THE HANK GARRETT INTERVIEW
the star of "Car 54 Where
are you?" TALKS TO RETROCRUSH
Join us as Hank talks about the
classic TV series "Car 54 Where are you?", going postal in "Three Days of
the Condor", and the time OJ Simpson split his skull open.
How did you end up being on the classic TV show Car 54 Where Are
My friend was a comedian and
his wife worked for Nat Hiken who created Sgt. Bilko and Car 54. I read
for him and the next day I was at the studio filming car 54.
were friends on the show with Fred Gwynne from The Munsters
He went on to become Herman
Munster. The guy who was my partner on Car 54, Al Lewis ended up being
Grandpa Munster. I call Al every once in awhile to see how heís doing.
He's is in his 90ís.
He has a young wife too?
Yes, I guess thatís what
keeps him going.
You almost had a spin-off TV show with Al.
We were supposed to do
another show called The Schnausers because that was his characterís
last name on Car 54.
Car 54 was on TV for two years?
We were coming back for
another season of Car 54. NBC told Nat Heiken they wanted 50% of the show.
He said, "No way. Weíre going to another network." There wasnít any
airtime left on the other networks so he yanked the show and that was the
end of that.
Car 54 is very fondly remembered.
was a wonderful comedy. I looked forward to going to work everyday.
I had never seen a red and white police car.
It was red and white because
the show was shot in black and white. It was the only way it would read.
Were you sponsored by someone?
We were sponsored by Proctor
and Gamble. They gave us cases of Lava Soap. I donít know if you know what
Lava Soap is?
Something made out of Volcanic Ash?
It felt like it. It was
gritty. They kept sending us cases of Lava soap and Tide.
Was that show filmed mainly in LA?
No, it was New York. We were
at the old Gold Metal Biograph Studios in the Bronx. In fact when we
opened the studio we found traces of the old silent movies. There were
costumes from the old movie series, "The Perils of Pauline". There was a
heroine and she was absolutely adored.
Did you have many guest stars on Car 54?
Nat Heiken was a big sports
fan. We had a lot of fighters on the show that were champions. We had
Rocky Marciano, Jake LaMotta, and Sugar Ray Robinson.
Itís been written that actor Joe E. Ross was
unprofessional on the show.
I never had a problem with
Joe. Sometimes he didnít study his lines.
Did you have Poker nights?
Every Friday at about 3
oíclock Nat Heiken would say itís a wrap and we went bowling. We had a
bowling team which included the cast and the crew.
did you think of the Car 54 remake?
I was called and asked to be
in it. I took a look at the script and I decided to pass. It was awful. I
watched a couple of minutes of it and I said, "Thank God I didnít do this
You were in the movie Serpico with Al Pacino.
I play Muscles Malone.
You kick butt on a rapist.
Iíve had the great fortune
to work with the greatest actors and directors of all time. In Condor I
worked with Director Sidney Lumet. I was in Three Days of the Condor
with Director Sydney Pollack.
What was Robert Redford like in Three Days of the
Robert was a wonderful guy.
I had a great fight scene with him in Faye Dunawayís apartment. Max von
Sydow played my boss. I won a New York Film Criticsí award
for that role.
Did you talk to Faye Dunaway?
I hung out with Redford.
Faye Dunaway was very private.
people freak out over your postal killer role when, Three Days of the
Condor came out?
When it first came out there
was a lady from the William Morris agency who said, "Will you do me a
favor? Take my shoulder bag and go to this other agentís room when she saw
Condor you scared the hell out of her." Stupidly I took the shoulder bag
and stood in the doorway. She looked at me and screamed at the top of her
You had a brief scene in Death Wish as a
I was Andrew McCabe. It was
You played a bartender in the original Amityville
Yes. It was great.
What about Margot Kidder & James Brolin?
I just had the scene with
James. He was a very fun guy. Heís done a number of films.
married to Barbra Streisand.
Yes, heís Mr. Barbra
Did you see the remake of Amityville?
Iíve seen it and Iíve
watched remakes of a couple other films. I donít know why they destroy
something that's a classic.
You were in the horror movie, The Sentinel.
I actually just did a few
days on that. It was a weird, scary film.
What about Exorcist II: The Heretic?
They approached me about
doing Exorcist II and they paid me a lot of money. I told them send me the
script. They did and I didnít have a line. I was in New York and they had
this beautiful costume made for me. They take a shot of me on the train
station and then they flew me to California for interior shots. They put
me up in a first class hotel and I didnít even have a word to say.
I guess they thought the second one would be another big
You worked with Sophia Loren and OJ Simpson in a movie
In the movie Iím a bad guy
who kidnaps Sophia Loren and Iím standing outside the car. OJís supposed
to come up behind me and bang my head against the side of the car to
rescue her. Iíve done stunts before. I told OJ when you run up behind me
put your hand on the back of my head and Iíll do the hit by myself. He ran
so fast he smashed my head up against the car. He laid my scalp open.
He said, "Oh, Iím so sorry I
was running so fast I just couldnít stop." Now hereís a guy who was one of
the best broken field runners when he was playing football. Suddenly he
couldnít control his speed.
Then I found out about a
year later. A producer who owned a restaurant told me that OJ said you
were a wimp and he was able to take you out.
What a jerk!
Yeah. I said, "So he did it
on purpose." And he said, "Yes, he did."
They must have had to stitch you up?
When I came too I was laying
in Sophia Lorenís arms. Sheís absolutely stunning.
You've written about how nice she is.
We were shooting on this
boat with director Michael Winner. They were bringing our food to us.
Sophia got in line with the actors and the crew to get some food. Michael
said to her, "Sophia, no no no! We have our table here. You donít eat that
swill." She replied, "I do." She stayed with us. The food was sensational.
The director had special gold rim plates with special food brought to him.
There were a lot of explosions and stunts on that movie.
A lot of guys got hurt.
There was a scene where James Coburn dumps fuel overboard while being
chased and he fires a flare gun. The boat thatís chasing then explodes and
the stuntmen are in the water. The stunt coordinator said to Michael
Winter, "You canít do the stunt here. Itís too windy. When the stunt men
come up from underwater they canít poke a hole in the fire because it
closes right back up." Michael said, "I want it here." He insisted and a
number of stuntmen were burned.
Did this movie get wide distribution?
It didnít get great reviews,
but it had fair distribution. James Coburn was an incredible guy to be
were on a TV show with James Earl Jones?
I was co-starring. We had a TV show called Paris.
Thatís what brought me to California from New York. It only lasted one
season. We had incredible reviews when we first came out.
The network said youíre so
strong we have another show thatís not doing so well. We want you to
switch time slots with them. We were on Tuesday night where we won our
night. They put us in another time slot opposite "Hart to Hart" on
Saturday night and we died.
It was a cop show?
James played the captain of
police and I was his boss. I was a deputy chief inspector. His character
also taught Criminology in a college. James is a fantastic human being and
we had a great time together.
Do you think because of your role in Car 54 that youíve
been typecast into playing military/police types?
Itís interesting because
they would not offer me serious roles because I was a standup comic and I
was in a comedy series. Then I was in a serious role in Three Days of
the Condor and now they donít consider me for comedy roles.
canít win can you?
Itís the nature of the
You were in The Jazz Singer?
I played the desk sergeant.
When I was a kid I went to go see that on the big screen
and I was bored to tears.
Oh yea. It was a terrible
What about the movie, The Boys Next Door with
Charlie Sheen and Maxwell Caulfield.
It was a terrific film. It
just didnít get the attention it deserved.
What was the set like?
They were great fun to be
with. In fact I ran into Charlie recently and he said, "Oh my God. How
have you been?" He was very warm & friendly. I ran into Max at a celebrity
autograph show which I do all around the country.
I was just at a big martial
arts convention at the Sheraton at Universal. I was selling celebrity
autograph pictures there. Fifty percent of whatever I take in goes to
disabled American Veterans. Itís the least I can do.
Thatís a great thing to do with whatís going on with the
Thatís what prompted me to
do that when I saw what these kids look like when theyíre coming home.
you get to meet Jackie Gleason on the set of The Sting II?
I had met him years ago. I
had worked clubs that Jackie Gleason had worked because he was a stand up
comic before he got into television. We were talking about some of the
clubs in Stanton Island that he & I had worked at different times. He
asked, "Is that place still there?" The owner was named Pete Clunk. It was
You toured as a comedian with Tony Bennett?
I was Tony Bennettís opening
act for 4 years. I worked the Copacabana, and the Sands in Las
Vegas. The last couple of years I was opening for Jerry Vale.
Did they have the high roller rooms?
At one point the boss came
up to me and said, "The Arab oil sheiks have their own gambling floor and
theyíd like you to do a show." I said, "Sure". You donít say no.
Yea, they might slaughter you or something.
They paid absolutely no
attention. They kept gambling. A guy came up to me and said, "You were
wonderful. You best comedian." as I was leaving and handed me a handful of
chips. It was 4,000 dollars!
I donít think people realize how wealthy some Arabians
The stories were amazing how
much they would lose and it meant absolutely nothing. They could drop a
couple of million dollars. While they were gambling they'd make several
Did they have lots of Arabian women around?
The women were off in their
rooms or off shopping. They were never with their men.
Do you have any night that was the craziest?
My whole life has been one
Youíve studied Martial Arts.
I was just inducted into the
Karate Hall of Fame. That happened in the latter part of June. I was
presented with a ring. I started in Martial Arts in 1952. I got my black
belt in New York at the Chinatown Dojo. I trained six days a week.
Can you hit a board and break it?
If I hit a board Iím sure
the board would hit back and Iíd be laid up.
You toured Playboy Clubs in the 1960ís?
It was a great place to
work. They sometimes booked you for years. Youíd travel around the country
working different clubs. Membership was rather inexpensive. You could go
to the Playboy Club and have lunch for a couple of bucks. They were great
remember looking at my dadís Playboys as a kid and thinking those clubs
look pretty neat.
Iím sure you looked at the
magazine and thought, "Wow, look at the club."
You work out quite a bit.
My son and I lift weights.
Iíve competed as a bodybuilder and power lifter. I work out with my son
who is 21 and in incredible shape.
Where you married a couple of times through the years?
I was married the first time
to a very beautiful lady in New York for 18 years. My last marriage was 22
Are you still currently married?
She became a healer and her
whole life change. She wanted out.
She got into a whole different thing.
Yes, very much so.
have a role on the cartoon GI Joe?
I am the voice of Dial Tone
in GI Joe. I have a sketch by the original artist of me and the character
back to back.
Even the action figure looks a little like you?
How does that work? Do you get into a big room?
They tell you this is the
character and this is the script. We record the script.
You were in the 1980ís classic series "Max Headroom". Did
they use computers in that?
They used computers and it
was terrific. It was short lived series and very popular in England.
What else about Max Headroom?
The director and producer
were wonderful. They asked if you guys mind working overtime and youíll
have the rest of the week off. It was a 14 Ė 16 hour day. They paid us for
the full week.
Are there other roles youíre proud of?
I played Peter Falkís boss
on Columbo. Heís wonderful. I worked with him in a show called, "The
Trials of Oí Brian". I did a guest star with him on that.
always has that squinty thing with his eye.
He lost his eye as a child.
Itís actually a fake eye. It doesnít cloud up does it?
Not that Iím aware of.
You did a guest on Kojak.
Heís a real guy!
You were on Threeís Company?
Working with John Ritter
that was the best time Iíve ever had on any TV show.
He welcomed you on the set?
Not just me. He welcomed
everybody. We knew each other because he had an improvisational comedy
background as I do. He was incredible and sensational to work with.
Are there any other roles youíd like to play down the
Iíll take whatever comes
Growing up who did you have a retroCRUSH on?
Thereís so many ladies that
I stood there with my mouth open. I mean Sophia Loren is a gorgeous,
gorgeous lady. I kept saying to myself, "My God Iím working with Sophia
To find out more about Hank
Garrett go to his official website at: