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… Young at Heart

July 8, 2010 By:
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Bernie Kopell is setting sail for off-Broadway.

Love, exciting and new -- or is that exciting and ... old?

"Just exciting!" exclaims actor Bernie Kopell.

Come aboard: "The Love Boat" is setting sail for "Viagara Falls" and Kopell, the former doc holiday as the dreamboat medic Adam Bricker on "The Love Boat" some 30 years ago, has docked into the Little Shubert Theatre in New York with a comedy about second chances -- and little blue pills.

What would Captain Stubing say? Doesn't matter; Kopell -- the play, in previews, opens on July 21 -- wakes up to life here as a widower with Viagra agita.

Now Kopell, a New York University graduate who grew up in the loop of Brooklyn -- his father ran two jewelry shops in New York -- is in a New York stage of mind. "My dad had a jewelry store on 42nd Street and here I am, returning back onto 42nd Street with the play."

Love me tender ... or by ship: The sexy star of the '70s claims being 77 qualifies him as an "alter kacker."

A neutered spaniel? No, an aging Romeo with no need to roam anymore.

Maybe his character qualifies, but no one worth his boat toot quibbles that Kopell still looks great in Bermuda shorts.

Get smart -- and the producers have, teaming Kopell with an odd couple of "codgers" (Lou Cutell, also the comedy's co-writer; and Teresa Ganzel) who discover the Viagra swagger that comes when the little blue pill that could ... does.

Sex and the septuagenarians? Mr. Big in 30 years?

Kopell's not waiting for reruns; he's in the here and now. As accomplished as he is -- TV's "Get Smart" and "That Girl" -- he is that happy to be starring in a play where Yiddish kites of comic schtick soar in the wind.

But he's always placed his accents on the mother tongue; just happened that that mother tongue was often nested -- depending on the character -- in Mexico, Germany ... or Russia.

Well, that wasn't too far from home, considering that Kopell's Jewish ancestry shipped over from Kiev, where his father left pogroms to get with the American program.

But Kopell revealed other assets and facets without having to follow his father into the gem business. Of course, his dad the jeweler didn't see his son as cutting-edge, discouraging him: "He was concerned about my making a living."

Here's lookin' at you kid ... but others wouldn't, he warned. "In those days, he used to say, if you don't look like Clark Gable or Cary Grant, you have no chance of being an actor."

Kopell copped to not being a Gable but was granted another factor; he had the charm and charisma that proved irresistible as bedside manner -- whether as the open-seas lothario on "Love Boat" or as the mentor in the telefilm "Follow Your Heart."

The trail leads to the stage these days, where his Moe Crubbs -- so far from the spy character of Siegfried and wry he played on TV's "Get Smart" ("All Nazis are played by Yids," he kids) -- is sowing his wild oats at a time when they're apt to turn into farina.

While there's a wild and wacky Yiddishe momma to make merry, "this is really a love story between the two guys who take care of each other."

Kopell's taken care of his creative craft in other ways, notably taking special pride in "The Cutter," in which he portrayed a Holocaust survivor whose jewelry business is threatened by the former Auschwitz commandant who has tracked him down.

"It was a payback for Jews," says Kopell of the special treat of a twist that the TV film had.

But today Kopell's fallen for "Viagara Falls."

As for those little blue pills ... The longtime second-time married Kopell may not have time to take them, chasing, as he does, after his legacy.

That legacy?

"Two sons, ages 12 and 7," says Kopell of the exciting and new times he's come aboard and across as an older dad. 

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