For Hill Street Blues Partners Warren and Haid, the Next Collar Could Be An Emmy
Offstage, Warren, 36, is closer to his character. Born poor, he used his skill as a basketball player to earn a scholarship to UCLA, and captained the team—with a little help from a center named Lew Alcindor, now known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar—to the 1967 and 1968 national championships. Despite his achievements in two fields, Warren, who feels keenly his responsibilities as a role model to younger blacks, is quick to point out that there are more reliable paths to success. "I'm against the idea that sports and show business should be the only vehicles for our black youths to escape their depressed state," he says. "I'd much rather see the time and effort being put into becoming political scientists, doctors or lawyers. Trying to be a working actor is as difficult for a black as becoming chairman of General Motors."
Haid, by contrast, is Renko in reverse. Raised in an affluent household, he says he became radicalized after enlisting in the Vietnam-era Navy and engaging in covert submarine operations off Thailand. "It was like, 'What war? Who are these people? Why are we spying on them?' " recalls Haid, 38, who later joined Vietnam Veterans Against the War. "I became very disenchanted." He is now a member of the California Arts Council and a firm admirer of Jerry Brown ("His philosophies are very 21st-century"). Haid, a surfer and sailor, is particularly enraged by Interior Secretary James Watt's plan to sell oil-drilling rights off the California coast. "The greatest moments of my life have been in that ocean," he says. "When I think someone is screwing it up, it makes me sick." He's also a devotee of a meditation technique taught by Indian guru Muktananda. Haid's girlfriend, Debi Richter, a 25-year-old actress, introduced him to the swami's teachings, and the couple just returned from a month-long pilgrimage to Muktananda's ashram in Ganeshpur, India. "It's made Charles stronger but less aggressive," says Debi.
The son of a Palo Alto, Calif. maritime lawyer and a housewife, Haid attended Jesuit high school ("I still believe strongly in the Catholic Church," he says), then studied directing at Pittsburgh's Carnegie Tech. He directed dinner theater and Shakespeare festivals and along the way married actress Penelope Windust. They are now separated, but Haid sees their daughters Arcadia, 10, and Brittany, 7, often. Haid learned to act "by watching all those actors I directed," and moved to Hollywood where he worked his way through television and film parts to Hill Street.
Warren grew up half a continent away in South Bend, Ind., where his father was a janitor who moonlighted as a garbage truck driver. "There were some racially related incidents in town," recalls Warren, "but basketball was the great equalizer." A star athlete in high school, where he was the only black in his class, he received scholarship offers from 105 schools before accepting UCLA's. Graduating with a degree in theater arts, he failed to find a pro offer he liked ("The NBA and ABA thought it was ludicrous that this little 5'11" guard would be asking for guaranteed money") and decided to parlay his sports fame into a showbiz career. Instead, "I paid dues for 12 years," he recalls, though he now suspects his slow start was a blessing. "I think what I was going for at first were the bright lights rather than the longevity," he says. "But when you start out at the top, it's very difficult to become good. It's worked out much better for me—I've had to learn my craft." Very gradually, he began getting work, often playing cops—ironically, he says, because "I saw most cops as bad guys, abusing their power." His attitude began to change during a stint patrolling with the L.A.P.D. in preparation for Hill Street. "It made me a lot more sympathetic toward cops," says Warren.
Warren married Susie, a teacher, seven years ago. They and their daughter, Koa, 6, and son, Cash, 4, live in a three-bedroom house in West Hollywood, where Michael plays tennis and indulges his love of dance music by taking disco lessons and blasting Stevie Wonder and Quincy Jones on the stereo.
Hill Street's odd couple, who are pals offscreen as well, also share pride of product. "On TV, they usually want a viewer to look at the screen immediately and think, 'He's a bad guy,' " Warren explains. "But life isn't like that—and this show plays against stereotypes." "No one on this show is weak," adds Haid. "It's the fastest track in town."