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A Sweet Second Act

Portraying suave guys with a swagger has been Dennis Farina's regular beat since surrendering his police badge in Chicago.
Joel Drucker
From the Print Edition:
Ernest Hemingway, Jul/Aug 99

(continued from page 4)

One place where Farina particularly likes making adjustments is on the golf course. As a kid in Chicago, he'd occasionally whack a few balls, thinking the sport was rather ridiculous. But about 12 years ago, shortly after becoming a full-time actor, he started to hit the links with everyone from ex-colleagues in Chicago to friends in Arizona to Hollywood types.

"To step up to the first tee is great. I learned from [former U.S. Open champion] Ken Venturi that it's best to tee off last," he says. "I play golf two to three times a week. I'm not as good at golf as I want to be. It's a game that challenges me. I'm an 18 [handicap]. It's fun, it's enjoyable. I've played a few of those celebrity events, like the Frank Sinatra Pro-Am, but I don't want to do that too much or else it becomes a job, and what would be the fun of that?"

Farina's immersion into golf coincided with his emerging appreciation for cigars. As with golf, cigars played a bit role in Farina's youth, only in this case the impact was positive. "I had an uncle and a cousin who always had cigars in their mouths," he says. "It looked good. I thought, 'I want to be that kind of guy.' My uncle never smoked them: they were just in his mouth, those little Parodis."

Once Farina started golfing frequently, cigars became a central part of the ritual. "A cigar became like ham-and-eggs at the first tee," he says. "Before I tee off, I light one up and lay it on the tee marker. That's when I usually smoke, when I play golf, or sometimes afterwards if we're sitting around having sandwiches."

Farina isn't partial to a specific brand, but "I do like the robusto-sized cigars. In Canada, I once had some cigars made for me, but they were too strong. My preference is for a light, rather than a dark."

When asked what draws him to cigars, Farina responds, "It's a personal thing. You get an enjoyment. A little bit of solitude helps pass the time of day. It's relaxing. I think I could relax more. I've played some characters who are intense. I wouldn't want to be half the characters I've played."

It's hard to imagine this placid man ever feeling too tense. "My life is like that song by Dean Martin--'Ain't That a Kick in the Head'--it's just a kick in the head, an amazing, special thing that's happened to me that I never could have planned. It's a lot of fun.

"Not too many things make me unhappy," he says. "I have a sense of proportion, that this is all very nice, and I enjoy it, and I enjoy what I do. I don't have any grand scheme about what to do, or what I should be doing next year. I figure if it's going to happen, it's going to happen. These things have a way of taking a life of their own. I don't want to sound flip or blasé, but I kind of move at my own pace. You find your own pace. It's wrong to be rushed into something."

Farina's philosophy may seem at odds with the freneticism of Hollywood life, but dare we expect anything less sensible from a man who started a new career at 40?

Oakland-based Joel Drucker writes frequently about popular culture and sports for Biography, Tennis and HBO.

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