Picks and Pans Review: Spotlight On...
LIFE AFTER ELIZABETH
EARLY LAST YEAR, TWO MONTHS AFTER his wife, Elizabeth Glaser, succumbed to AIDS, the disease she had fought so courageously and publicly, Paul Michael Glaser was ready to find a new film project to help him get his life back on track. "I don't think I was totally aware how difficult it would be to go back to work," says the 52-year-old former Starsky and Hutch star turned director. Then, after dozens of scripts failed to engage his interest, inspiration struck during a casual phone conversation with a friend who happened to be a manager of basketball star Shaquille O'Neal's. "The idea just happened to me, out of the blue," Glaser says of his suggestion that O'Neal play the genie in a retelling of Aladdin "After I hung up, I thought, 'Dammit, I'm going to run with this one.' "
And the result, Kazaam—in which. O'Neal pops from a troubled inner-city, child's boom box—has helped put Glaser, who conceived and directed the film, on the road to recovery from an almost unbearable nightmare. His life changed in 1981, when his wife contracted HIV from a blood transfusion. Before the disease was diagnosed, Elizabeth passed it to the couple's daughter through breastfeeding (Ariel died at 7 in 1988) and to their son Jake during pregnancy. Though HIV-positive, Jake, 12, is asymptomatic and "is doing great," says Glaser, who cast his son in a supporting role in Kazaam.
While working with the Pediatric AIDS Foundation, which his wife founded in 1988, Glaser is also focusing on his yearlong romance with Tracy Barone, 33, president of a film production company. Thanks to his close relationship with Jake—whom he lives with in Santa Monica—and a Kazaam-inspired philosophy, he is learning to cope. "The genie in us is our love," he says. "We have to have faith that it will all work out."
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