Michael Cole – Pete Cochran From Mod Squad

This interview was done in the early 1990s. It was my wildest dream, an answered dream, even as a professional reporter. joker8899

Dark curly hair. Brooding eyes. Gravelly voice.

Women over thirty will probably recall introspective Pete Cochran of the early seventies hit ABC series MOD SQUAD. Michael Cole, the actor who portrayed Pete, is much different spiritually today than he was then.

Appearance-wise, however, one significant point is just as obvious. Amidst MOD SQUAD‘s five year run, Michael was in a serious car accident. His eyelid was nearly severed from his face; surgery saved it but an obvious scar remained. Girls across America sighed in relief and dreamed anew of his weathered face. hp888s

Today, the face is even more weathered; the build medium, seesawing between middle-aged and toned; the dark hair – streaked with gray – still curly. The voice is unchanged. He wears glasses.

Those once-dreaming teens who sighed over him are now adults with lives no longer centered around the fantasy of Michael Cole, and he’s long been aware of that. slot1234s

“I got into trouble [afterward],” he admitted. “It was unreal to have nothing, then say, ‘I want that house,’ and be able to buy it.” The squint to his eye became more obvious as got into his thoughts. Now, however, his words opened on deeper scars, invisible to sight but obvious to the ear. “Everything bad was my fault. I blame no one else.

“I started in acting school working in plays. The stage was my bedroom.” He laughed, and his eyes lit up as he went into a long dissertation on how he literally lived on the stage for many years. “Then I went to Las Vegas. I met Paula there.” Paula Kelly was once a member of The Modernaires, a talented singer, and the woman who become Mrs. Michael Cole.

“She was beautiful. I was shy.” His grin was lopsided; his squint deepened. He looked like a big kid. The mention of Paula, the woman he married, the mother of his adored daughter, brought a softness to his voice and made his face light up. Voicemod

His ideas moved so fast. Next, he was discussing his stardom. “MOD SQUAD was a groundbreaker. There were always mailbags in the hall outside Aaron Spelling’s office.” He leaned over the table to stare at his hands. His forefingers and thumbs made a triangle, the rest spread evenly – a thinking gesture. “It changed lives. I remember a letter from a girl on drugs, she was a hooker. Because of our show, she became a social worker.” So many years later, the thought still made him emotional.

A faceless kid helped towards a better life by Michael Cole, at the time a young man who had it all. Yet he was ready to self-destruct. What followed were years of anger, confusion, and much drinking and senseless indulgence. How is it that he now owns a spacious hilltop home? Speaks often and liberally of spirituality and Christ’s meaning in his life?

The accident. He found God amidst his car accident. “It was on a slick spot on Laurel Canyon Freeway; we [he and Paula] hit the mountain. I went through the windshield twice.” That reminded him of the moments directly after, rushing to the hospital. “People were in and out of my room.”

He eyed his fingers, once again splayed. “After everyone left one night, I checked the mirror and knew it might be over.” He looked up with a slow grin. “Then I did this,” he showed how he covered the eye with one hand. “Thought maybe it’d be an interesting image.” He probably wasn’t really all that philosophical about losing an eye and his career. After the eye was saved, after MOD SQUAD, he floundered, guesting on episodic TV and doing plays across the country. He related one experience. zodiac888s

“We were in a small town at one time. The weather was bad, we didn’t know if we’d have an audience. But three old ladies were there, one celebrating her 80th birthday.” He ran a forefinger up the side of his nose, then readjusted his glasses. “At intermission, I had a stagehand get a dozen red roses. After the play, we had a party.” He stopped talking and breathed deep. His next words were thick. “We both cried. It’s still a special memory.”

How could a man who cries at a stranger’s party become hard-drinking and belligerent? “I was afraid. I remember waking in the middle of one night. Something real gripped me. Paula held me and it went away.” Love notwithstanding, Paula could only handle so much amidst such powerful emotions, and she eventually left him.


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