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Michael Chiklis: Hollywood Survivor

After a controversial film and five Years as TV's "Commish," Michael Chiklis's next challenge Is Convincing Producers He's younger than his roles
Susan Karlin
From the Print Edition:
Vince McMahon, Nov/Dec 99

"You're at the wrong table."  

Michael Chiklis had been a member of the famed Grand Havana Room in Beverly Hills since it was under construction, and this was the first time he'd seen Jim Belushi there. After seven years, Chiklis was not about to lose his one opportunity to square a serious misunderstanding with the actor. He boldly planted himself next to Belushi. Belushi just as boldly glared back, repeating, "You're at the wrong table."  

All Belushi could see was the young punk who'd played his brother, the late comic John Belushi, in the controversial 1989 film Wired. He hated the way the movie portrayed John and was in no mood to chat up its star. He got up to leave.  

"Please, don't do this," said Chiklis. "I've never met you. Let's sit down and talk about this."  

It wasn't that Chiklis needed Belushi's approval for career reasons. The stocky, raspy-voiced actor had spent five years carrying the ABC police drama "The Commish" and three "Commish" TV movies, just made a cameo in the Oliver Stone film Nixon, and was set to star on Broadway in the one-man show Defending the Caveman. It's just that Jim was John's blood, and the last thing Chiklis ever wanted was to hurt the Belushi family.  

"'For my part, it was an homage,'" Chiklis told him. "'I was an actor who had an opportunity to play a hero of mine. And I did that gig out of love, respect and homage. And if I caused you and your family any pain, I am so sorry, because that's not what I ever intended.'"  

Chiklis stares into a glass of red wine while recalling the story more than a year later. "We ended up almost coming to tears and he ended up giving me a hug, saying, 'Let's let it go.'  

"So I feel like that chapter of my life is officially closed," he says. "I didn't really care about anyone else. The people in the business who didn't take meetings with me because of it, that's their whole gig. I don't have to answer to them. Jim I cared about, because he was John's family."  

On this cool summer evening, Chiklis--or "Chiky" to friends--has returned to the scene of that tale, the Grand Havana, to unwind after a long day of narrating the Showtime movie Body and Soul, one of four films he made in the past year and a half. A quiet table on the terrace. A soothing jazz riff spilling softly into the air. The glass of red wine. And two cherished Fuente Fuente OpusXs next to his plate.  

"It's shocking that they even have an OpusX, because there are waiting lists," he says with a grin, gazing at them the way some of us undress a Toblerone. They're so rare at the moment that the Havana Room is allowing only two per member. "People wait months and months to get them."  

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