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Paul Michael Glaser Biography


Home > Actors > G > Glaser, Paul Michael > Biography


Birth Name: Paul Michael Glaser
Born: 03/25/1943
Birth Place: Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA


Born Paul Manfred Glaser on March 25, 1943 in Cambridge, MA, he was the youngest child and only son of Dorothy and Samuel Glaser, a Boston area architect. Raised in the upper-middle-class communities of Brookline and Newton, the young Glaser knew he wanted to act when, at the age of 14, his sister took him to see his first theatrical production. He soon began performing in school productions, and after graduating from the progressive boarding school, The Cambridge School of Weston, Glaser eagerly sought out a college with a strong theater department. Based on its reputation, he enrolled in the theater program at New Orleans' Tulane University, where he was the roommate of aspiring director-writer Bruce Paltrow, future father of Oscar-winning actress, Gwyneth Paltrow. Glaser dove into his acting studies enthusiastically, spending his summers in stock theaters between years at Tulane. After graduating with his BA in 1966, he returned east and quickly earned a Masters Degree in Theater from Boston University. Armed with two degrees and five seasons of summer stock experience, Glaser then made the move to New York City for its "Great White Way" in 1968.

That first year, Glaser appeared in director Joseph Papp's off-Broadway rock musical version of Shakespeare's "Hamlet" as a guard. He went on to make his Broadway debut in Robert Shaw's "The Man in the Glass Booth" (1969) opposite veteran character actor Donald Pleasance and was directed by the legendary playwright, Harold Pinter. Shortly thereafter, Glaser accepted a role he had previously turned down, as Blythe Danner's boyfriend in "Butterflies Are Free" at Broadway's Booth Theater. Billed as Michael Glaser - due the fact that another actor named Paul Glaser had already accumulated SAG credits - he enjoyed his first taste of notoriety as Dr. Chernak on "Love is a Many Splendored Thing" (CBS, 1969-1973) for the 1969-70 season before joining the daytime soap as Dr. Corelli on "Love of Life" (CBS, 1951-1980) for the 1970-71 season. Despite being too old for the part as it was written, Glaser's happenstance meeting with director Norman Jewison led to his feature film debut as the young revolutionary, Perchik, in the hugely successful musical adaptation "Fiddler on the Roof" (1971). He followed by reprising the role he had played two years earlier on stage for the film version of "Butterflies are Free" (1972), this time opposite the effervescent Goldie Hawn.

Flush with his recent successes, Glaser made the inevitable move to Los Angeles, where he made steady guest appearances on popular series such as "The Streets of San Francisco" (ABC, 1972-77) and "The Rockford Files" (NBC, 1974-1980), in addition to several made-for-TV movies. It was, however, his starring role as Detective Dave Starsky on the seminal buddy-cop action drama "Starsky & Hutch" (ABC, 1975-79) that catapulted Glaser to overnight stardom. Set in the fictional Southern California metropolis of Bay City, Starsky and his partner Ken "Hutch" Hutchinson (David Soul) took on the toughest criminals and most challenging cases with a freewheeling bravado and unbreakable camaraderie. Indeed, it was the unmistakable chemistry between the show's charismatic leads that led to the series' breakaway success, although it seemed to some - Glaser in particular - that Starsky's iconic Ford Gran Torino at times shared too much of the spotlight. Dubbed by Glaser as the "striped tomato," the star reportedly enjoyed mistreating the gaudy, red gas-guzzler at every opportunity. Pressured by critics and civic groups, the show began to dial back on the explicit violence it had become known for, and at the same time Glaser's desire to remain on the series began to wane. In addition to a substantial pay raise, the opportunity to direct several episodes kept the actor on board until the cancelation of "Starsky & Hutch" at the end of its fourth season. During the height of the show's popularity, Glazer jumped at the chance to play the title role of the legendary magician/escape artist in "The Great Houdini" (ABC, 1976), opposite Sally Struthers as Bess, his beloved wife.

Freed from the responsibilities of a weekly series, Glaser returned to feature films in the role of an experimental psychiatrist whose patients are dying under mysterious circumstances in director John Huston's poorly received thriller, "Phobia" (1980). Although the actor starred in the miniseries "Princess Daisy" (NBC, 1983) opposite fellow 1970s icon Lindsey Wagner, and appeared alongside Tony Danza in the romantic drama "Single Bars, Single Women" (ABC, 1984), his attentions were increasingly turning to work behind the camera. Glaser directed the titillating TV movie thriller "Amazons" (ABC, 1984), but made an even bigger impression with his efforts on "Miami Vice" (NBC, 1984-89). Besides directing the 1985-86 season premiere of the phenomenally successful show, Glaser directed numerous later episodes, winning an Emmy nomination for helming "Smuggler's Blues," an episode featuring Eagles band member Glenn Frey, who also provided a hit song of the same name. Glaser's success on the small screen also led to directing opportunities in feature films. He made his big screen directorial debut with "Band of the Hand" (1986). Set in Miami, it was the story of a Vietnam Vet (Stephen Lang) who whips a group of teenage street toughs in an anti-drug vigilante group. While the film set no box office fires, it won Glaser the chance to direct the Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle "The Running Man" (1987), based on a Stephen King novella about a futuristic world in which convicted felons try to survive a televised execution gauntlet disguised as a game show. Five years later, he helmed the charming, though clich├ęd romance "The Cutting Edge" (1992), which featured winning performances from Moira Kelly and D. B. Sweeney.

For all the outward success of Glaser's recent years, unimaginable tragedy had visited his personal life in the form of the AIDS epidemic. Unbeknownst to anyone, Glaser's wife, Elizabeth, had contracted HIV as a result of tainted blood from an emergency transfusion during the birth of the couple's first child, daughter Ariel, in August of 1981. The condition and cause was only discovered after the birth of their second child, Jake, in 1984. To Glaser and his wife's horror, not only was Jake born HIV positive, but Ariel had long since contracted the disease via her mother's breast milk. Ariel died in 1988 from the disease, the same year his mother launched the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. Glaser's beloved wife passed away herself in December of 1994. Attempting to work through the unbearable anguish he must surely have been experiencing, Glaser took on directorial duties for the sports comedy "The Air Up There" (1994), starring Kevin Bacon as an American who goes to Africa to recruit an unbelievably tall basketball prodigy (Charles Gitonga Maina). Throwing himself into his work, he next conceived the story, co-produced and directed the youth-oriented "Kazaam" (1996), a whimsical tale of a rapping genie (Shaquille O'Neal), released from a boom box, as opposed to the traditional oil lamp.

Glaser gradually returned to screens large and small with supporting roles in the Jack Nicholson/Diane Keaton romantic comedy "Something's Gotta Give" (2003), and a recurring role as Captain Jack Steeper on the LAPD drama "Third Watch" (NBC, 1999-2005) in 2004. That same year, he made a memorable cameo alongside Soul and the "striped tomato" for the closing moments of the big screen adaptation of "Starsky & Hutch" (2004), starring Ben Stiller in the role originated by Glaser and Owen Wilson as Hutch. Going back to his theatrical roots, Glaser gleefully played the part of the villainous Captain Hook in a 2007 stage production of "Peter Pan" in the U.K. Further TV guest spots on series that included "The Closer" (TNT, 2005- ) and "The Mentalist" (CBS, 2008- ) kept him busy throughout the closing years of the decade. Personal events took a bizarre turn for Glazer when in April of 2011 he sought a restraining order against a woman he accused of stalking him. Reportedly, the unnamed woman had previously worked for Glaser, running his official website. Cited in his reasons for requesting the restraining order were claims that the individual had followed him to England where he was performing in "Peter Pan" and attended the show an astonishing 23 times. Other claims included the assertion that she had sent Glaser more than 500 emails over the course of the previous two years, in which she exhibited "both a rational and a very irrational side," leading the actor to fear for his safety.