
Gregory now lives in Laguna Woods, CA.
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Old 03-19-2011, 02:05 AM   #3
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Hal Linden is right. The twelfth precinct itself was the star of the show not any one character. It was a team effort as Gregory Sierra said. I would have never guessed that Gregory's favorite sport was hockey! Or that he went to a high school that was preparing it's students for the priesthood! Thanks for posting this informative article Monika!
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Old 03-19-2011, 02:15 AM   #4
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No problem!! It was so nice to learn more about my guy. Plus, what Hal had to say was also interesting. Too bad there couldn't have been any singing on the show. I know for sure Gregory, Hal and Jack Soo sang - dunno about the others.
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Old 03-19-2011, 02:38 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by catlover79
No problem!! It was so nice to learn more about my guy. Plus, what Hal had to say was also interesting. Too bad there couldn't have been any singing on the show. I know for sure Gregory, Hal and Jack Soo sang - dunno about the others.
I recently saw an episode that included some singing. But it wasn't of the main characters who was singing. It was a prisoner in the cage. At the end of the episode he sang "High Hopes" to Harris which Harris couldn't stand! Your right it would have been fun if the regulars had broken into song once in a while!
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Old 03-19-2011, 02:47 AM   #6
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I remember that one. That was in the later years, when Harris was having legal trouble regarding his book. When the prisoner started to sing "High Hopes", he started hunting frantically for his gun. Of course, the first thing I think of when I think of "High Hopes" is the rendition performed by The Young Savages on Mr. Belvedere.

It sure would be nice to hear Gregory sing. He sang with a group in the Air Force:

http://www.jimmieraye.com/jimmierayebio.html

"Jimmie formed a singing group, The Collegents. The group competed in the "Tops In Blue" talent contest and won the top awards. Gregory Sierra, Don Delamos and Gene Minnis sang beside Jimmie in the group. Gregory Sierra went on to television and film. He has never heard from the other members."
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Old 03-19-2011, 02:57 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by catlover79
I remember that one. That was in the later years, when Harris was having legal trouble regarding his book. When the prisoner started to sing "High Hopes", he started hunting frantically for his gun. Of course, the first thing I think of when I think of "High Hopes" is the rendition performed by The Young Savages on Mr. Belvedere.

It sure would be nice to hear Gregory sing. He sang with a group in the Air Force:

http://www.jimmieraye.com/jimmierayebio.html

"Jimmie formed a singing group, The Collegents. The group competed in the "Tops In Blue" talent contest and won the top awards. Gregory Sierra, Don Delamos and Gene Minnis sang beside Jimmie in the group. Gregory Sierra went on to television and film. He has never heard from the other members."
That's right! But Barney had taken his gun away earlier when he showed up to work drunk!
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Old 03-19-2011, 04:07 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Marvo301
That's right! But Barney had taken his gun away earlier when he showed up to work drunk!
Oh yeah, I'd forgotten that part.
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Old 03-21-2011, 03:51 AM   #9
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Here's another tidbit about Hal Linden that I read about someplace else a few years back. Apparently, when the show was in development, ABC wanted a "name" to play the lead. Even though Hal had recently won a Tony for The Rothchilds, he was a relative newcomer to television. Danny Arnold had to really fight with the network to give Hal the role. So ABC gave in, and the rest is history! One of the few times the network butted out and let the producers, writers and actors do their thing, and it led to eight successful, highly acclaimed seasons. When it was time to go, they went out on top. THAT is a perfect formula for a successful series.

Danny Arnold may have been a pain (from accounts I've read from people he worked with on Bewitched AND Barney Miller), a perfectionist and an egotist to some degree - but there's no denying his considerable talent. The fact that he could write beautiful romantic fantasy (he was the main writer for the first season of Bewitched) and gritty police comedy equally well is a testament to his skills as a storyteller. Plus, he was fiercely loyal to the actors he believed in, like Hal Linden and Jack Soo (Yemana).

Check out this tidbit about Danny Arnold and his friendship with Jack Soo:

102 Jack Soo, a Retrospective
First Aired: May 17, 1979
Writers: Various
Director: Noam Pitlik

The cast offers an affectionate tribute to the late Jack Soo by reviewing Sergeant Nick Yemena's more memorable moments at the Twelfth Precinct.

Producer Danny Arnold had known Korean-American actor Jack Soo since they'd both performed stand-up on the same Midwestern nightclub circuit in the late forties--before Soo made his Broadway splash in Flower Drum Song in the fifties. The producer's loyalty to the actor was so great that he refused to authorize a new photo to commemorate the show's fifth anniversary once Soo had gone into the hospital. "Nothing goes out without Jack," the producer insisted. "Use the old shots."
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