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Michael Cole – Pete Cochran From Mod Squad
This interview took place at the beginning of the 1990s. It was my unspeakable dream, a dream answered, even as a professional journalist.
Curly black hair. Dropping eyes. Strong words.
Women in their thirties remember Pete Cochran’s early seventies hit ABC series MOD SQUAD. Michael Cole, the actor who portrayed Pete, is a much different spiritual person today than he was then.
In terms of intelligence, however, one important point is clear. In the middle MARRIAGE OF MODFive years later, Michael was in a car accident. His eyelid was almost torn from his face; The operation saved the day but a visible scar remained. Girls across America sighed and dreamed of his dirty face again.
Today, the face is more complicated; binding, cut between middle aged and toned; black hair – with gray – still curled. Words don’t change. He wears glasses.
The once-dreamy teenagers who sighed for him are now adults who don’t live up to Michael Cole’s fantasy, and he’s always known it.
“I got into trouble [afterward],” he admitted: “It was impossible to have nothing, and then say, ‘I want that house,’ and be able to buy it.” The squint in his eye became more prominent as it entered his mind. words opened on deep scars, invisible but visible in the ears. I don’t criticize anyone.
“I started at acting school and worked in theater. The stage was my bedroom.” He laughed, and his eyes widened as he talked at length about how he had literally been on stage for so many years. “Then I went to Las Vegas. I met Paula there.” Paula Kelly was once a member of The Modernaires, a talented musician, and the mother of Mrs. Michael Cole.
“She was beautiful. I was shy.” His grief was broken; his frown widened. He looked like a big kid. The mention of Paula, the woman he married, the mother of his beloved daughter, softened his voice and brightened his face.
His mind raced very fast. Then, he was discussing his popularity. “MARRIAGE OF MOD he was a teenager. There were always bags of mail in the hall outside Aaron Spelling’s office.” He leaned over the table to look at his hands. His fingers and thumbs formed a triangle, the rest spread evenly – thinking. “It changed lives. I remember a letter from a young drug user, who was a smoker. Because of our program, he became a humanitarian.” So many years later, these thoughts still affected him.
The faceless child helped to live a good life with Michael Cole, at that time a boy who had everything. However, he was willing to destroy himself. What followed were years of anger, confusion, and a lot of drunkenness and irrational selfishness. So why does he now have a big house on top of a hill? Does he speak often and openly about spirituality and the meaning of Christ in his life?
The accident. He found God in his car accident. “It was on a ramp on the Laurel Canyon Freeway; we [he and Paula] hit the mountain. I went through the windshield twice.” That reminded him of the time he was rushed to the hospital. “People were coming in and out of my room.”
He looked at his fingers, and played again. “After everyone left one night, I looked in the mirror and knew it might be over.” He looked up and laughed softly. “So I did this,” he showed as he covered his eye with one hand. “I thought it might be an interesting picture.” He probably wasn’t really all that smart about losing his eye and his job. After the eye was saved, after that MARRIAGE OF MOD, he’s been on the road, touring on TV and performing in theaters across the country. He related one experience.
“We were in a small town one time. The weather was bad, we didn’t know if we would have an audience. But three old women were there, one was celebrating her 80th birthday.” He ran a forefinger down the side of his nose, then readjusted his glasses. “During the break, I had a stagehand get a dozen red roses. After the play, we had a party.” He stopped talking and took a deep breath. His next words were powerful. “We all cried. It’s still a special memory.”
How is it possible for a man who cries at a guest’s party to be drunk and violent? “I was scared. I remember waking up in the middle of the night. Something grabbed me. Paula grabbed me and it went away.” Even though they were in love, Paula could endure such strong feelings, and eventually left him.
“He didn’t do anything wrong,” she quickly confirmed, “I did. He just couldn’t take it anymore.”
Then there was a long time without doing anything. “It doesn’t matter. People started dying around me… my boss, my mother. Some people were worried, they told me to go back to work, but it wasn’t time. I knew when it would be enough.”
Michael reads diligently, quotes Dylan Thomas, the Bible, and other writings that have influenced him. Dropped out of school in 10th grade, eventually returned but never finished college; yet he can speak to the intellect of a student. For someone who has been inactive for a long time, his thoughts and words speak of a healthy spiritual life.
It’s been years since any of the above happened in Michael Cole’s life. Despite everything that has tried to bring him down and drag him down, today he has peace of mind, a spiritual understanding of his life, and friendship with his ex-wife.
He showed me a painting he had done on his wall, a cross with a human flower nailed to it like Christ was crucified. Next to his painting, he wrote, “This time, Dad, he knows what he’s doing.”
“Yes,” he smiled when our conversation ended, “everything in God’s time, not ours. God gave me a gift, I wasted it for a while, but not anymore. I’m ready to start using it again.”
NOTE TO THE AUTHOR: This was one of my favorite questions. Michael picked me up at a 7-Eleven at the bottom of a long, winding road that led to his beautiful, large home in the mountains of California. He handed me over to his very green, very expensive car and, after I closed the door, he drove away with a bang.
“No!” She yelled as she crawled into his side. “Don’t do that!”
I apologized, explaining that it was not intentional. He was obviously very careful with his car.
We arrived at his house and he took me inside and we sat at his table. He bought me a soda, and then we talked. And he spoke. And he spoke. It was like a dam burst.
Remember, this was true for me. Michael Cole was my perfect childhood boy – and here I was as a grown-up, at his dining room table, at his house, chatting with him as if we were long-time friends. Amazing!
After we finished talking, he let me take a picture of him in front of his picture on his wall.
But the most amazing part, actually, beyond anything else… the interview on, the pictures are done – Michael Cole, Michael Cole, he wanted to cook me dinner. Yes, he wanted me to have dinner with him – and he was going to be the chef. Spaghetti, actually. I thanked him for the offer and, for reasons I will never understand… I said, “No, thanks.”
Can you imagine?!
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