By Sandi Durell
Yes, Barney Miller sings and more! He got his first break in “Bells Are Ringing” on Broadway in 1958 and just kept on going from there, then cast in “Anything Goes” (Billy Crocker), and in 1975 landed the role on ABC TV police comedy Barney Miller. Actually, Mr. Linden had dreams of becoming a big bandleader and toured with some of the greats, including Sammy Kaye, playing saxophone.
I had the opportunity to get to know more about Hal Linden when we spoke recently. It all began in the Army when he started “fiddling around with performing,” then used his G.I. Bill to go to the American Theater Wing to study acting, also taking singing lessons and dance classes. “But at the same time, I was making a living as a saxophone player instead of waiting tables.” He studied with Paul Mann and Lloyd Richards, whom he calls his acting gurus. “No, it wasn’t I think I’ll be an actor” . . . “any role I got was my favorite!” But he lucked out when, after one week as an understudy, he found himself opposite Judy Holliday on Broadway
Linden never touched his saxophone or clarinet for many years until recently when he began touring his nightclub act, which he’ll be bringing to the Café Carlyle, not only singing, but playing that clarinet. The show “has a lot of nostalgia” and so he was calling it “I’m Old Fashioned” until someone said, don’t! Since it’s more about surviving, it looks like it might have a new title, “I’m Still Here,” but . . . “we’ll see,” says Linden.
“I just got off the road. We did 60 performances of that show in the past 6 months in 40 states . . . It’s a surprise to people when they find Barney Miller is a singer and a musician.”
Hal Linden has surely had a multi-faceted, illustrious career. Does he prefer film, TV, theater? “All of the above . . . I get a lot of joy out of each. I’ve had a lot of flops in my career, but you put the same effort into the flops as into the successes. What I really enjoy most is rehearsing. You start from scratch with words on a page and finally produce a living character on a stage. Doesn’t matter where. That’s what I like most. It’s the one place where an actor is really creative. I honor it the most.”
Hal also discovered, through his touring travels, that no one lives in the sticks anymore. “They’ve all got internet, watching everything we do here in New York.” He’s proud of the fact that his show was so well received around the country and hoping for the same success here.
Does the intimacy of revealing oneself on a small stage such as Café Carlyle cause any discomfort? “Not at all,” says Hal. “My first half of the act is self revelatory . . . indeed the construction of the act as intended.”
In that small sumptuous Cafe Carlyle room, Hal Linden will have seven musicians. “My background is as a big band musician, so how do you do big band jazz without one? – I’ve got a Benny Goodman medley including Sing, Sing, Sing and it’ll sound like big band,” says Linden. Sounds like he’s come full circle, back where he began and never really left.
Mr. Linden still maintains his role as spokesman for the Jewish National Fund, leaving on a mission to Israel with them beginning of June.
But before then, we’ll all have the pleasure of seeing him at the elegant Café Carlyle beginning May 20th thru 24th at 8:45 pm. For tickets contact: www.TheCarlyle.com or 212 744-1600.