Episode 55: The Collector

Starsky and Hutch try to track down a vicious new debt collector working for loan shark Oates, in part to protect the indebted father of Hutch’s girl, Molly.

Jack Cunningham: Robert Viharo, Annie Oates: Susan Tyrrell, Molly Bristol: Toni Kalem, Lee Bristol: Dave Shelley, John “The Apple”: Danny DeVito, Joe Garras: Jack O’Leary, Frank Carroll: Richard LePore, Minnie Kaplan: Marki Bey, Mike Todesco: Robert Rodriguez. Written By: Don Patterson, Directed By: Ivan Nagy.

NOTES AND QUESTIONS:

It’s not often Starsky and Hutch are overshadowed by secondary characters but in this episode, written by Don Patterson, both are eclipsed by beautifully drawn, scene-stealing foes. Annie Oates, faded former child star and loan shark, swans around in bustier and kimono outfits and smeary, teary glamour-gone-wrong, making Norma Desmond look tame by comparison. Jack Cunningham is a full-blown psychopath with a rich fantasy life, wearing thousand-dollar suits and jaunty carnations. Actors Susan Tyrrell and Robert Viharo make the most of their screen time, chewing the scenery, as they say, and their scenes together are riveting and unforgettable.

What’s Lee Bristol doing threatening a goon like Joe Garras with a loaded gun when two cops are, like twenty feet away? Or does this make him feel twice as safe? In the right, as it were?

I like how Molly says, in response to her father’s grumpy question, “what is this, an after-hours club?”: “Hutch and Dave have a three-day weekend”, using her boyfriend’s nickname rather than his given name.

Hutch and Molly’s relationship seems similar to the one Hutch had with Carol Wade in “Crying Child”. He’s quite formal and courtly with her rather than the romantic suitor he can be, and has been, with other girlfriends. Come to think of it, both guys seem to like Molly’s dad more than Molly. Starsky, on the other hand, is positively smoldering with his unnamed friend-for-the-evening.

Robert Viharo narrowly misses the fame achieved by the similarly charismatically creepy Christopher Walken. Especially with his first lines, delivered in his faux-Irish lilt: “Well, bye-bye then, Joe.” As wonderfully sinister as anything achieved in film.

Hutch shows up to the crime scene jogging, which is quite eccentric for a guy supposedly on the clock. He’s not even out of breath either, bouncing up those stairs as if he’s on springs. And note, too, the not-so-oblique criticism said by Hutch as the two detectives walk toward the crime scene, “I told you not to answer your phone this morning.” Since Hutch was home to receive Starsky’s call that they were needed, this implies he thought to himself, you know, I should just jog there, kill two birds. This is strange on many levels. A) sweaty is not professional, especially if duty requires you to interview people B) using up valuable energy on the run over means you may not have any left if a bad guy makes a break for it over the fence and C) strapping on a big heavy piece like a Magnum .357 is impractical while jogging, which means you’re not armed when showing up fight crime.

Garras’ miserable, low-life apartment has a maid? She apparently discovers the body, according to Todesco. Perhaps he means manager, rather than maid.

Another appearance by the inscrutable Mike Todesco, played by Richard Rodriguez, who haunts a few of the crime scenes in this season. Todesco, with his distinctive silver swath of hair, is a cynical, complicated guy with some kind of not-altogether-pleasant history with Starsky and Hutch. It’s never explained, but this is the fun of it. Watch him in “Class in Crime”.

Like the identity of Annie’s collector Joe Garras, Hutch knows the endearing John-John, but Starsky doesn’t – the collector is working Hutch’s neighborhood. Starsky and Hutch’s professional lives don’t overlap in every instance, and it’s interesting to speculate on how much they operate independently of each other. Starsky has no idea who Joe Garras is. Or Annie. And yet he doesn’t seem too surprised his partner has all this information.

Isn’t it eerie that Viharo’s Jack Cunningham smiles even when he’s alone in the car, with no one to see him?

Cunningham is careful to arm himself with a revolver when approaching Annie’s house, a precarious-looking ark perched high in the center of a junkyard. His reason for arming himself isn’t clear. He doesn’t intend to hurt either Annie or the barking dog, he means to ingratiate himself. Does he carry a gun because that’s how he comforts himself, the way some people chew on a soggy unlit cigar long after they’ve quit smoking? Or does he believe Annie will be impressed by this masculine appendage?

Why do Starsky and Hutch set up such an elaborate scene to get John-John? Starsky, chewing gum – which he almost never does (the only other exception is during the waiting scene in “Nightmare”) – flashes a $50 and sets up a bet, meanwhile Hutch (still in jogging suit) lounges in plain sight. John-John is quick to assess the situation – “hey, what are you guys doing to me?” he complains – and the jig is up. But why the jig in the first place, when all they did was want to ask him a few questions? John-John doesn’t need to be blackmailed into giving information; he gives up so quickly. But perhaps the guys weren’t sure about that and decide to give him a hard time, although they usually have a life-and-let-live policy about small-time crooks.

When Starsky and Hutch leave Annie’s after their first meeting, you can clearly see Starsky’s arm around Hutch – actually clutching his arm – as they descend the stairs. Affectionate, or spooked by the height of the stairs?

It’s a great scene with Starsky, Hutch and Dobey, the comedy doors and the cups changing hands. Nicely choreographed to make the scene sing in a way it wouldn’t otherwise.

There’s another velvet curtain on a bar? Just like the one in last season’s Latin bar in “Velvet Jungle”, Huggy’s Pits has a blue velvet curtain instead of a door. What is this, some Los Angeles it’s-always-summer fashion statement?

“Come on Huggy,” Starsky says, “the lady is suffering from acrophobia.” Huggy asks what that is and Starsky explains it’s a fear of heights. To me the lady seems to be suffering more from agoraphobia that acrophobia – a fear of open spaces. Still, it’s a puzzle how Starsky got that bit of information in the first place. Annie, or Catherine, is a recluse, her habits not likely to be known by many, and also this is not in Starsky’s neighborhood.

The guys tell Huggy his liquor license has expired, and Starsky says laconically, “congratulations on your closing”. This sounds like a threat, and it’s surprising, considering all Huggy has done for them in the past.

A citation, a promotion, and a raise in pay for Minnie doesn’t disguise the fact that this is a sexist, depressing world for female police officers. And Starsky and Hutch do nothing to improve things with their stupid behavior.

Hutch’s crabby comment that “I don’t like blondes” when Molly offers to go in disguise to Jack in a wig is an egregious lie if there ever was one. He only dates blondes. Is it because Molly as a blonde would be more sexually attractive to him and he’s resistant to that idea?

Getting Molly on board makes an interesting narrative twist, but it’s entirely unnecessary and overall a terrible idea. Why wouldn’t Dobey insist on employing an actual police officer undercover, especially after a murder, a bombing, and the possibility of arresting a notorious hit man? Deputizing a citizen says more about the lack of female officers than anything else when Molly is forced to assume this dangerous role, but really, there’s no reason to draft a young girl into the role of someone desperate for cash. In the first place, it’s too dangerous. In the second place, there’s no evidence Jack Cunningham would be more sympathetic to a female more than a male. In fact anyone would do, which is why they tried for Huggy. In the third place, Molly’s testimony in court – if it came to that – would lack the weight and validity of a trained officer and might even be dismissed by a canny defense as hearsay.

The girl with the corn rows, short-shorts and roller skates who wobbles through the scene is completely mesmerizing. I can imagine the crew talking her into doing the pass-through. And is that her in the last scene too? Has to be – she soars joyously down the sidewalk as it pans over Lee Bristol’s convenience store.

John-John the Apple’s unusual nickname is never explained, but it’s fun to guess. Is it because he’s from New York, small and round, or is it because he’s a sweet guy? Maybe all three? He’s an appealing character in a show filled to the brim with them. In his first scene he gives the old lady her cane back and is a gentleman about it. He’s also nice to “Heather” and tries to talk her out of borrowing money. He wants to help a young girl “in trouble.” He says he doesn’t want to take Joe’s money anymore, because Joe is in over his head. He greets people on the street and chats up folks who buy his stuff. He delivers newspapers to cars. He makes that funny joke about his place not being a library, but a “losing proposition.”

Hmm. Molly is very, very good at going undercover as a drug-addled kid in trouble. She really throws herself into character. And yet, throughout the episode, she’s sort of bland. It’s only when she tries her hand at police work does she shine. A future in law enforcement, perhaps? Or the stage?

Jack Cunningham’s speech at the diner is a fascinating piece of dialogue. It’s filled with inconsistencies and startling truths. He tells “Heather” he hopes her (nonexistent) baby’s eyes aren’t too beautiful, like his were, and then implies his beautiful eyes (and yes, they are oddly beautiful, gleaming madly throughout the episode) caused him a lot of trouble from the ruling nuns of the convent in which he was confined. He says his father smuggled him out of the convent in a suitcase and took him home – at fourteen, according to the story. Colorful use of language, or outright lie? “Didn’t want me being an altar boy,” he say, which implies “took me away in a suitcase” is just an expression. His speech is sputtery and confused, but delivered with unnerving passion. There’s a whole lot more to this rambling monologue than meets the eye. One can only speculate: convent, abandoned or neglected boy, nuns, rage turning to violence … you get the picture.

And yet, oddly, he’s urging Heather to “try the convent”, the very place he was supposedly rescued from. Perhaps he believes the convent would be a better, safer place for a girl.

This whole ruse is predicated on the idea Jack will be charitable. And he is, which doesn’t really fit with the rest of his character (and his profession). His entire reason for being here, remember, is based on greed. And yet it somehow fits – when he says “you don’t even have to pay it back” you believe him.

“There’s only one thing he wants from Annie,” Hutch says to Dobey, meaning Jack Cunningham. By this he means the legendary stash of dough under the mattress. And yes, it’s true – mostly. It’s not all-the-way true because Jack doesn’t shoot Catherine Oates (and her magnificent dog) when he could have. A few blasts with a silencer and all the money is his, and with a minimum of fuss, and you can bet no one would know she was dead for weeks, if ever. No, he makes a big deal about taking over her collection business, making waves and endangering himself with showy stunts like blowing up bathrooms. And for what? If he wanted Annie’s money only, he could have gotten it.

When Starsky tells Hutch in preparation for the take-down, “you know how I feel about dogs,” is he expressing a fear/dislike of dogs? Doesn’t want to tangle with Duvcha specifically? Does he uses this line as an excuse to say “no” to Hutch’s plan?

Let’s enjoy the unforgettable scene with wiping meat on the gun, complete with Jack’s grossly sensual sniffing of his own meaty hands. Then Catherine and Jack in the bedroom. She’s lying on the bed, Jack kneeling beside it. She asks Jack if he has ever had sex with a woman, with the answer apparently no. “Spent your whole life singing in a choir, huh?” Jack looks embarrassed, unable to answer. But is he interested in what she’s offering? Maybe, and maybe not. He gets into an awfully vulnerable position with the teddy bear and everything. She’s quite sweet, weirdly, and sincere. And Jack is in some kind of psychological purgatory, on the verge of committing an act of violence, yet held in check by her proposition.

I like how Catherine fakes an English accent to mimic Jack, even though he’s Irish.

What does Jack think he’s going to do with all that money under the mattress? Knowing something bad is happening – cops probably – he stares, paralyzed, then starts shoving bits of it in his jacket pocket. But really, on some level, he must know it’s all over for him.

“That’s the least of your worries,” Hutch says in a perfect Irish accent, to Jack, in what may be a sly acknowledgement that Jack’s accent is fake.

The tag is just an excuse to let off steam. Of course Hutch knows not to put mayonnaise on a pastrami sandwich, particularly for someone with a Jewish heritage. Anybody knows that, and Hutch knows that more than most. And he’s never before offered to ladle out the condiments, but look how eager he is here. He’s doing it solely to siphon off energy, to annoy and irritate. Look at the vehemence in which he strokes the mayonnaise on the bread. Calling Starsky “Gordo” for no reason I can think of. And Starsky calling himself Gordo, as if to ameliorate the veiled insult by owning it. When Hutch is in a good mood, he must Destroy. This is one of the most profound and frustrating parts of his character, although it seems to work for Starsky. It certainly works for me.

Clothing notes: Hutch wears his stunning star and moon necklace, and is in an unusual all-black outfit in his scene with Molly at the station. The blue jogging suit is a standout. Starsky wears a black leather jacket and changes to his classic black canvas jacket, while Hutch wears the green leather jacket and high-waist pale jeans that emphasize his long lean figure.

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18 Responses to “Episode 55: The Collector”

  1. daniela Says:

    Hello, just dropping my two cents here. I don’t think the mayo on pastrami was a kosher issue, but a taste issue. Like putting Apple sauce on spaghetti and meatballs for an Italian person. Nobody would do that!

  2. Shelley Says:

    Almost makes one speculate whether Dire Straits could’ve been inspired to create their song “Skateaway” after seeing this episode 😉

  3. King David Says:

    Hutch has Molly as a girlfriend here, yet she’s more girl-next-door than elegant glamourpuss, and has shortish dark hair! What’s going on? She seems more (on paper, anyway) to suit Starsky.
    I speculate that Hutch only likes genuine blondes, and Molly in a wig looks phony (to him, anyway.) They really don’t look as though there would be serious horizontal folk-dancing between them.
    John-John does seem a decent character; what do newsstand vendors do on rainy days?
    I actually felt that Jack had major issues from his younger days, and that reference to his youth and the convent spoke volumes about his desire to have some power over others. It wasn’t that many years from the days when wayward children (girls predominantly, unwed mothers particularly) were locked away in Irish institutions, and the Irish have a history of adherence to the Catholic faith, so I felt that there was some awful backstory there, and it occasionally made itself felt in his actions.
    I looked carefully for the moment of Starsky grasping Hutch as they left Annie’s place after the first visit, and even though I am keen for any partner moment, even I couldn’t stretch it that far…it seemed to me that it was a set rather than actual indoor view of the exterior location, so more simply a hand in the small of Hutch’s back to lead him past the window. Of course, I would love to imagine the possibility of a Soul/Glaser moment with Glaser really clasping Soul for anchoring as they walked the high balcony, but then I imagine Glaser would be nearer the wall.
    They both look very wary of the lovely Doberman; sweat all over Starsky’s face. Note they never threaten her with any comments on owning a dangerous animal.
    Jack makes such a hash of stuffing the money into his pockets; it would’ve been more sensible to gather it up, stack it and then shove in his pocket.
    I always feel sad when seeing Annie’s awful red lipstick all over the place; such a great way to display her life gone to pot.
    In the tag, Hutch is positively manic in his breadknife action; then he squirts Starsky with mustard. Can Molly see that these two have a personal ongoing relationship which would preclude the intervention of others on anything other than a very surface level? Others before me have said that they are just like an old narried couple.

    • stybz Says:

      I agree. I watched the episode the other night and thought Hutch’s line about blondes to be odd, but this comment makes sense. How many times have we heard him get defensive when someone implies that he’s a bottle blond? 🙂

      If I were Starsky, I would have grabbed Hutch’s plate, since Hutch put the mayo on Starsky’s sandwich first. 🙂 Hutch’s hadn’t been touched yet. 🙂

  4. Audrey Says:

    Merle,what’s wrong to calling Starsky “Gordo”?I googled it:Urban Dictionary: gordo
    http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=gordo‎
    Although it also means fat in Spanish, if you called a loved one gordo, then it is an affectionate term. Te quiero muchisimo, gordo. buy gordo mugs & shirts.I am sure Hutch called Starsky as loved one 🙂

    • merltheearl Says:

      This is a funny comment, thank you. Of course there is nothing really wrong with calling someone Gordo, but Hutch’s sarcastic tone – not to mention his vigorous slathering of mayonnaise as he talks, an egregious sin for a pastrami sandwich – is the insult part here, not the name itself. Being the object of Hutch’s affection is like being hugged by a porcupine – equal parts love and laceration.

  5. Dianna Says:

    Boy, those villains are the weirdest creepiest ever! They are so caught up in their fantasies that it’s almost a surprise they can function.

    Here’s another father-daughter relationship where the daughter’s age is really elastic. Because she is with Hutch, you would assume she is 25-30, but on her bike and with her father, and when talking to John John the Apple, she seems more like she’s 17.

    (John-John the Apple’s nickname is a distortion of his last name, d’Appolito.)

    Hutch arriving on the scene in his jogging suit is probably because he did not intend to be on the clock that day, and was just going out jogging before heading out for his three-day weekend when the call came in. Since it is in his neighborhood, he probably figured it was as easy to jog over as it was to start the car and drive there.

    Starsky always seemed quite at home in Hutch’s canal house, but I think he doesn’t entirely approves of the Venice Place dwelling. When a brick is thrown through Hutch’s window in Vendetta, he sneers, “Nice neighborhood,” and it has taken Hutch “forever” to get Starsky to come to Bristol’s deli to try his pastrami sandwich. He makes multiple references in this episode to this being Hutch’s territory, not his.

    Perhaps Cunningham brings his gun into the junkyard because he doesn’t really know how things will go with the dog, and he wants to be ready to improvise in case he needs to kill the dog to protect himself. The first time he goes into the junkyard he doesn’t close the gate behind himself. Is this a director’s carelessness, or Cunningham leaving himself a way to make a fast exit?

    Why does someone with such severe acrophobia trap herself in that little penthouse? And how did she get up there in the first place? Merl might be right about it actually being agoraphobia; that would make the junkyard a buffer between her and the “agora.” She must have people deliver her the things she needs, like food.

    King David, the clutch between Starsky and Hutch is glimpsed as they pass the window, not actually on the stairs (at least on my DVD). I think it is because Starsky was freaked out by the dog.

    Bravo, Merl, for the comment about stupid sexist behavior. I love them, but they can be jerks. Hutch makes a particular “heh heh” kind of laugh when he knows he’s being a jerk, like in the stockroom at the beginning of Survival, and I’ve noticed it a few other times too.

    When the guys draft Molly, they don’t know that #3 on the Most Wanted list is their man. They don’t need her to testify, just to get their man out in the open so they can identify him.

    I found the scene in the diner quite terrifying, with the cold-blooded Jack suddenly being so friendly and nosy. I think he is trying to convince “Heather” not to get an abortion, which further highlights how weird his thought processes are, but if it is that important to him, it explains why he says she won’t have to pay him back the bus fare. He really means it. His concern for the imaginary baby is real.

    It is very confusing why Jack goes through the elaborate rigamarole to get to Annie. If he wants to take over or augment her business, it won’t work, because he is making people terrified of taking out loans at all. If he intends to kill her, you’re right, he could have done it right away, without even killing Garras first. There is a dizzying morass of delusions here

  6. Wallis Says:

    Okay, I know this is crude, but *dear god* the scene in the street outside the crime scene. The bit with Starsky making a call at the pay phone while straddling the booth’s frame, and then turning and walking across the street to Hutch…I replayed that an embarrassing number of times. I mean really — he’s shot entirely from behind during the whole sequence, and the camera is not even remotely subtle about leeringly tracking him to keep his ass well-framed. Not to mention his jeans are so tight they mold themselves to even the creases of flesh beneath his buttocks. Like, damn. Just how deliberate and self-aware were the actors, directors, and costumers about this kind of stuff?

    I didn’t think Starsky’s “congratulations on your closing” comment was a threat, just an addition to the running joke about Huggy’s neverending misfortunes and woes with his business and various entrepreneurial adventures. Speaking of which, Huggy’s slowly, rockily, but ultimately successfully expanding restaurant business, from the lair of street denizens to a respectable working-class hangout, is one of the handful of plot threads that has visible trajectories over time. Perhaps he doesn’t even have a bar yet at the time of the Pilot (which I always see as taking place a couple years before the rest of season 1).

    The repeated reference to this being “Hutch’s territory” was a slightly odd but very interesting bit. I suppose it was there for script reasons. A lot happens in this episode outside of Starsky and Hutch’s sight, and so having scenes of the necessary exposition about the situations of Annie and Garras would have taken too long — having Hutch explain it to Starsky as they go is a lot shorter. I wonder how it became “Hutch’s territory” though. It’s not on his and Starsky’s patrol, and it’s hard to see him finding the time to familiarize himself with the criminal element of an neighborhood all on his own without Starsky. Perhaps when Hutch was still a uniformed cop, he used to patrol this beat, and developed affection for the neighborhood, which is why he later moved there?

  7. Leah Says:

    Exactly how did you do that entire review and not ONCE mention Danny Devito (John John the Apple)?

    That said, I’ve read this site for a while and I am not sure why there is such a heavy anti-Hutch sentiment. It’s so pervasive that it’s disturbing. They are tv characters. To be so angry and mean towards a fictional character is ridiculous to me.

    By the way, Hutch called Starsk “gordo” because no sooner had he been served his sandwich, he ordered another. It was a joke, nothing more.

    • merltheearl Says:

      I hardly know what to make of this comment. My attitude toward Hutch is not angry, it is awe. I think I have made that loud and clear throughout the blog, and if I emphasize his darker aspects it’s because they are so fascinating, or amusing, or critically illuminating. It seems you are misreading my intentions, as you misread this blog entry since I mention John-John several times, as he is one of my most favorite characters. I will grant you my writing style is meant to deliberately sidestep the softer emotions, the gushes of love and admiration that are real and ever-present, especially when it comes to our blond beauty. You can find those elsewhere, often illustrated, so I am sorry if you find me mean. I don’t intend to be.

      The “just tv characters” argument is interesting and many commenters have made similar observations, from the opposite point of view from you. I think anyone who invests a great deal of time and energy into thinking about, writing about, and finding useful or inspiring material from fiction face a similar backlash. If you are impatient with me making too much out of a goofy joke in the tag, perhaps this blog is not going to be a fun experience for you.

  8. Kit Sullivan Says:

    “John John the Apple” seems like an easy and obvious nickname sourced from the character’s “real” name: John DeAppolito.
    Bob Viharo was fantastic as Cunningham, easily one of the oddest and most psychotically-dangerous villians of the entire series.
    “Don’t walk on my car” says Starsky to Hutch…something Hutch has done at least three times in the series during casual, non-emergency moments.
    Being the owner of several collector cars myself ( including an actual screen-accurate ’75 Gran Torino in full “Starsky & Hutch” livery) and being obsessively protective of each of them, this is clearly Hutch trying to maintain his aloofness and somewhat-playful disrespect of Starsky…to keep the upper hand in their relationship.
    No one can explain why any two people become great friends, but Starsky and Hutch’s dynamic with each other is complicated indeed.
    Hutch’s continual show of superiority and general disdain for those around him would virtually guarantee that he would have very few…if any…friends he could depend on when the chips are down.
    I often get the impression that Starsky and Hutch are good friends in spite of how they treat each other, not because of how they treat each other.

    • merltheearl Says:

      That’s a great fact about Danny de Vito, I had no idea! And I agree about Hutch’s “get them before they get me” philosophy of life, if you want to interpret it as such. Loving, strife-free friendships are terrific in real life, if you’re lucky enough to have them, but television has never quite understood, nor has never been sympathetic to, the concept. And PS, I’m in awe of your car collection, and I’m quite lost picturing how it must look and feel to drive that Torino – if you indeed drive it.

      • Kit Sullivan Says:

        Correction: I mentioned that Robert Viharo played “Cunningham”, but as we all know his character’s name was “Gallagher”. Don’t know what I was thinking…
        As to my car collection: it is my vice, but one I work hard to support. “Starsky & Hutch” was a big part of my life as a teenager, and I bought one of the Ford-produced ’76 “Starsky & Hutch” replica Torinos used in ’79 for $800.
        A very dependable, if uninspiring car. It looked just like the “real thing”, but had no performance ability at all. The very epitome of “all show and no go”.
        I sold that car in ’85, and deeply regretted it the minute I saw its taillights fade from view.
        My quest to replace that car has culminated in an 8-year( so far) project to create a perfect screen-accurate replica, including gumball light, vintage police radio and authentic replica license plates.
        2 weeks ago, my wife, son and I went to the Bronx and had the rare oportunity to see not only one of the actual Torinos used in the series, but to meet and chat with Paul Michael Glaser and Antonio Fargas…otherwise known as “Starsky” and “Huggy Bear”.
        My son, who is 30 and severely autistic ( does not communicate well with others) was absolutely fascinated to meet “Starsky” and “Huggy”.
        Paul was extremely patient and generous and spent plenty of time talking and chatting with my son, as did Antonio.
        I took lots of pictures, and will never forget what a thrill it was for him…and me too!
        This is the perfect example of why millions of us loved these guys as Starsky, Hutch, Huggy and Doby: they are genuinely nice and caring people.
        Now each day when my son and I watch an episode, he says “Hug Starsky”, because Paul gave him lots of hugs.
        Fantastic.

      • merltheearl Says:

        I’m incredibly touched by this, Kit, I hardly know what to say. Isn’t it wonderful when the people we admire from their creative work turn out to be wonderful human beings as well!

  9. mrsowlcroft Says:

    I’ve been enjoying this effort of love enormously and finally have to weigh in with some information — maybe I’m years too late, but still . . . “Gordo” was a very popular and extremely long-running comic strip in the United States. The title character was a very overweight Mexican man who was good-natured and kindly, but who constantly ate far more than he should. The artwork was great and the writing garnered awards. How could our heroes not have seen that strip? I’m betting they did and it was a “tribute” of sorts to Starsky to be nicknamed Gordo in this episode.

    • merltheearl Says:

      It’s never too late for fascinating new information! I wouldn’t be surprised if this somewhat forgotten comic strip had an influence in the lives of Starsky and Hutch. There are a few scenes throughout the series in which Hutch reads the newspaper aloud to Starsky, including the comics – it’s fun to think “Gordo” was part of that.

  10. June Says:

    Re Dave being called ‘Sarge’. Don’t forget Merle, his rank is Detective Sergeant, so that is more likely where Sarge came from. Starsky being in the Army isn’t exactly canon, given the sloppy house-keeping of facts throughout the series. He went to the Academy with Hutch and the shoe (if I remember) sliced a couple of years off the actors’ ages so he would have been young, Still, my theory isn’t based on any fact and some writers do love his having military service.

    • merltheearl Says:

      June, you are absolutely right. I am guilty on numerous occasions of choosing the complicated story over the simpler one, and this is case in point. Thank you! My only caveat is that it’s fairly unusual for a civilian to have “Sarge” as a nickname. Coincidentally my great-grandfather’s name was Sarge, and he was – you guessed it – a sergeant in the army.

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