Mostly Credited As: Hal Linden
Birth Name: Harold Lipshitz
Date Of Birth: March 20, 1931 (Age 85)
Country Of Birth: USA
Birth Place: New York City, New York
Height: 6' (1.82 m)
Hal Linden was born in New York, and was a musician before catching the acting bug while he was in the army. Broadway resulted, and then eight seasons in the cop comedy Barney Miller and a slew of TV movies.
The son of a self-employed printer in the Bronx, he was born with the unwieldy name of Harold Lipshitz. He wisely changed at the age of 17, while a saxophonist in a band doing weekend gigs in New Jersey. ("I spotted the name in big block letter on a gas-storage tank as we were passing through Linden, N.J.").
He inherited musical talent from his father and went on to play and sing professionally with the Bobby Sherwood, Boyd Raeburn and Sammy Kaye bands. Before being drafted during the Korean War — spending his two-year hitch Stateside playing in various Army bands— Linden picked up a degree in business administration from City College of New York.
Linden turned his attention to acting shortly after service discharge in 1955, enrolling at the American Theater Wing on the G.I. Bill. "I had already done a little acting by participating in sketches we put on while entertaining the troops, and I felt very comfortable doing it," he said. After a couple of seasons of summer stock and an off-Broadway flop or two, he got a break in 1957 as Sydney Chaplin's understudy in the Broadway production of "The Bells Are Ringing."
Eighteen Broadway shows later, some of them shorter than short-lived, he walked away with the 1971 Tony Award as Best Actor in "The Rothschilds." "I had already gained financial independence a couple of years before that through TV commercial work, but had come off a horrible period in the mid-'60s," he said. Those days are light years behind Linden, now comfortably ensconced in a Brentwood mansion where his study is piled high with rejected scripts.