Starr Shines Bright on Broadway
by Ginny Ehrlich-Greenberg
Perhaps the most highly awaited Broadway production of the 2005/2006 season, the revival of Neil Simon's The Odd Couple starring Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, was sold-out of its limited run almost as soon as tickets went on sale. Last January, a few months into the run of the show, Mike Starr '73 took over the role of "Murray" the cop from comedian Brad Garrett.
Playing either side of the law - cops, thugs, mobsters and government officials - is familiar territory to Mike, who has appeared in The Natural, Goodfellas, Mad Dog and Glory, Billy Bathgate, The Bodyguard, Millers Crossing, Dumb and Dumber and Summer of Sam. He is also proud of his television roles in Ed, The West Wing and especially the A&E original movies Murder in a Small Town and The Lady in Question with Gene Wilder. His complete list of credits is far too lengthy to list, and though Mike may not be a household name, his face is familiar to anyone versed in pop culture.
At 6'3" Mike is known to play a consistent "type" on stage and screen, but he was certainly a Renaissance man on the Hofstra campus. Growing up in Flushing, New York, Mike was persuaded to attend Hofstra by his brother Bill (Beau) Starr '67, '69, a student-athlete who later played professional football and then - like his younger brother - went into acting. In fact, the brothers shared the screen in Born on the Fourth of July, the Academy Award-winning film based on the life of Ron Kovic, with whom Mike was friendly at Hofstra.
As a Hofstra student, Mike said, "I majored in drama literature and minored in communications. I was very active in the Anthropology Department and was a student senator."
Upon entering the University, Mike became very active in both football and the Drama Department. "My brother was on the Jets and introduced me to [Al] Tank Passuello '63, who became my 'godfather,' and Jim Fellman '58, '81, who I called my 'rabbi.'" With Howdy Myers at the helm of the team and Harry Royle as the defensive line coach, Mike recalls, "It was a big thrill to play. I made the traveling team and got to start a few games."
Mike particularly remembers a game in which he was ballman on the suicide squad of a big upset game against C.W. Post. Harry Royle, now director of athletic development at Hofstra, heard Mike on a pay phone prior to the game: "He was so excited. I remember hearing him yell, 'Mom! Get the family down here to Hofstra for the game tomorrow! I'm starting on the kick-off squad!' Mike was a terrific guy, dearly loved by his fellow players."
When it came to his scholarly pursuits, Mike said, "Miriam Tulin [of the Drama Department] was my mentor and teacher. I'd go to her and ask advice anytime I was stuck on how to play a role."
Almost as much as drama, the Department of Anthropology had an enormous impact on Mike and helped prepare him for the many roles he has since been called on to play. "I was a student aide and peer teacher in anthropology and taught a class on theater and film and its relationship to culture. One of my professors [then chair of the department], Gerry Rosenfeld, was a basketball player from the Lower East Side. He taught me to see the world, film and theater in a completely different way. To this day when I'm playing a character from a different culture, I remember the lessons I learned from Gerry."