Mainstream America got its first taste of David Caruso when he appeared in a nationally syndicated mid-'70s coffee commercial as a stock boy in a general store run by Margaret Hamilton. In those days, Caruso would pick up extra cash by appearing in lineups for the New York police department, where his street-urchin style made him fit right in. This same street-tough quality won Caruso his first semi-regular TV series role in 1981, as the Irish-American gang leader "Shamrock" on Hill Street Blues. Building up his resumé, he continued to take supporting roles like the "washout" aviation candidate in An Officer and a Gentleman (1982) and assistant to Judd Nelson's quest for revenge in Blue City (1986). 1984 proved a busy year as he divorced wife Cheri Maugans and married Rachel Ticotin, with whom he had a daughter, Greta, later that year. More supporting roles paid Caruso's bills throughout the '80s, as well as a starring TV gig on a short-lived 1990 cop series called H.E.L.P. A much more important law enforcement role still lay ahead, however, in the form of a hot new series called NYPD Blue that premiered in 1993.
Playing the role of Detective John Kelly on the series made Caruso an overnight star. The show was produced by his old Hill Street Blues boss Steven Bochco, and Caruso had the groundbreaking drama to thank for his transformation from working actor to sought-after star -- yet he remained with the monumentally successful show for only 26 episodes. After a very public series of disagreements with producers, Caruso left NYPD Blue in 1994, hoping to use his new celebrity to invigorate a film career. He returned to audiences in 1995, starring the crime thriller Kiss of Death.
Unfortunately, Kiss of Death was a critical and box-office failure, as were his successive suspense thrillers Jade, Cold Around the Heart, and Body Count. Though he walked down the isle a third time in 1995, the actor's wedding seemed to be the only happy news associated with his name. By the end of the '90s, Caruso's decision to leave NYPD Blue was considered one of the most infamous career blunders in history, landing him on the C-list and making a joke of the inflated ego that some said put him there. In 1997, the first episode of the outrageous animated media satire South Park seemed to summarize the actor's status with a gag in which the two-year-old character Ike is persuaded to jump from a spaceship and fall several feet to the ground when his brother yells "Do your impression of David Caruso's career!"
Many actors find themselves remembered as cinematic or TV one-hit wonders, and this was how Caruso was already being recorded in pop-culture history. The new millennium, however, would find the actor defeating the Hollywood laws of physics with a resurrection on a par with that of John Travolta. In 2002, the hit procedural prime-time crime drama CSI: Crime Scene Investigation was launching a spin-off, CSI: Miami, and in the starring role of Lieutenant Horatio Caine was none other than David Caruso. The spin-off proved to be just as successful as its predecessor, and almost ten years after his first shot at fame with NYPD Blue, Caruso was back in the game. While cynics predicted that he would grow too big for his britches and leave the series in a disastrous repetition of history, Caruso remained loyal to the show, even making cameo appearances on the other CSI series. Though 2005 brought a divorce, it also saw the birth of a son with girlfriend Liza Marquez.