The possessor of a BA from Tulane University and an MA from Boston University, Paul Michael Glaser first appeared on a New York stage in Joseph Papp's 1968 production of Rockabye Hamlet.. Billed in the early stages of his career as Michael Glaser, he was featured on Broadway in The Man in the Glass Booth, in such films as Fiddler on the Roof (1971, as Perchik) and Butterflies are Free (1972) and on the TV soap operas Love is Many Splendored Thing and Love of Life. He reverted to his three-barreled name when cast as Detective David Starsky, one of two hotshot young police officers who jetted around an unnamed crime-ridden municipality in their bright red 1974 Ford Torino and attempted to wipe the streets clean of the criminal element, on the long-running (1975-79) TV cop series Starsky and Hutch.
After 1984, Glaser cut back sharply on his acting appearances to concentrate on directing such TV movies as Amazons and such theatrical features as The Running Man (1987), The Air Up There (1994) and Kazaam (1996), and episodes of series programs including The Agency, Judging Amy, Third Watch and Las Vegas. In 2003, Glaser landed a small role opposite Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton in Nancy Meyers's romantic comedy Something's Gotta Give. The following year, Warners released a tongue-in-cheek big screen cinematization of Starsky in which Ben Stiller played the character of David and Owen Wilson played his partner, Detective Ken Hutchinson. Glaser and longtime series co-star David Soul made cameo appearances at the end of the film, billed respectively as The Old Starsky and The Old Hutch.
In the late 1980s Glaser's life was torn apart by the most appalling of tragedies. As the result of a contaminated blood transfusion, his wife Elizabeth and their two children were infected with the HIV virus, and in 1988, their daughter Ariel died at age seven. Subsequently, Paul and Elizabeth became the most adamant, tireless, and omnipresent AIDS awareness activists in any profession. In 1988 the two helped found the Pediatric AIDS Foundation. Sadly, Elizabeth died in December of 1994. Since then, the Elizabeth Glaser Scientists Award was established to fund research into the AIDS virus. Glaser subsequently remarried producer/writer Tracy Barone in 1996; after a little over a decade together, the two filed for divorce.