Versatile Actor Peter Falk
Returns to His Role as the Legendary Cigar Smoking Sleuth, Columbo
By Arthur Marx
There are people who'd sell their mother down the river for a box of
genuine Cuban cigars (or maybe even a half a box), and then there is
Peter Falk, the self-effacing, soft-spoken, cigar
smoking star of the
detective series "Columbo," who confides, "I'll smoke anything
anybody gives me. I'm not particular. On 'Columbo' I smoke the
cheapest cigars you can buy. They come six to a pack. "I love
the smell of cigar smoke," continues Falk, who finally quit
cigarettes a couple years ago. "I remember Joe Mantegna inviting me to a party at this
restaurant on Beverly Boulevard that Jack Nicholson owned. I think
it was called the Monkey Bar, and it was also part cigar club. Well,
when I walked in there, there was such a thick cloud of cigar smoke
that you could hardly see across the room. I got hit by that great
smoke. Oh, it was heaven. It reminded me of the old Madison Square
Square Garden or my days in the pool room when I was a kid growing
up in Ossining, New York. You just don't find many public places
today where you can go and fill your lungs and nostrils with
delicious second hand smoke.
I went to a party Dabney Coleman was throwing for his daughter, who
had just got married. Well, a guy there took out a Cuban cigar and
handed it to me. I thanked him and eagerly lit it up. I was so eager
I didn't even bother to get out my cigarette lighter. I just grabbed
the candle on the table where my wife and I were sitting and used
that. Well, the first couple of puffs were heaven. And then suddenly
the whole 25-buck cigar went up in flames that got bigger and
bigger. I said, 'What is this--Halloween?' I thought it was a trick
someone was playing on me. I nearly burnt the joint down before I
could put it out. At that point I couldn't see what was so great
about a Cuban cigar. And then it dawned on me what had happened. I'd
gotten wax from the candle all over the cigar when I was lighting
it. That's what turned it into an incendiary missile from Havana."
laughs and, cocking his head to one side in his inimitable Columbo
fashion, adds, "I guess the point of all this is that as much as I
like to smoke them, the affection and the care that real cigar
smokers heap upon their stogies is something that is absent with
enjoys smoking cigars so much that the plot of "Columbo: A Trace of
Murder," was built around cigar smokers. "The fellow who gets killed
doesn't smoke cigars; the fellow that they're framing does smoke
cigars. Who's framing him? The wife, or the man she's having an
affair with? Now Columbo goes to the murder scene. So does the man
who's having an affair with the wife; he's the forensic expert on
the case. So the forensic guy is the one involved in framing her
husband, who he and the wife are trying to get rid of so they can
live happily ever after. Or should it be 'whom'? Well, who the hell
cares about good grammar in such a suspenseful situation?" He
interrupts himself with a laugh. "One of the ways they frame him is
to leave a piece of the kind of cigar that he smokes at the scene of
the murder. This cigar is an expensive one. It's made of a very
distinctive kind of Havana tobacco leaf, and it becomes an important
piece of evidence."
Falk was born in Manhattan on Sept. 16, 1927, to Michael and
Madeline Falk. Later the family moved to the Bronx, and when Falk
was around 6, they settled in Ossining, on the Hudson River, a
hamlet better known for the presence of Sing Sing Penitentiary than
for being the childhood home of the future Lieutenant Columbo.
Falk's mother is Russian and his father was Polish, with a mix of
Hungarian and Czech further back in their ancestry. So, contrary to
Falk's public image, he is not an Italian but a mixture of very
hardy Eastern European stock.
Ossining, Michael and Madeline made a fairly good living running a
dry goods store. Because of its proximity to Sing Sing, Ossining
benefited from the traffic going to and from the penitentiary and
therefore was more prosperous than many small towns during the Great
the Falks had more serious problems than trying to make a living in
those days. "When I was three years old, I was attending a
pre-kindergarten school, in the Bronx," Falk recalls. "Because my
mom was working in my father's store, there was no one at home to
take care of me, so I attended one of those day-care places. One day
my teacher called my mother in and told her that I ought to have my
eyes examined, because I was always cocking my head to one side when
I was attempting to look at something. So my mom took me to a
doctor, who examined me and found a malignancy in my right eye. He
took her aside and told her that I'd have to have the eye taken out
right away. So like in a day or two, they checked me into the
hospital. I remember standing in front of an open elevator door with
my mother and the doctor in the hospital. I wasn't quite sure what
was happening to me. Suddenly Mom said to me, 'You just get in the
elevator, son. I have to go back to your room and get my purse.'
Then the doctor took my hand and walked me into the elevator. I
remember telling him, 'Just hold on a minute. My mother went to get
her purse. She'll be right here.'
next thing I knew I was asleep, and it was all over."
Pretty traumatic for a three-year-old to wake up and find he had
only one eye.
"Another memory I have of that period is of me and my mother
standing in front of a store window, looking at eye patches. I wore
one in the beginning, but after I was a little older they gave me a
glass eye. Glass eyes aren't as practical as the plastic ones that
came in a little later. In hot weather the glass eye used to stick.
I remember being told to take it out every night and put it in a
glass of water. Sometimes I did, and sometimes I got careless and
just put it on the table next to my bed. After a while the glass eye
starts getting scratched, and it has to be replaced if you don't
want to look like you have a terrible hangover. But the plastic eye
is much lighter, and more comfortable."
admits that in the beginning he was terribly self-conscious about
having a glass eye, and dreaded the moment when someone would ask
him about it. "But then there's that time when you finally realize
that no one gives a shit whether you have one eye or two. What
helped me was knocking around doing sports with the guys."
participated in most of the team sports in school, baseball and
basketball in particular. He was good at both games in spite of his
handicap, once he got over his self-consciousness. "I remember once
in high school the umpire called me out at third base when I was
sure I was safe. I got so mad I took out my glass eye, handed it to
him and said, 'Try this.' I got such a laugh you wouldn't believe."
spite of his size, the five-foot-nine Falk also made the town
basketball team, which during the season went up against the Sing
Sing team, inside the prison. "Because of my eye I wasn't a very
good shooter, but because of my size I was fast as hell and that's
why they used me. But the inmates were too tough for us. We got our
ass beaten by them. I remember one inmate who was a terrific player.
His name was Piggy Sands. He was in for life. But he sure could play
During his senior year, Falk received his first taste of acting
(except for an appearance in a summer camp play several years
before) when he filled in for a fellow student who had fallen sick
two days before the performance. Ironically, he played a detective,
taking the stage in the third act.
Although he was a good student, Falk had no idea of what he wanted
to do when he got out of high school in 1945. The one way of making
a living that never crossed his mind was becoming an actor. "In
Ossining when I was growing up, I put my time in on the street
corner, or in the pool room, and I liked sports but of course could
never play any of them professionally because of my one eye. But I
would have been embarrassed to tell any of my friends that I had any
idea of being an actor. My conception of being an actor was very
naive and very romantic. I thought actors were some rare species. I
thought they were artists, and I thought artists were Europeans. I
thought they were from Europe, because I never saw any actors where
I came from."
the summer of 1945, Falk enrolled in Hamilton College in upstate New
York. "I thought college was going to be like high school, where I
never worked too hard to get by. I loved everything about high
school and I thought college would be the same. But when I got up
there, I was in for a shock. No women. Small population because of
the war. And half of the guys were veterans who had been in the war
and were up there studying. They were very serious, so it was no fun
there. And as I said, no girls. I only stayed about a month. So I
thought I'd see if I could get in one of the [armed] services. The
war was on its last legs, but it wasn't quite over."
laughs as he remembers trying to join the Marines. A pharmacist's
mate was giving the eye test, but according to Falk, he wasn't very
sharp. "He never noticed that I covered my false eye twice and read
the chart 20/20 both times with my good eye. I thought I was in, but
suddenly the doctor in the next cubicle looked over and said to the
pharmacist, 'You dumb cluck, can't you see he's tricking you?' "
With that, the doctor took over the examination and, of course,
discovered Falk's glass eye.
months later, having been rejected by the armed services, he joined
the Merchant Marine. "There they don't care if you're blind or not,"
says Falk. "The only one on a ship who has to see is the captain.
And in the case of the Titanic, he couldn't see very well, either."
he was assigned to a ship, Falk walked into the sleeping quarters,
which were empty, "except for a big fat guy named Joe, who was
sitting in the upper bunk across from mine. I don't know what got
into me, but for some reason I decided to play a joke on him. So
when he asked me how come a young kid like myself was in the
Merchant Marine, I told him I had a slight physical problem. With
that, I sat down in my bunk and took out my two front teeth--at that
time I had a bridge on my upper front teeth. Anyway, I took it out
and laid it on the bench in front of my bunk. Then I reached in and
took out my eye and dropped it on the bench next to my teeth. It
made a nice sound effect. As Joe was doing a double take, I then
bent over and with both of my hands pretended to be twisting my leg,
as if I had a false leg, which I was unscrewing to take off.
Suddenly Joe's face went white, and he leaped off his bunk and said,
'I'm going out on deck for a while.' "
Harking back to his formative years, Falk says, "There's a time when
you're young when you're very sensitive about things like a false
eye. But once you get older you realize you can get a laugh with it.
Now it's second nature to me. I mean, if somebody asks me which eye
is the bad one, I have to stop and think about it."
a year and a half in the Merchant Marine, Falk returned to Hamilton
College, where he stayed for two years, except for the summer in
between at the University of Wisconsin. He then transferred to the
New School for Social Research in New York City, after which he fell
in love with a girl and followed her to Paris.
two bummed around Europe for a few months and wound up, after the
border opened, behind the Iron Curtain in Yugoslavia, where Falk
stayed for six months, supporting himself by working on a railroad
for the Tito government, and, finally, succeeded in getting himself
arrested over a minor incident involving currency that a restaurant
wouldn't accept. After he was released, Falk returned to New York,
thinking, "Jesus Christ. I'm 26 years old. I'd better do something
about earning a living." Whereupon he enrolled in Syracuse
was at Syracuse where Falk met his first wife, Alyce Mayo. He
married her five years later, in 1958. The couple eventually adopted
and raised two daughters, Jackie and Catherine. Alyce and Peter were
divorced in 1976 but remain friendly.
to enrolling at Syracuse, Falk received a bachelor's degree in
literature and political science from the New School around 1950. He
then earned a master's degree in public administration from
Syracuse, which enabled him to land a job as an efficiency expert in
Hartford for the state of Connecticut.
was such an efficiency expert that the first morning on the job, I
couldn't find the building where I was to report for work," he
recalls. "Naturally, I was late, which I always was in those days,
but ironically it was my tendency never to be on time that got me
started as a professional actor."
he was working in Hartford, Falk got a hankering to start acting
again. He'd had some experience fooling around in amateur
productions, starting in high school and into his college days. So
he joined a community theater group in Hartford called the Mark
Twain Masquers, where he was paid nothing but acquired a lot of
experience. "I did one play after another--The Caine Mutiny, The
Crucible, The Country Girl...in fact, you name it, I did it.
"While I was with the Masquers, I learned that France's first lady
of the theater, Eva La Gallienne, was giving an acting class for
professionals at the White Barn Theater in Westport, Connecticut. La
Gallienne was internationally famous, with a reputation as an
actress that was right up there with Helen Hayes, Judith Anderson
and the other important ladies of the theater.
"Westport was about two hours from Hartford, but I decided I'd like
to see what it would be like to be working with professionals, so I
drove down, and somehow lied my way into the group, which met every
Wednesday. But I was always late because of the long drive down from
Hartford. So I went to my boss--I had a vacation coming--and told
him I didn't want a vacation. I just wanted him to let me off every
Wednesday afternoon early. He said OK, but I was still always late
because of the traffic. And my car, which was always breaking down.
Eva La Gallienne was a very formidable woman, in keeping with her
worldwide reputation, and she had very little patience with excuses.
One evening when I arrived late, she looked at me and asked, 'Young
man, why are you always late?' and I said, 'I have to drive down
looked down her nose and said, "What do you do in Hartford? There's
no theater there. How do you make a living acting?" Falk then had to
confess that he wasn't a professional actor at all. Whereupon she
looked at him sternly and said, "Well, you should be." That was all
the aspiring actor needed to hear. He drove back to Hartford, and
the next morning told his boss he was quitting.
stayed with the La Gallienne group for a few months--just long
enough to get a letter of recommendation from the renowned actress
to a theatrical agent at the William Morris Talent Agency in New
don't remember his name," recalls Falk. "But I do remember that
about three minutes into our meeting he told me, 'You know, son, you
could never do television or the movies.' Now, I didn't know what he
was talking about. It never occurred to me that he was talking about
my eye, because it had become so natural with me to only have one
eye. But aside from that, I didn't know what he meant. Whoever
expected to be in the movies and go to Hollywood, anyway? I just
wanted to be a stage actor. My goal was just to get into The Actors'
Studio. That would have made me happy. And if my expectations went
beyond that, I would have said, 'If I could just once be on
Broadway, if I could walk into a bar and there were other actors
there, and they would know that I was also an actor, and that I was
making a living as an actor, that would be all I asked of life.' And
television at the time--it was around 1952--was just starting, and
who expected to get into that? So when this agent said that to me, I
said, 'I just want to be on the stage.'"
agent was sufficiently impressed with La Gallienne's letter that he
managed to get Falk a small Off-Broadway role in the American
premiere of Moliere's Don Juan. "They weren't paying anything. So
lots of time you'd go to rehearsal and people wouldn't show up. So
the director would say to me, 'You take that part.' So I got a
bigger part. They kept firing the Don Juans. And they also kept
firing the directors. But there was one person who showed up every
week. That was me. So by the time we were about two weeks from
opening night, I had the second lead. I remember that George Segal
had a small part in that production, too. I remember his costume. He
wore blue satin knickers and black shoes with silver buckles. And I
wore the same. I said to George, 'What the hell are we doing in
these ridiculous outfits?'
last director they brought in was a Method director, from The
Actors' Studio. He said to the cast, 'The trouble with this play is
that everybody's posturing. You have to stop acting and just say the
lines straight. No accent. If I catch you acting, I'll fire you.'
that's how it was done opening night, which also was closing night."
will never forget the review he got from The New York Times critic
Walter Kerr, who was considered the dean of Broadway critics. Kerr's
opening line read: "Peter Falk got the evening off to a wonderfully
paralyzed start, with 10 minutes of totally unaccented exposition."
claims he wasn't particularly upset by Kerr's review, because "I can
be completely objective about things I'm in. I knew from the start
it was a bomb."
Despite this unpromising start, Falk, with the help of the William
Morris agency, continued to pick up minor roles in Broadway and
Off-Broadway productions until he finally made a name for himself as
the bartender in the 1956 Off-Broadway production of Eugene
O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh.
has to chuckle as he recalls an interview in the mid-1950s that he
and an agent had at Columbia Pictures with movie mogul Harry Cohn.
Though Falk had come highly recommended by a Columbia scout ("the
next John Garfield"), Cohn wasn't sold. "Then he said something I
didn't understand," Falks recalls. "[He said,] 'Young man, I'm
concerned about your deficiency.' I had no idea what he was
referring to. After a couple of passes, he put it into words: 'Your
eye, young man, your eye. I'm concerned about your eye.' " Falk
replied that it was nothing to be concerned about, but Cohn wanted a
screen test, which Falk felt was unnecessary. "Cohn ended the
conversation: 'Mr. Falk, for the same price, I'll get an actor with
two eyes.' P.S.: I took the screen test and flunked."
that minor setback, Falk cemented his reputation by appearing in a
number of Broadway productions in the late 1950s--Saint Joan, Diary
of a Scoundrel, The Lady's Not for Burning, Bonds of Interest and
The Passion of Josef D.
1960, Falk was offered the role of a vicious killer in a low-budget
gangster film, Murder, Inc., with May Britt and Stuart Whitman. He
was hired out of New York, where the picture was filmed, because the
producers were too cheap to transport actors from Hollywood, and
they wanted to take advantage of the New York background. Falk's
appearance as Abe Reles, the syndicate's top killer (who, not
incidentally, was a cigar smoker) turned out to be one of the major
turning points in his life, for it led to his nomination for an
Oscar for best supporting actor at the 1961 Academy Awards.
all began on a rainy afternoon in a bar in Greenwich Village," Falk
recalls. "I was sitting with Ben Gazzara and Sal Mineo. I had been
knocking around Off-Broadway but [Murder, Inc.] had just come out
and I got splashy reviews. Sal said, 'You should campaign for an
Academy Award.' What's that? I didn't know there was such a thing.
Sal said it was true--you take out ads; it had been going on for
years. Sal had been a kid actor in Hollywood, so I believed him, but
it sounded far-fetched. Hollywood, Academy Awards, Ingrid
Bergman--that was another world. Sal was just being nice, but I
couldn't take it seriously.
same year, 1960, I got a gig on 'The Untouchables.' My first trip to
Hollywood. Abe Lastfogel, a legendary agent and head of William
Morris, called me into his office and said, 'You should campaign for
an Academy Award.' I said, 'That's what Sal Mineo said.' He said,
'Well, do it!' [I said,] 'What do I do?' [He replied,] 'Take out
ads, hire a press agent, spend money.' That's what I did, and what
do you know--I got nominated.
we're in our Volkswagen [Falk and his wife, Alyce] and we're headed
to the Academy Awards. 'What do you think of my chances?' I asked.
She answers, 'You'll be lucky if they don't take back the
we're in our seats; the press agent, Judd Bernard, is seated on my
right. It's my category and I heard a voice say, 'And the winner is
Peter...' I'm rising out of my seat. '...Ustinov.' I'm heading back
down. When I hit the seat, I turn to the press agent: 'You're
fired.' I didn't want him charging me for another day."
Nevertheless, the nomination was a coup for Falk. He repeated the
feat the following year, when he was nominated for best supporting
actor in Frank Capra's Pocketful of Miracles, which starred Bette
Davis and Glenn Ford. Again he didn't win, but it was the start of a
long and illustrious Hollywood career in films and television. In
1961 he won an Emmy for his portrayal of a truck driver in the TV
play The Price of Tomatoes.
two Oscar nominations and an Emmy in two years, the previously
little-known New York stage actor asked all his friends, "How long
has this been going on?" But in 1962, Falk made what was to many a
strange choice for his third film--a movie shot in the Soviet Union.
"It wasn't the script, that's for sure. And it wasn't, I should add,
that I was a Communist. The truth is, I was curious."
filming got off to a shaky start; the Italian director refused to
use Falk in the role. "They hired me off an 8x10 glossy. They
thought they were getting Sal Mineo. That's the God's truth. The
director got what he wanted--a 'bambino' "--and Falk got another
then, Falk's film credits have ranged from It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad
World (1963) and the Neil Simon comedies Murder by Death (1976) and
The Cheap Detective (1978) to Husbands (1970) and A Woman Under the
Influence (1976), a pair of low-budget but powerful films done with
his longtime friend, the late actor-director John Cassavetes, and
many other films, but it was his appearance as Lieutenant Columbo in
a 1968 TV movie of the week, Prescription: Murder, however, that led
to Falk's biggest success and worldwide fame as the cigar smoking,
was never intended to be a series. Falk was just a character in a
movie of the week that happened to garner a big rating. "When the
network people came to me and said they thought we should make a
weekly series of the character, I said no way," says Falk. "It's too
difficult to come up with a good story week after week. It can't be
done. So they went away, and the next year they came back to me with
the same idea. And again I nixed it, and for the same reason.
the third year they came to me with a way they believed it could be
done. It would be a Sunday night detective series in which I would
do eight a season, Rock Hudson would do eight [as a police
commissioner on "McMillan and Wife"] and a third actor [Dennis
Weaver, who played a deputy marshal on "McCloud"] would do another
eight. That way the strain wouldn't be too hard on anybody, but
especially the writers. So I said OK and they scheduled it for the
now it seems almost inconceivable that anyone but Falk could have
portrayed Lieutenant Columbo, the role was initially offered to Bing
Crosby, who reportedly declined because the series would interfere
with his golf game. Lee J. Cobb was also considered for the part.
Between 1968 and 1971, when the first show of the "Columbo" series
was aired on NBC, Falk stayed busy. After Prescription: Murder, he
appeared in the films Anzio, Castle Keep, Machine Gun McCain, A Step
Out of Line, Husbands and Operation Snafu. None was terribly
memorable, except for Husbands, which was directed by Cassavetes and
costarred Falk and Ben Gazzara.
did, however, score a major success on Broadway in 1970, when he
garnered excellent reviews as the lead in Neil Simon's Prisoner of
Second Avenue. "Working with Doc Simon was such a joy," recalls
Falk. "You can always count on those laughs when you show up on the
stage. I'm thinking of putting Doc in my will."
had to step out of Prisoner after a season, for he had already
committed to the "Columbo" series, which debuted in the fall of
1971. The first episode was called "Ransom for a Dead Man," and it
was an immediate hit. The series ran until the 1977-78 season and
earned Falk five Emmy Awards for best actor in a dramatic series.
"People often ask me why the series was such a success," Falk says.
"Was it me or the concept? Personally, I think it was the character
of Columbo. But I don't think you could separate it out. I mean,
point to any one thing. The character or the story or the fact that
it was a mystery. But I think the hub of it starts with the
character. That's the heart of it, the soul of it.
"People like somebody they can identify with. A man or person not
above them. So I think they identify with the common aspects of
Columbo. I mean, he's like everybody--one of us. But at the same
time people have always been attracted to heroes, people who are
bigger than life, exceptional. In some ways, Columbo is both."
recalls actress and screenwriter Elaine May saying that his
character was an "ass-backwards" Sherlock Holmes. "Holmes was smart,
but he was an aristocrat. Columbo was just like everyone who walks
the streets. Dirty raincoat, a dog, a wife. Not much money. On the
other hand, there's something exceptional about the way his mind
works. Also, he's human. He's interested in what ordinary people are
interested in. The price of clothes, for example. 'What did you pay
for that handbag?' he asks a rich suspect. 'I'd like to buy one of
those for my wife. Her birthday's coming up, but I don't think I can
afford it. You wouldn't know where I could buy something like that
for about half the price?' And for a cop he's very offbeat. He hates
noise, the sound of gun shots; he hates violence, unlike today's
'action heroes' in films, who thrive on one huge explosion after
Finally, says Falk, the clues were good, the murders were clever and
the twists at the end were delicious. And then there were the
don't remember at this late date whose idea it was for me to smoke a
cigar on the series. It was probably mine, since I enjoyed smoking
so much and cigars looked like a much more macho smoke for a
detective than cigarettes. I do know I came up with my outfit--the
beat-up raincoat and worn-out brown shoes," he says.
also remembers who was responsible for the dog on the series.
"Second season of 'Columbo,' Nick Cavasanto, the director, comes to
me and says, 'I think you ought to have a dog on the series.' I
said, 'Nick, there's not going to be any dogs. I've got the
raincoat, I've got the cigar and I've got the car. That's enough.
We're reaching.' He says, 'OK.'
day I come in, I'm wandering around, looking at the sets when I bump
into Nick. He says to me, 'Come in and look at the doctor set.' I go
in, and lying on the table is this dachshund. It's a huge lump. It's
just laying there. It's about a thousand years old. It could hardly
walk. Now, I thought, if they were gonna use a dog, they were going
to pick some frisky, cute little thing. So I said, 'That's the dog
you want?' He nodded, and I said, 'You got it.'
problem with having a dog is they don't live long enough. The first
dog we used was in '71, and he was very old. He passed away in '73
and his replacement was much younger.
never took much time in makeup; a glance in the mirror on the way to
the john--that's it. If you're playing Columbo, who cares what you
look like, as long as you look bad. So I'm ready fast, but we
couldn't shoot. We had to wait for the dog. He was in
makeup--sitting in a chair, munching dog bones while they applied
the clown white to make him look older. Thirty minutes shot to
real life, Falk and his wife Shera Danese, have several dogs-- all
rescued from an animal shelter-- and all of whom sleep in the
bedroom with them in their eight-room Beverly Hills home.
Danese, an actress, played the female lead in "A Trace of Murder."
Vivacious and full of life, Danese "loves to dress up, and go
dancing," according to Falk. "She's great at parties. Me, I hate
parties and dressing up. When I was young, I thought the only reason
to go to a party was to pick up a girl. But after you're married, I
just never knew what a party was for.
"Personally, I'd rather stay home and practice my hobby. I draw
naked women," he confides with a sly smile. "I work in charcoal. I
draw them with their hair up, sometimes with their hair down. I have
a number of models who pose naked for me whenever I ask. How'd I get
into such an exotic hobby? Well, I'll tell you. One day I wandered
into the Art Students League of New York, and there was a naked
woman on a platform with a light on her. That was good enough for
me. I said I'd be there every day, and I was. I appreciate the
female form. The human body is a fantastic thing. I can't draw
landscapes or boats."
has set up an art studio in his garage. "I get obsessed and can go
on drawing for 12 or 13 hours at a time. Shera has a great sense of
humor about it. I don't know how she feels about my models, but
about my work she says, 'You're not going to bring that crap into
the house, are you?' "
Today, Falk is famous around the globe--way beyond his headiest
expectations--but he believes that fame is "overrated. The best part
about it is the money--you don't have to worry about it, like when
you're first starting out." He sighs and settles back on his
comfortable couch. "I'm lucky. I don't like to boast, but today I've
got a lot of dough."
tries to keep in shape by playing golf whenever he has the chance.
He has a 14 handicap and finds that having one eye is not much of a
hindrance in the group with whom he plays. "The way most people play
golf," he says, "it doesn't make much of a difference whether they
have one eye or two."
how he feels about getting old, Falk responds with the same
laid-back attitude you'd expect to come from Lieutenant Columbo:
"No, I'm not surprised. What did you think was going to happen? The
way I look at it, it's the best of two alternatives."
Arthur Marx is the author of three
books and two plays about his father, Groucho.