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‘Barney Miller’ on the beat again


If ever a television series captured the gritty essence of police work, it wasn’t Dragnet, with its just-the-facts dispassion, or Hill Street Blues, with its urban blight, or any version of Law & Order, with its gruesome crimes.

It was a half-hour comedy set in a couple of grimy Greenwich Village squad rooms, populated by misfits who spent much of their time filling out paperwork and grumbling about bad coffee.

On ABC from 1975 to 1982, Barney Miller rewrote the rules of cop shows and sitcoms alike. Its principals weren’t heroes; they were jaded lifers contending with assorted whackos, like the beggar who earned enough to pay for a maid. Or the messianic who thought a new Ice Age was upon us. Or the nut job who threatened to turn into a werewolf.

And every week the show, which won three Emmy Awards, kicked off with a theme that sported the baddest, funkiest bass line this side of Isaac Hayes.

An early fan of Barney Miller was Joseph Wambaugh, the author of novels like The New Centurions and nonfiction works like The Onion Field. He began tuning in shortly after stepping down as a Los Angeles Police Department detective sergeant to write full time.

“I was uncertain if I could make it without the badge,” he said. “But I could turn on Barney Miller. It filled a void for me. I could have gone onto that set, sat down and gone to work.”

Even a casual look back at Barney Miller (all 168 episodes are available on 25 DVDs from Shout! Factory) reveals the show to be simultaneously archetypal and atypical. For one thing the detectives of the fictional 12th Precinct were authentic shoe-leather types. There was the elderly, cantankerous Fish (Abe Vigoda); the lethargic gambler Yemana (Jack Soo); the dapper, novel-writing Harris (Ron Glass); the insouciant, energetic Chano (Gregory Sierra); and the stubborn, guileless Wojo, short for Wojciehowicz (Max Gail). The moral center was Capt. Miller, played with consummate unflappability by Hal Linden.


Barney Miller may have offered more low-key chuckles than any other show of the 1970s. In one classic segment, pretty much the whole squad room gets stoned on hashish brownies. “Hey,” Yemana mutters, “what do you say we guys go down to the beach and shoot some clams?”

In “Call Girl,” a lady of the evening named Rhonda (Tasha Zemrus) tells Wojo about a ballgame to which her father once took her:

Rhonda: “He got me a little pennant, a hot dog and a beer. Really great seats.”

Wojo: “Sounds like your dad was a nice guy.”

Rhonda: “He was a mugger. Some guy he rolled had season tickets. Halfway through the game a cop showed up. Dragged us both out of the stadium.”

Wojo: “Oh.”

Rhonda: “Wanna hear what happened to the puppy I got for Christmas?”

That kind of dark humor was no accident. These were the bad old days of “Ford to City: Drop Dead,” of Son of Sam, of avoiding Central Park. When Wojo presents Fish with a New York City municipal bond upon his retirement, he proudly says, “It’s worth a thousand dollars when it matures.”

Fish reminds him, “If it matures.”

The action on Barney Miller was as underplayed as its jokes. As the series was originally conceived, half of each episode would take place on the job, and half at Miller’s home. But the producers soon dropped that idea. Instead, detectives came and went, rushing out to make arrests and dragging in perps. Rarely did we see anything that was actually happening outside the squad room.

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Shout! Factory has announced the October 25, 2011 home entertainment release of Barney Miller: The Complete Series, featuring all 8 seasons of the much-loved show. The grand 25-DVD collection includes a 40 page booklet, new cast interviews, commentaries, as well as season one of the spin-off Fish, starring Abe Vigoda, which has never before been released on DVD.

Fans can rejoice as Shout! Factory presents the first-ever comprehensive Barney Miller experience with the release of Barney Miller: The Complete Series. This richly detailed 25-DVD collector’s box set edition contains all eight seasons of the iconic series, plus a wealth of exclusive bonus features. These extras include new interviews with Linden, Vigoda and Gail; the series’ original pilot, which was called The Life and Times of Barney Miller; commentaries and interviews by series writers Tony Sheehan (TV’s King of Queens), Jeff Stein (TV’s Mr. Belvedere) and Frank Dungan (TV’s Mr. Belvedere); a collectible commemorative booklet filled with vintage photos and featuring an essay by former TV Critic Howard Rosenberg; and season one of the show’s spinoff, Fish, starring Vigoda of course. This collector’s edition set, priced to own at $159.99, offers all 168 episodes of this long-awaited show, which aired on ABC from 1974-82, and captured a Peabody Award, three Emmy® Awards and two Golden Globes®. The set also includes the standout retrospective episode that pays tribute to Jack Soo, whose passing in Season 5 led the cast, both in and out of character, to salute their beloved colleague.

It was a cop show unlike any other, with a grimy Greenwich Village squad room and low-tech law enforcement, embellished by a laugh track. Officers wearing wide ties in wild patterns talked on rotary dial phones, their street-smart dialogue peppered with witty observations on law and order. It’s no surprise that long after Barney Miller ended its 8-season run, real-life law officers still insist that the clever series was the only program that “got it right,” offering the most realistic depiction of cops on TV. Detectives at the 12th Precinct didn’t chase crime while jockeying cruisers through New York’s streets at top speed, sirens screaming and guns drawn: they tapped out paperwork on rattly typewriters, drank lousy coffee, and booked petty crooks more comic than criminal. The show’s signature theme song played over a shot of New York’s graceful skyline, a feel-good image for a different era.

Featuring Tony® Award-winner Hal Linden as Captain Barney Miller, the show’s all-star ensemble cast portrayed unforgettable, eclectic characters, including Abe Vigoda as the inimitable, prune-eating Fish; charmingly boyish Wojo, played by Max Gail; Gregory Sierra as fiery Chano; Jack Soo as coffee-challenged Yemana, whose brew was truly awful; Ron Glass as the always-hip Harris, and Steve Landsberg playing the deadpan Dietrich.

A police procedural with a timeless style, Barney Miller offered a witty close-up on how cops really do their jobs, minus forensics, gory crime scenes or sleek computers. Created by Danny Arnold and Theodore J. Flicker, the show’s humor, delivered with a deadpan touch, still resonates with devotees today.

Packaged to resemble the Squad Room Detectives gritty office door, Shout! Factory’s Barney Miller: The Complete Series celebrates the diversely personable, mostly-male 12th Precinct. But women took their share of the spotlight in memorable roles too: stage veteran Barbara Barrie portrayed Liz Miller, Barney’s sardonic, long-suffering spouse. Florence Stanley played Fish’s ever-nagging wife, Bernice. And Linda Lavin (TV’s Alice) was the brash Janice Wentworth, a temporary transfer who stayed and stayed, a by-the-book cop with an over-the-top New York accent.

Brilliantly written, with classic comic pacing and vintage storylines, the series’ action all swirled within that cramped squad room, where wisecracks outnumbered cracked cases. For TV fans fond of those golden 1970s sit-coms, Barney Miller: The Complete Series, is a treasure trove of nostalgia, and a must for every home viewing library.

Hal Linden is an American actor, singer and musician whose career has spanned more than 65 years with memorable roles on stage, television, in film and a cabaret-style variety show that he tours nationally. Linden recently released his first CD, It’s Never Too Late. The disc, a labor of love that Linden recorded over a period of three decades, includes 14 tracks that range from classic pop to jazz standards, Broadway and feature film tunes and favorites from the American Songbook.

Barney Miller is a production of Sony Pictures Television Inc. It has been sublicensed for home video distribution to Shout! Factory.








Categories NEWS

LA Stage Times

Hal Linden and Christina Pickles Summer
On Golden Pond

Features by Deborah Behrens |  July 27, 2011

Hal Linden and Christina Pickles have circled each other’s orbit since both became Broadway regulars in the early ’60s, then network television stars on Barney Miller and St. Elsewhere — but it took the call of some iconic Maine loons to finally bring them together.

Two weeks into exploring the emotional waters of Ernest Thompson’s classic On Golden Pond at the Colony Theatre under Cameron Watson’s direction, the duo discover they were former Upper West Side neighbors back in those Broadway days.

“Where did you live?” Linden asks Pickles during a late morning interview in the Burbank theater’s lobby prior to a weekday rehearsal.

“Riverside Drive and 85th Street,” she replies. “We were around the corner from each other, right? Probably on the same bus.”

“I was on 83rd,” he laughs. “I used to go home on the bus all the time with Bill Daniels [who later would become a co-star with Pickles on St. Elsewhere]. He lived on 93rd and Riverside.”

Hal Linden and the cast of “Barney Miller”

Linden and Pickles then discuss how their professional lives might have converged 30 years ago in LA. After eight years of playing the titular police captain on ABC’s top-rated sitcom from 1974-82, Linden was offered a leading role in the same 1980s medical drama for which Pickles would receive five Emmy nominations for her role as Nurse Helen Rosenthal. “Yeah, but he declined,” she says, smiling at the former seven-time Emmy-nominated Barney Miller star.

“I was just so tired of doing TV,” Linden shrugs back at her. “I wanted a break. When they asked me to do St. Elsewhere, it would have been no break at all. It would have meant just keep going. I was hoping to do films. Those I did were terrible. One week and gone.”

A Very Golden Pond

A particularly singular film hovers faintly over this new production — the 1981 screen adaptation by playwright Thompson starring Henry Fonda, Katharine Hepburn and Jane Fonda. It was nominated for 10 Academy Awards, with Thompson, Fonda senior and Hepburn each taking home a gold statuette. The younger Fonda famously purchased the rights to the play for her remote father. The result was the pairing of a real-life father and daughter whose strained relationship closely paralleled the fictional one created by Thompson. It also teamed Hollywood icons Hepburn and Fonda for the first time, in one of the most poignant screen pairings of their careers.

None of this is lost on Linden and Pickles.

Hal Linden and Christina Pickles in The Colony Theatre’s production of “On Golden Pond.”

“That’s just something I try not think about,” Pickles admits. “Of course I thought, oh everybody will say ‘she’s not as good. We miss Katharine Hepburn.’ But what can you do? We’re doing Cameron’s concept of this play. I think his version is wonderful and that’s all we can do. I’m just going to get on the train and go for the ride. I can’t be bothered with what the result is. Otherwise, I wouldn’t get on the train!”

“The film is quite different from the play and probably rightfully so,” Linden explains. “Once you have an opportunity to have the lake in Maine, so many of the scenes take place on that. They had to rewrite the whole show. The same premise and the same plot, but the scene work is very different. It was more of a serious picture than a comedic picture. I think of this as more of a comedic show than a serious one.”

Pickles says she’s glad Watson keeps the story set in 1979. “That was really important to me because it was different. Things were different, as you [turning to Linden] pointed out in rehearsal. The kid who comes in [Billy] would now be on his cell phone and never look up.”

“Does any kid today not do his games or whatever?” interjects Linden, who has eight grandchildren.

Hal Linden and Nicholas Podany

“The more you get into it, 1979 is before a lot of things happened,” Pickles continues.  “It’s an old time. To me, ’79 was not that long ago, but it was before a lot of new technology.”

On Golden Pond made its Broadway debut on February 28, 1979 at the New Apollo Theatre starring Tom Aldredge and Frances Sternhagen, who received a Tony Award nomination for Best Actress. It ran for 126 performances, then re-opened that September with the same cast at the Century Theatre, where it continued until April 20, 1980. Both Pickles and Linden have respectively worked with Sternhagen in earlier Broadway shows – Cock A Doodle Dandy in 1969 with Ellis Rabb’s APA-Phoenix Repertory Company and The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window, a 1972 musical version of Lorraine Hansberry’s play.

“It lasted about a week,” Linden wryly notes. “The rehearsal was too long.” He is the only one of the cast or creative team to have seen Pond’s original Broadway production. “I remember her more than I remember Tom Aldredge. I have very little memory of what he did. All I remember is him sitting. He was sitting all the time. Other than that it was slightly sentimental.”

In 2005, a Broadway revival was mounted with an African American cast starring James Earl Jones and Leslie Uggams, which ran for 93 performances. This time, Jones was the Tony nominee. Michael Learned and Tom Bosley starred in a subsequent 2006-07 national tour, which touched down in Thousand Oaks in 2007. A live television broadcast of the play reunited Sound of Music stars Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer in 2001.

According to Thompson’s website, Pond has been produced in more than 40 countries in 27 languages. The playwright retooled the script for the Broadway revival, trimming scenes and eliminating roughly 10 pages, notes director Watson.

Christina Pickles and Hal Linden

The play is Watson’s fourth outing at the Colony following Grace & Glorie, which garnered four Ovation Award nominations including Best Production and earned Beth Grant a 2010 Ovation Award for Best Actress; Educating Rita; and Trying, which received eight Ovation Award nominations and won a Best Actor statue for Alan Mandell alongside a Garland Award for Best Director. Watson most recently directed the critically lauded revival of I Never Sang for My Father starring Philip Baker Hall for the New American Theatre and A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey.

“We were looking for something to do together,” he notes prior to rehearsal, meaning himself and the Colony’s artistic director Barbara Beckley. “I’d done three two-handers out here and didn’t want to investigate another. Barbara said, ‘I don’t know what your reaction will be but what about On Golden Pond?‘ I don’t know much about it, I told her. I know the movie but I’ve never read the play. I’ve got a copy of it in my library. I read it and thought it’s so complicated and complex. It’s quite different than our notion of that cuddly ‘you old poop’ play. I said I’d love to do it.”

Watson knew he needed “two perfect people” as the leads and quickly thought of old friend Pickles. The two had done a pilot 15 years ago, acted in readings and wanted to work together on a full production. “I said, ‘This is it. It’s going to be an odd one. What do you think about On Golden Pond?’”

“Cameron and I have a very close working relationship,” she confirms. “We’ve done a lot of projects together. I love his sensibility and his talent is something I always want to work with. I vaguely knew about it [On Golden Pond] and the sort of play it was. I knew she was a woman I didn’t have to look young for!” she laughs. “Which is nice at my time. It seemed like something that would stretch me and help me to grow as an actor. One always wants to find that.”

Beckley says Linden came to mind when Watson saw an LA Times article on the Tony winner’s concert tour and release of his first CD, “It’s Never Too Late.”  “Cameron called me and said, ‘Hal Linden!’” she recalls. “And I said, ‘perfect!’  From that point it was wonderfully simple.  We asked through his agent and he said yes.  There was none of the dithering and extended negotiations that actors of Hal’s stature usually put you through just to let you know how important they are.”

Linden admits his manager was skeptical about the job. “He said, ‘No one is going to see this show.’ I said, ‘That’s not why I’m doing this.’ What he meant was this was not a lucrative career move.”

When asked why he accepted the role of curmudgeon Norman Thayer, Linden offers,  “First of all, I was available. I don’t have concerts till the fall. Second of all, it’s a very good role. Third of all, it keeps me busy if you really want to know the truth.” Linden lost his wife Frances last year after 52 years of marriage. “I’ve been just trying to stay busy with one project after another to keep me occupied. I’m not ready to pull out my golf clubs and spend the days lulling. For my own personal sanity, I need activity and this has been good. You’re lucky when you get a chance to do a terrific role, and the Colony is also a very nice little theater.”

Jonathan Stewart, Monette Magrath, Nicholas Podany, Hal Linden (seated), and Christina Pickles

Besides Linden and Pickles, the cast also features Monette Magrath as Chelsea, Jerry Kernion as Charlie, Nicholas Podany as Billy and Jonathan Stewart as Bill. According to Watson, Podany has never seen the film nor have several members of his team.

“We’ve got a 13-year-old kid in this, my assistant is 19 and my stage manager is 25,” he explains. “They have heard about the movie, but never seen it. I think it’s kind of exciting to have a whole new crop of people be introduced to a play like this that don’t have the point of reference we do. They don’t know anything about Henry Fonda and that film, so it’s exciting.”

The Colony’s production will be a hybrid of the original Broadway script and the shortened version Thompson created for the Broadway revival, which also includes a few added lines from the movie. Linden thought some of the dialogue from the original was worth restoring, so the entire cast spent three days reviewing both scripts, adding about a page and a half from the old version into the new.

“I think it’s great to go back to the original source material, especially with these pieces that have gone on to become iconic movies or iconic musicals,” notes Watson. “That’s where everything was born originally, so it really works best in that form. I actually think the play works even better than the movie does. The movie works for a whole other set of reasons. But with the play, you’re going back to what came out of the writer’s heart and gut initially.”

“We remember the picture,” adds Linden. “The picture was so soft and lovely. It was not maudlin but was on the edge of sentimentality. It played into it because of the nature and that is what we are fighting.”

A Fated Burbank Rendezvous

That Linden and Pickles should finally cross paths in Burbank is a whim of fate and timing given their divergent roads getting there. The NYC-born Linden attended the High School of Music and Art in Manhattan, then studied music at Queens College before graduating from City College of New York. He played clarinet in dance bands before being drafted into the Army where he sang and performed for the troops. Once back home, Linden enrolled at the American Theatre Wing where he trained in voice and drama. He made his Broadway debut in 1957 in the musical Bells Are Ringing starring Judy Holliday, before touring with the national company and appearing in the 1960 movie version.

“That was worth all of it,” he admits when asked about Holliday. “She was really something. I had absolutely no career before Bells are Ringing. Some stock but I didn’t even have an agent, honestly. I replaced the understudy for Sydney Chaplin mainly because I fit into his costumes, I’m sure. I started on Monday and went on that Saturday. I had seen the show a hundred times. I was going with one of the girls that was a dancer in it.”

“Did you marry her?” asks Pickles.

“Yes,” he grins.

“I knew it!” she exclaims.

“I should have to pay 10 percent all these years?” he laughs. “The point is I went on facing one number I never rehearsed and only knew from seeing out front. Just in Time. I took her [Holliday] in my arms and sang in her ear. I’m dancing across the stage and I get about eight bars in when I feel a hand on my back, twisting me [he demonstrates] – like this, so we’re now dancing is this awkward position, but I’m singing out to the audience. That was Judy. I can’t tell you how many scenes she did directly upstage because she knew the scene was about that character. The most generous actress I’ve ever worked with.” He turns to Pickles and smiles, “We haven’t completed our work yet.”

Pickles was born in Yorkshire, England to a British theatrical family and attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art at 15 with fellow students Albert Finney, Peter O’Toole and Brian Bedford. She came to New York in the late ’50s to stay with RADA alum Donald Moffat and his wife. In 1961, Pickles accompanied a boyfriend to his audition for John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger at Washington D.C.’s Arena Stage, but she was cast by director Alan Schneider while her boyfriend wasn’t. Schneider subsequently took her to Joe Papp’s Shakespeare in the Park where she performed in Measure for Measure.

A big break came when the Royal Court Theatre’s George Devine cast her as the lead in his New York production of The Way of the World, despite her auditioning for the maid. He then recommended her to Ellis Rabb, who invited Pickles into his APA-Phoenix Repertory Company. She later made her Broadway debut in The Severed Head in 1964.

When asked about their careers in the kinetic 1960s New York theater scene, the two have polar opposite answers. “I don’t think my ’60s were as productive as Christina’s were because I was the perennial standby,” offers Linden.  “After Bells, I was in a dozen shows. I went from show to show to show, but I hardly ever got on the stage. It was a very frustrating, ugly time in my life. It made it very difficult to make a career out of it. When they did a musical in those days, they made sure they had a TV star or a Hollywood star in it. It was the Rex Harrison syndrome.”

“My God, it has not changed,” interjects Pickles.

Hal Linden in his Tony Award winning role for 1970’s “The Rothschild’s”

“But it was Harrison who started it,” Linden emphasizes. “Once you did not really have to sing, you could just speak, every show had to have a Hollywood name or a recognizable name. I guess I could have made a switch in my life and said I am not going to do that anymore. But I had four kids by then. So I had to keep working. My career was very checkered. I did grunt work for the first 17 years. Understudy, standby, you name it until The Rothschilds in 1970 [for which he won a Tony Award for best actor in a musical.]  I made a career through stage managers, understudy rehearsals and demonstration records for songwriters, things like that. That’s how they knew me. By the time I did The Rothschilds, I was 40 years old. I didn’t really start at any level until I was 40.”

“Is it not wonderful to be so honest?” says Pickles, in that polished silver British voice television and radio audiences have come to recognize. “You do not always meet actors who are honest about their careers. That is why he is such a good actor.”

Hal Linden in the 1972 national tour of “Kiss Me Kate”

Barney Miller creator Danny Arnold caught Linden in The Rothschilds by accident and cast him in the title role of his new sitcom series. Linden became a network fixture throughout the ’70s and ’80s. Later he starred in several other series including Blacke’s Magic, Jack’s Place and The Boys Are Back. Linden earned two Emmys for ABC’s FYI series, plus another for The Writing on the Wall, a CBS Schoolbreak Special. He returned to Broadway to star in shows like I’m Not Rappaport, The Sisters Rosensweig, Cabaret and The Revival. Recent regional productions include Tuesdays with Morrie in Toronto and Palm Springs and The Sunshine Boys at LA’s Odyssey Theatre.

Pickles admits she had no idea then how lucky she had been at the beginning and throughout various stages of her career on Broadway, in regional theater and later television. She did stints at the McCarter (under Arthur Lithgow), Stratford Shakespeare Festival and the Long Wharf; summer toured with Rabb’s troupe before doing repertory on and Off Broadway throughout the ’60s and ’70s with fellow members like Rosemary Harris, Barry Bostwick and Brian Bedford. She concurrently appeared in soap operas like Another World before moving to LA in 1979 and landing on series television shortly thereafter.

Christina Pickles and Granville Van Dusen in 1985’s “Undiscovered Country” at Mark Taper Forum

“We did The Wild Duck in the afternoon and Twelfth Night in the evening,” she recalls of her APA years under Rabb. “It was ridiculously wonderful for a short period of time. But, then of course they couldn’t afford it because the unions had to be paid for all the set changes. And we couldn’t keep doing it. Then I was up in Williamstown and met Bruce Paltrow, who later gave me St. Elsewhere. So, I’ve been really lucky in being given things. Not recently but in the old days. Actually this, too! I look back on my career and think I didn’t always realize how lucky I was. I did not know that the APA rep company was a gold moment. I did not know that St. Elsewhere was an extraordinary thing. Only in my later years, I now realize how lucky I am to have this part and this wonderful theater.”

“Probably the most important characteristic a working actor needs, depending upon how you define it, is stick-to-it-ness or stupidity,” laughs Linden. “Not realizing that you have alternatives. You just keep doing it until eventually if you’re any good, something will happen.”

“There weren’t any casting directors then,” Pickles points out. “The directors took you places if they liked you. You would go from stage manager to referral, this to that. Very different. I liked it. It was more of a community.”

“How many good actresses do you know who couldn’t hang on?” Linden asks her. “I look at that all of the time. Friends of mine who were fine actors who just couldn’t stay the course. How lucky we were.”

“I was at RADA with Brian, Albert and Peter,” notes Pickles. “They were all there when I was there. All of the girls that were there were also really good. I was a little girl from Yorkshire and way too young to be among them. I don’t know what my parents were thinking. I was hopeless. But all of these actresses who were so wonderful are not in it now [acting]. They left. Except one or two. But, in my little group, I thought, ‘Oh, I wish I could be like her,’ well, she left. She couldn’t hack it.”

Christina Pickles and Courtney Cox in “Friends”

Pickles certainly could, and she went on after St. Elsewhere to earn a sixth Emmy nomination for her recurring role as Ross and Monica’s dysfunctional mother on Friends, a part she played from episode 1 to the season finale. Locally she was part of the ensemble that won an LADCC Award for Cloud Nine at the Canon Theatre and she was nominated for LADCC honors for Undiscovered Country at the Taper. She recently appeared in SCR’s Dead Man’s Cell Phone. As a member of Antaeus Company, she performed in Noel Coward’s Dinner at 8:30. Her numerous film credits include Romeo + Juliet, Legends of the Fall and The Wedding Singer.

She also starred in the Taper’s production of Darlinghissima: Letters to a Friend at the Itchey Foot cabaret. “That was one of the best experiences of my life,” Pickles recalls. She performed it with famed New Yorker writer Janet Flanner’s real-life lover Natalia Danesi Murray, to whom Flanner’s letters — some of them from the World War II era –  were addressed. “Natalia was so wonderful and Janet’s writing — it was amazing. I was a child during the war in England and Natalia said to me one day, ‘How do you know how to do this stuff?’ And I said, ‘because I’m English. I know about the war.’ She had done it with some other American actresses in New York and they didn’t have the same kind of relationship to the material that I had. I was very proud of it.”

Funny Senior Moments

At seventy-something and 80 respectively, Pickles and Linden appreciate the joys as well as the challenges inherent in tackling lengthy parts written for their age categories. Colony audiences marveled with delight at Alan Mandell’s critically acclaimed 2008 performance in Trying, but the octogenarian admitted to LA STAGE magazine that he initially woke up at night in fear of forgetting his lines. Linden can relate.

“It was a source of concern before we started,” he admits. “Is this going to be the show? Is this going to be the last? Will I be able to show up and will I be able to spit it out? I mean, I find myself standing in the middle of rooms saying ‘I know I came in here for a reason’, which I didn’t do when I was 40. I think it’s a wonderful source of victory when you find yourself in rehearsal and you do a whole scene. You get through a whole section and say, ‘Whoa, I did that. It made sense.’ It is something you’ve got to just keep doing until one day they’ll say, ‘You know, back up the truck.’”

“Maybe it’s the last thing I’ll ever do or maybe it’s the first thing of a new career,” adds Pickles, who saw Trying twice. “I don’t know. When you’re working on a play, it’s so totally engrossing, I don’t know about the rest. For the first week through, I thought, ‘Oh, I’m quite good in this part; this is going to be good.’ Then you start working on it and you start shredding and finding out the layers and you realize how much there is to do and then you don’t feel good at all. And you go through a period of feeling like, ‘Christ, am I ever going to do it?’ I think when you’re young you don’t quite investigate so deeply and you trip along more.”


Linden wants to emphasize the humor in the play. “The funny part of being old, not the reality. I think the funnier this is, the more touching it will be. As opposed to what Thompson writes in the prologue of this version, about the more real it is, the more touching it will be. I think if we can find the funny when it gets touching, it will be even more touching.”

“I think he’s right,” concurs Pickles about exploring the play’s themes. “Surviving the end, drawing to a close. Surviving and fighting to stay here. I think you’ve got to be funny or you’ll kill yourself,” she laughs. “It’s hard to talk about a play that you’re in the middle of rehearsing.”

When Linden is reminded of a philosophy he uttered during a recent radio interview about playing life moment to moment, he nods.

“You’ve got to. There’s no point in playing yesterday.”

**Hal Linden and Christina Pickles photographed by Eric Schwabel

**On Golden Pond production photos by Michael Lamont

On Golden Pond, presented by the Colony Theatre Company. Opens July 30. Thurs.-Fri. 8 pm; Sat. 3 pm and 8 pm. Sun. 2 pm. Through August 28. Tickets: $20-47. The Colony Theatre, 555 North Third Street (at Cypress), Burbank. 818-558-7000 ext. 15.

Categories NEWS

$5 From Each Sale Will Go To The Non-Profit

NEW YORK — June 2, 2011 — Hal Linden, the Emmy and Tony Award-winning actor, famous for his television role as Barney Miller is finally realizing a lifelong dream: recording a CD. But staying true to his other passions he has not forgotten Jewish National Fund (JNF) at this exciting time.

When Linden fans purchase It’s Never Too Late on $5 from each sale will be donated to JNF. Linden has been JNF’s national spokesperson since 1998.

The CD includes Broadway and film tunes, classic pop songs, as well as jazz standards and favorites from the American Songbook that Linden, a classically trained clarinetist recorded over a period of three decades in various settings — large and small studios, with big bands and combos, in locations from New York to Los Angeles — a variety that reflects his diverse musical and theatrical background.

Hal Linden with JNF resevoir dedication marker

Linden and his late wife Frances both worked with JNF and gave generously to the organization, together designating a major gift for a reservoir to help Israel’s water crisis, in honor of his parents Charles and Frances Lipshitz.

“From the day he came to America from Lithuania, my father devoted his life to the creation of the State of Israel, co-founding a Zionist support group, which exists to this day,” Linden says. “When I was asked to be a part of JNF, I saw the opportunity to carry on my father’s dream.

“My association with JNF reminds me that there is something to be done for my community and the world.”

With the new CD, Linden, who celebrated his 80th birthday March 20, proves it is never too late to reach for our dreams.

HalLinden Plants Tree for JNF

Jewish National Fund (JNF) began in 1901 collecting coins in blue boxes to purchase land and return the Jewish people to their homeland. In over 109 years, JNF has evolved into a global environmental leader and become the central address for partnering with the land and people of Israel. JNF has planted 250 million trees; built over 1,000 parks and recreational areas; constructed security roads; educated students around the world about Israel; created new communities so that Jews from around the world would have a place to call home; discovered new means of growing plants under arid conditions, bringing green to the desert; and built over 220 reservoirs and water recycling centers, increasing Israel’s water supply by 12%. Today, JNF is supporting Israel’s newest generation of pioneers by bringing life to the Negev Desert, Israel’s last frontier.

A United Nations NGO, JNF sponsors international conferences on desertification, shares afforestation techniques, and funds research on arid land management. JNF is a registered 501(c)(3) organization and continuously earns top ratings from charity overseers. For more information on JNF, call 888-JNF-0099 or visit

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Hal Linden can still hold a note
The Tony Award winner and star of ‘Barney Miller’ compiled recordings for decades and now has a CD.

May 20, 2011|By Susan King, Los Angeles Times

“It’s Never Too Late” is not only the title of Hal Linden’s first CD of songs, it’s also his mantra.

A robust 80, the Tony Award winner for the musical “The Rothschilds” and star of the classic 1974-82 television series “Barney Miller” is “still kicking,” as he describes it. And still singing, having just returned from doing 28 concerts in Florida — “generally for older people” — “with gigs for next year already. We got about eight or nine gigs starting in December.”

Keeping busy, he adds quietly, is also helping him cope with the death of his wife, Frances, last year after 52 years of marriage.

The newly released “It’s Never Too Late” quite literally was 30 years in the making.

“Why did it take so long?” he quips while sitting in the dining room of his Marina del Rey condo that has expansive views of the marina.

Linden explains that he began his career in the early 1950s as a musician and big-band singer. “I went into the Army in 1954 and I was prepared to come back and be a professional musician. My first job out of the box was with [orchestra leader] Sammy Kaye, who had a TV show. I got a gig on the TV show playing the saxophone.”

One evening, the guests on the show were the seminal rockers Bill Haley and the Comets. As fast as they could sing “Rock Around the Clock,” the big-band era was over and rock ‘n’ roll was here to stay. “The world changed right under my foot,” he says. “I became obsolete forever. I am not complaining about it because it forced me into theater.”

But in the 1980s, he was touring the country giving concerts with a 15-piece orchestra and he thought it would be fun to revive the big-band sound. So he hired jazz arranger Bob Florence to work on creating a big-band sound for such tunes as “You’d Be So Nice to Come Home to.” Linden recorded four songs but no one seemed to share his interest, so the tracks were relegated to a drawer.

Flash forward a decade and Linden was in New York when he ran across a man who had been in the jingle business years before. They decided to collaborate on recording four more tunes. This time, the concept was Grammy Award winners. Linden recorded “You Light Up My Life,” “Hello, Dolly!,” “Evergreen” and “Moon River,” the latter with a country twang. But everyone turned a deaf ear, and these tracks joined the others in the drawer.

Until last year — when the booker for his Florida tours suggested a CD. “People want souvenirs,” the man told Linden. “They want to buy something after your concert.” So Linden quickly resurrected the eight songs and added a few more for “It’s Never Too Late,” including the haunting ballad, “Late in Life,” which had been submitted to him years before.

“I took ‘Late in Life’ and made an arrangement with the orchestra that backs me up and I use that as my encore for senior audiences,” Linden says.

Though success didn’t happen to him late in life, Linden was nearly 40 when he got his big break on Broadway in the Sheldon Harnick-Jerry Bock musical, “The Rothschilds,” in which Linden played the patriarch of the financial titans.

“I had auditioned for every Harnick and Bock show there was,” Linden says. “I auditioned for ‘She Loves Me,’ ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ and ‘The Apple Tree.’ I came in second every time.” Then one summer, Harnick, who was a good friend of Linden’s, told the actor he was writing “The Rothschilds” with him in mind.

It was “The Rothschilds” that won Linden the role of the even-keeled New York City police Capt. Barney Miller in the series that garnered Emmys and Golden Globes and is still considered one of the best sitcoms ever to grace the small screen.

“It was pure luck that got me the role,” Linden recalls. “Danny Arnold, who created it, was doing a movie in New York he had written and was the line producer, which means you are always on the set. At Christmastime, his wife sent him his two kids [from Los Angeles] to spend Christmas with him. But he had no time for them, so he got the assistant stage manager to get a limo and keep them busy until the evening.”

But one day the children rebelled and demanded to spend the day with their father. “He said, ‘I don’t have time,'” Linden says. “The director overheard it and said, ‘We are just finishing the scene and we have a set move, so it’s going to take all afternoon.'”

So Arnold and his children went off and caught a matinee of “The Rothschilds.”

Some two years later, Linden reports, Arnold was preparing to shoot the pilot of “Barney Miller” when ABC sent him a list of actors the network thought he should consider for the lead role. “He said, ‘No. There is an actor in New York. I saw him in ‘The Rothschilds.'” In those days, you could tell the network whom you wanted.”

It was Linden who needed convincing.

“I was mainly theater and I was looking forward to a continuing career on Broadway,” he says. But the script was just too good to pass up. And there were just too many “what if’s” for the actor to ignore.

“What if he didn’t go to the play? What if the kids didn’t rebel? What if, what if? So that was that.”

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Starr report

Last Updated: 12:58 AM, May 10, 2011

Posted: 11:07 PM, May 9, 2011

headshotMichael Starr
Blog: TV

I’ve mentioned in this column, many times before, that ABC’s “Barney Miller” (1975-82) is one of my all-time-favorite shows, with an A-list cast headlined by Hal Linden, Max Gail, Ron Glass, Steve Landesberg, Jack Soo, Abe Vigoda, James Gregory and Ron Carey. I always felt that each “Barney Miller” episode was akin to a one-act play in the way it was written, acted and directed by this terrific ensemble cast.

I mention this here because Hal Linden, who won a Tony in 1972 for the Broadway musical “The Rothschilds,” has his first CD at the age of 80. It’s called “It’s Never Too Late” and includes jazz, Big Band numbers and Broadway and film tunes: “Up a Lazy River,” “She’s Out of My Life,” “Hello, Dolly!” “If I Could” and even Billy Joel’s “She’s Got a Way,” among others.

Former 'Barney Miller' star Hal Linden, who turned 80 in March, has his first CD. It's called 'It's Never Too Late' and includes Broadway tunes, Big Band classics and jazz.

Former “Barney Miller” star Hal Linden, who turned 80 in March, has his first CD. It’s called “It’s Never Too Late” and includes Broadway tunes, Big Band classics and jazz.

Arrangers on the CD include Bob Florence, Jonathan Tunick and Tom Scott. Linden plays clarinet on a few tracks (he’s a classically trained clarinetist).

The CD is available on and in music stores.

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Hal Linden Releases Debut CD

by admin

Disc Features Broadway and Film Tunes, Jazz, Classic Pop and Standards From The American Songbook

Hal Linden, the Emmy and Tony Award-winning actor, who became a household name with his portrayal of police precinct captain Barney Miller in the hit television series, realizes a lifelong dream with the release of his first CD, It’s Never Too Late.

The disc is a diverse collection of Broadway and film tunes, classic pop songs, as well as jazz standards and favorites from the American Songbook that Linden recorded over a period of three decades in a variety of settings—large and small studios, with big bands and combos, in locations from New York to Los Angeles.

Linden, an accomplished singer and musician, (he is a classically trained clarinetist), worked with several top arrangers to put his own stamp on well-known tunes such as Cole Porter’s “You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To,” which opens the 14-track album. It’s followed by a medley of “Mississippi Mud,” first recorded in 1928 and made popular by Bing Crosby; and, the Hoagy Carmichael song “Up A Lazy River.”

The disc shifts gears with a soulful version of “She’s Out of My Life,” arranged by renowned jazz pianist and Grammy-award winner Bob Florence, who has worked with Harry James, Buddy Rich, Louie Bellson and Doc Severinson. Florence also arranged “If I Could,” a hit for Regina Belle and, later, a staple of Celine Dion’s Las Vegas show.

Linden worked on Broadway for many years, so it is only fitting that tunes from the Great White Way find a home here, including “Hello Dolly!,” which features additional new lyrics penned by songwriter Jerry Herman, and Stephen Sondheim’s Zigfield-esque “Beautiful Girls” from his 1971 musical Follies. “Girls” was arranged by Grammy Award-winner Jonathan Tunick, a renowned arranger and conductor for stage and screen.

Film music is well represented on It’s Never Too Late including the Grammy, Golden Globe and Academy Award-winning hits “You Light Up My Life,” and “Evergreen.” Linden gives the former a new twist, by adding a gospel choir. A touch of pedal steel on “Moon River,” gives the classic country colors. (Interesting trivia: It was Linden who performed “You Light Up My Life” at the Golden Globes ceremony in 1978, where it won the award for Best Original Song, and later tied for Song Of The Year with “The Love Theme From A Star Is Born (Evergreen)” at the Grammy Awards).

Other cuts include Billy Joel’s “She’s Got a Way,” that Linden delivers with a jazzy edge, a perfect complement to the artist’s own tune “Meet Me At Jack’s,” a cool, finger-snappin’ number (arranged by Tom Scott) and originally written as the potential theme song for the television series Jack’s Place. Linden plays clarinet on several tracks including the instrumental “There Will Never Be Another You.” The CD closes with “Late In Life,” a track that holds particular meaning for Linden, with the lyric “It’s never too late in life to reach for a childhood dream.”

Linden, who came of age during the Big Band era, had dreamed of one day leading a band of his own, where he could sing, play the clarinet, tour and make records. When he returned from a stint in the army, however, he realized that big bands were less in demand and his career path subsequently led him to the stage, film and television. He continues to tour the country with his successful cabaret-style act that has earned him rave reviews. “Hal Linden wows them,” notes the Portland Oregonian, “…a triple-threat performer with a big voice.”

With the new CD, Linden, who celebrates his 80th birthday March 20, 2011, proves it is never too late to reach for our dreams.

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