A conversation with television’s Peter Falk

BY VICTORIA SIEGEL, SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH LIGHT

Peter Falk, who has been entertaining audiences for decades, will be bringing his stories, warmth, and humor to St. Louis when he appears at the St. Louis Jewish Book Festival on Monday, Nov. 13, at 7:30 p.m.

Falk’s debut book, titled Just One More Thing after the line he made famous in his Columbo television series, is neither an autobiography nor a Hollywood tell-all — it’s a wonderful collection of stories from his life that he hopes the reader will find humorous and engaging. Falk’s resume is overflowing with award-winning performances on stage, television and film. It is this rich longevity that provides the essence for his book. He spoke with the Jewish Light about his first book, Lt. Columbo, and his incredible life.

Jewish Light: After all of these years, why did you decide to write a book now?

Peter Falk: I can’t really answer that question. I supposed I was influenced by every other actor writing a book.

JL: Why did you select this format of a collection of your stories instead of a chronological tale? Some of the chapters are only a couple of paragraphs.

PF: I haven’t read any other celebrity book but I wasn’t attracted to the idea of writing something like “I was born on this date and my mother fed me…” I was interested in writing stories that would be entertaining and provocative.

JL: What do you want readers to get out of your book?

PF: Laughs. I want people to enjoy it. This is the kind of book that I would like to read. The kind that gives me a chance to recount to my friends a chapter that I enjoyed. I didn’t want to write an autography. I guess when I write I like to get some kick out of what I’m doing.

JL: What are most people surprised to find out about you?

PF: Why did it take me 12 years to become an actor? In fact, I hadn’t thought about it all that clearly until I got to this book. I don’t know if previous to writing this that I had focused on that.

JL: So are you happy with your choice of profession?

PF: Yes.

JL: Unlike most actors you didn’t have to struggle for a long time.

PF: I lucked out. Why? A lot of some actors’ success has to do with luck. I appeared with Jason Robards in The Iceman Cometh. We both received recognition but for me I had just started acting. Jason had been acting for 10 years and no one knew who he was. But once he was in a big play, it made a difference.

JL: Who is your favorite screen or play writer?

PF: I talk about Neil Simon in the book. Luckiest thing that could happen to any actor is to have Doc Simon say “this particular actor has a tone for this work.” His work is great on the stage, like The Prisoner of Second Avenue and all of his pictures…

JL: Do you think Columbo would be relevant today?

PF: I think Columbo would be popular in any age because the character was so appealing.

JL: Readers might be surprised to know that you’re an artist.

PF: I draw every chance I get. However, I haven’t been able to do a lot since I just wrote this book.

JL: Your subject matter is mostly women drawn from live models.

PF: It’s tough to get a horse to stand still in an art studio. And drawing from a photograph is an entirely different thing. You end up drawing a reproduction of the photograph. I am attracted to drawing people instead of landscapes. I find that more interesting.

JL: How often do you go into the studio to draw?

PF: About once a week.

JL: What projects are on the horizon for you?

PF: To play as much golf as possible and to draw every chance I get.

JL: What does your religion mean to you and does it play any part in your life?

PF: I’m not actively, profoundly religious but I have faith. I believe in the guy up there. I was bar mitzvah in a synagogue in New York. On my mother’s side we have Czech and Hungarian; my father’s side is Russian and Polish. My father’s dad had the keys to the shul and was a macher. He was a very religious man and on the High Holidays we went to his synagogue.

JL: Do you remember seders from your childhood?

PF: Yes, my grandfather’s seder. It was all in Hebrew.

JL: What do you want your legacy to be?

PF: I was the guy who created Columbo. The raincoat was my personal coat, I picked the car, my mannerisms became his, and the theme song was something I did by accident.

JL: What else about the book do you want people to know?

PF: That it’s fun and enjoyable. That they’ll laugh and get a kick out of it. It’s the kind of book that you can read for 15 minutes and if you have to do something else, you can easily go back to it the next day.

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