Recollections of Hill Street Blues

This is a section for those 'fleeting recollections' and other thoughts about HSB by those that were part of it, if you wish to add something here please email us)

About Trinidad Silva: Just wanted to add an addendum regarding Trinidad Silva. Prior to his accident Trini had just completed working on a television pilot (Home Free) that I helped create and produce in 1988 for NBC. He was magnificent in it, as you probably can imagine because he was such a fine actor. His wife and his son survived the automobile accident. Trini, I believe was on the verge of becoming a big star.
Michael Warren (Actor played Bobby Hill)

About Kiel Martin:
 After Kiel passed away I really have had no contact with the cast. I did meet several of them at Bruce's golf tournaments and had really nice conversations with them. I talked with Ed Marinaro a few times because he liked skiing in Vail and I was paired up with one of his buddies two years in a row in the golf tournament. His name was Joe Stone and was stunt co-ordinator for a TV show called Falcon Crest. I spoke a few times with Barbra Bosson. She told me she lived in Miami for a while when she found out Kiel and I were buddies there. She told me she was a bunny at the Playboy club for a time. I know her husband Steve was instrumental in saving Kiel's job and getting him into Betty Ford for rehab. They had already brought in Ken Olin to replace Kiel and be partners with "Washington". Kiel made it back, super clean I might ad, and Ken Olin's character was subsequently killed off for Kiel's return.

I did see something on Kiel's bio that said there were no funeral services. In fact what happened was in Kiel's will he set aside some money for a party in some park in Palm Springs for close friends. He then was cremated and his ashes were flown over the gathering and spread from the sky. His mother Eileen called me in Miami to see if I was coming to Palm Springs for the celebration and I told her it was too tough for me. Her response was "If you're not going neither am I." Guess I'm not the Hollywood type. Kiel and his mother and father were very close friends of mine. I worked in downtown Miami for 25 years and Kiel's dad Karl was a court recorder and would stop by once in a while and keep me posted on Kiel's career. I wish all the group could have visited the set in Studio City. It was something special. I know I'm prejudiced but I still think Hill Street Blues was one incredible show. It was still very popular when it was canceled but Kiel told me the huge success brought big increases in pay to the actors and the producers decided to do another show, NYPD Blue.

Ron Herbinger (Friend of Kiel Martin)

About Robert Hirschfeld:
 Bob did a lot of wonderful work as an actor. His best was probably before Hill Street on the stage at Berekely Rep and Magic Theater in the Bay Area. He moved to NY from LA to be with me, and acting was only occasional, so Bob started a whole new career as a writer, writing about 30 books for kids and young adults mystery and science fiction, mainly! He was, indeed, an amazing guy. Here's a recent brief quote from a friend that says a lot about him: "Amazing guy, always the smartest in the room, heart of gold."

Nancy White (Wife of Robert Hirschfeld)

About Mick Belker: I had known Steven (Bochco) since we were at Carnegie Tech together and when he got the commission for Hill Street he said he could get me a part in it. That part was John LaRue, but when I read the script I could see the potential for Belker. What interested me about him was his vulnerability,or at least the potential for vulnerability. Although he was this super tough guy on the outside I visualized him as lonely and hurt on the inside and fortunately for us, the writer had the same idea. So I got Belker and left the door open for Kiel to LaRue. 

People often ask if we knew how good it was at the time, well although others have said not I know some of us did. You could not read that script with so much going on and not know this was something unique. There was a feeling of responsibility many of us felt towards Steven (Bochco) and Michael Kozoll. to do the best we could for them and the script. 

Bruce Weitz (Actor)

About Joe Coffey I had moved out to Los Angeles after my NFL career was over it was 1978 and I had developed a bit of an interest in acting, and prior to my retirement for football, I had worked in an acting class in New York, so…I don’t know that you would call it a conventional route to a career in acting. [Laughs.] But when my NFL career was over, I kind of knew it was something I wanted to pursue, so I moved out to Hollywood, got an agent, and once I had one, you know, I tried to get parts.

My first sort of big break was on Laverne and Shirley where I did 13 episodes of that show, and then when they didn’t pick up my contract, I was a free agent again, and I auditioned for Hill Street Blues. When I started, I was supposed to be doing a guest spot – a four-episode arc at the end of the first season. They had done 13 episodes, and they got an order for four more, and the character of Joe Coffey was in those four episodes…and was scheduled to die in the final episode. But everything sort of gelled, my character worked well with everyone else, and they decided to keep me alive!

Ed Marinaro (Actor)

About The Theme Music: When I was asked to come up with the music for the series I went to the Studio and watched the first episode. Within seconds I knew this was something special and that ending with Renko and Hill  going down in slow motion was just incredible! Afterwards I went to a meeting with Bochco and some of the executives, I had an idea in my head for something dramatic sort of down and dirty, but then Hoblit said he wanted something to go with an idea he had in his head, for a opening garage on to a desolate inner city street, with a police car speeding out of it! 

Then Bochco asked me what I thought and I suggested doing something opposite to that, light but conveying the non stop excitement that would shortly follow. I went home (which was nearby) and within half hour I had written it. I called Bochco and he and Hoblit come over to hear it and instantly we all knew we had found what we wanted, something that would exactly go with the film. I real don't know where the music came from, but I am grateful I get the chance to create wonderful art, that can be laid on someone else's art. 

Mike Post (Composer)

About The Cast:: I worked as a lighting technician at CBS Studio City during the filming of most of the episodes of Hill Street Blues. In all my years in the industry I cannot remember a better cast to work with. Unusually there were no egos and attempts to steal another actors scene. I can even remember cast members giving a round of applause after a difficult portrayal was pulled off by one of the number and on the odd occasion been moved to tears by story line, particularly the scene where Veronica Hamel takes Barbara Bosson in her arms (filmed incidentally in one moving take).

There was also much comedy and some of the cast and especially one of the writers (no I am not saying which), loved to play practical jokes on each other. Sometimes causing delay or retakes in production, much to the annoyance of the on set accountant. I think most people can see this camaraderie in the finished program and remember that despite all this most, episodes  were filmed in less than a week I know one thing for sure, I will never work with a crew like that again.

Joe Califano (Film Technician)

An interview with Joe Spano (Lieutenant Henry Goldblume) Interview, kindly given on the 25th September 2013 at the Corner Bakery, Calabasas Commons over Coffee Hi Joe and thanks for taking the time out from your busy schedule to chat to us.
Joe: When Nancy ( Robert Hirschfeld widow) told me of your efforts in creating the website, I felt it would be good to meet you and find out more about it. She is an incredible lady who has a great enthusiasm for helping the website, but of course you must have knew Robert and her very well.
Joe: Yes Bob and I were friends for a long time before his tragic death because of course we both came up through Repertory Theatre, as indeed did had a number of the cast. Many of us who were in the series, heard of the initial additions through people we knew.

Andy Lambert with Joe Spano in California

Webmaster Andy Lambert with Joe Spano, Calabasas Commons, California Ramona Silipo said you are never happier than when you are doing theatre and especially when you are doing things like your one-man show about Buckminster Fuller?
Joe: He is not wrong, when you are involved with a film, or TV production and are doing a scene, there is no real feedback. You know yourself if it seemed right, but your fellow actors are also working on their part and unless it is a very special scene you are not going to get much feedback from them. In the theatre everything is much more intermit, with a stronger connection and there is instant gratification from the audience's response to your work. When did you first meet Mr Bochco was it when you appeared on his TV Show Paris?
Joe: This was the first time I actually worked with him. 'Paris' was another production where some of the Hill Street Cast also took par. Michael Warren was regular and I think Keil Martin, Taurean Blacque, Michael Conrad and James Sikking along with myself were all involved at some time. Also of course Michael Kozoll was the writer. Is it true that you were originally cast as Renko, but they thought you were not aggressive enough for that part?
Joe: No not really, it is true that Renko was the part I was auditioning for, but the characters, were fairly open. I would have liked the Renko part but in the end I was given Goldblume. Henry is not me, but I am an actor and I moulded him the way I wanted, where I could. Was there an indication for those of you on the inside that the series was going to be such a success and perhaps more interestingly that it would still be screened all the way around the world some 30 plus years later?
Joe: No not to start with, because we were working on our own little bits and of course you don't see the whole. It was a different thing when you saw the finished production however! It was clearly something very different to other programs of the time, although of course that by no means guaranties success. I think I thought "maybe a couple of series" at the time. As the months went by it was clear that there were some very clever people involved in the series and I am proud of my contribution. Interesting that you say that Joe, because I get the impression that some of your fellow cast members are not so ready to remember their time doing it.
Joe: (smiling) That's actors for you! Of course what you are doing at the moment is the most important thing in your life and we are inclined to want to talk about that. Although some people don't like to look back, I am happy that role made a good living for me while it lasted and I will be content as long as it is one of the things I am remembered for. Can you tell us a little about how the show was structured with regards to forward planning, for example how far ahead did you know where a story that featured you heavily was going?
Joe: You would have an idea when reading the script, but in reality because we were doing different bits at different times, I would often have no idea what others actors were doing. Without that it is hard to know a great deal about where it was going. There was of course a lot of creative writing going on and so largely you left it up to the writers to look forward. Did you get a chance to make changes?
Joe: Yes I think as the series went on our input was listened to, but because it was so well written you did not often have to say things like "Goldblume would never do that" I think all of us contributed to expanding our characters to some degree and of course some wanted to expand more than others. What happened to your collection of bow ties?
Joe: (laughing): I was never a bow tie man but I think I may still have one or two hanging around at home. What of the future.
Joe: Much of the same I guess. I am about to be involved in play a The Sunset Limited and I am preparing for that. It only runs for a few  weeks, but it will be fun. Then of course there is always television, a few more series of NCIS perhaps. Well thanks for talking to us Joe, it will make a lot of people happy to hear your point of view and we really would like to talk to a few more of the cast, if you can help there?
Joe: It has been a pleasure chatting to you guys and I promise I will put a good word in with those I am still in contact with.