Erik Estrada talks hip action, Ponch, Chris Hansen and child predators

07.28.11 7 years ago


Remember “CHiPs,” that TV show about sexy motorcycle cops back in the ’70s? Well, even if you don’t, one of the iconic stars of the show, Erik Estrada, is going to be shaking his groove thing on Univision’s version of “Dancing with the Stars,” “Mira Quien Baila (Look Who’s Dancing!)” I talked to Estrada about his mom, shaking his hips and Internet sexual predators. No, really.

Why are you dancing on TV? Paying homage to the disco era?

Long time ago, I was going to be a New York cop, then got involved with this girl who was into acting, then got bit by the acting bug myself. I had to tell [my mother], ma, hey, I”ve got to try this, man.  I”ll do it ’till I”m 30, and if I can”t make a living  I”ll come back and still be eligible [until] age of 32 to go to the police academy. I got my job playing “CHiPs,” so playing a cop. That was pretty good. Then I got the [Spanish-language] soap opera fifteen years ago; she liked that. It looses a lot in translation, but [when I was offered this] she said, “Paco, the years are catching up to me. I”m 84 years old. I want to see you on the Latin television again.” I said, come on ma. But they offered this to me, I really don”t want to do it, but she said you must, you must. So I”m doing it for her. But now I”ve got to really get into it.

Do you dance at all? If you want to make Mom proud, that helps.
I fool around, but not like this. I felt like a bear out there when I was moving. But I can”t do any more than I can do.
You must have an edge as the first Latino sex symbol on American TV.
Originally Ponch was Poncherelli. He was Italian. I changed him to Poncherello and made him Hispanic-American. I was in a great position to say hey, look, why make him Italian-American? Let”s make him Hispanic-American and this way every Hispanic out there, I don”t have to be Mexican, I don”t have to be Puerto Rican or Venezuelan, just Hispanic. And it worked. First time in prime time. A lot of people acknowledge I did that, because after me came Jimmy Smits, Hector Elizandro, playing positive Hispanic roles as lawyers, director of hospital, police. People would say to me, thanks. I did it because for so many years I played the Hispanic with a gun, the knife. The bad apple.

You’re back on Univision, which gets pretty kick ass ratings here in L.A.

Listen, the Latin people, I love the Latin people. They are so loyal to you. Even if you haven”t been on TV for thirty years, they still love you. And they cherish you and give you respect. You”re not fast food in the Latin market. [But] Spanish is my second language. I had to learn it for the soap opera, because I didn”t know how to speak or read Spanish when I got it. I went to Berlitz and I crammed and I got it. It”s great to be back, I have a lot of friends here. I know I”m going to be embraced.

You’ve got other TV projects in the works.
Tomorrow I have a pitch to one of the networks for a game show. I can”t tell you too much. But it will be a game show and I”ll host it and own it. It”ll be a good thing. I”m getting up there in age, and I want to have a nice annuity when it”s over. In three years I”ll be 65, baby. I”ll be breaking into my pensions. I was born in 1949.
Are you seriously a sheriff’s deputy? Or is that just an honorary thing?
I”m an ICAC investigator out of the Bedford [Virginia] County Sheriff”s Department. I”m a deputy sheriff. ICAC is Internet Crimes Against Children. My new passion is to get Internet education mandated in all schools. We”ve got to start teaching our kids how to be safe in the 40,000 plus chat rooms that are out there. Because they”re being had. These sexual preditors groom the kids. I know, I”ve arrested enough of them.
Seriously? You arrest people? Get out!
Absolutely. We build a case, we go out, we go to the magistrate and get the warrant, and then we go get them.
They must freak out that Ponch is hauling them in.
First, they”re shocked just because they’re thinking they”re going to pick up a young kid, and then they get us instead. We pop em, pull them out of the car, give him to the sergeant, the guy gets his rights read, we read him his rights right away. Then we go, we strip the car, we go to the apartment, we take anything that relates to the crime.
I see a “To Catch A Predator” cross over with Chris Hansen!
Nah. Most of those guys walked on technicalities. You get a guy on an offense, you read him his rights first! Then get into it. But I walk the talk. This is the real deal.
Alright, back to dancing. Have you got a secret killer move?
The hip thing, maybe. I”ve got to work on it. Those kids were fast!

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