I've said before that Hill Street Blues was the best cop show ever. One of the best things about it was Trinidad Silva. You’ve forgotten? He played Jesus Martinez, the menacing and magnetic leader of the
I thought of Jesus lately when thinking about
Well, yes. Civilization is a precious achievement, hard won and fragile enough to vanish in a moment. Æschylus understood this, when he showed Athene as she drove away the furies:
Go then. Sped by majestic sacrifice
From these, plunge beneath the ground.There hold
Off what might hurt the land; pour in
The city’s advantage, success in the end.
--Æschylus, The Eumenides, 1006-9 (
But Æschylus understood: the furies are the city. Families, networks, alliances: sure, we have to tame them, but they are what give the city its lifeblood and its sinew. One of the many virtues of HSB is that it was about the first TV show ever to deal frankly with that issue. Jesus was scary and funny, but Frankie needed him. And Jesus, in his own way, needed Frankie: in the end, he was a man of political vision who cared for his community at least as much—well, perhaps almost as much—as he cared for himself. Moreover, he was a man of his word. You could deal with that guy. I don’t know of anything quite like this before, but if we are thinking of “street government,” don’t we see just a hint of Tony Soprano around here somewhere?
He played guys with names like Carlos and Hector and Ramon. He played an older and perhaps more complicated gangster-- Leo “Frog” Lopez-- in Dennis Hopper’s Colors; Janet Maslin said Hopper had “a superb eye for the poisonous flowering of gang culture” (link).