Stuart Margolin

Actor Stuart Margolin, who played the shifty but lovable weasel Evelyn "Angel" Martin in the popular television show, "The Rockford Files" in the 1970s, has deep roots to the East Valley and graduated from Scottsdale High School in 1958.

Here, Margolin (left) is pictured with actor James Garner who played private investigator Jim Rockford. Margolin, who wrote numerous songs with longtime friend Jerry Riopelle, will be in Phoenix for Riopelle's New Year's Eve concert. (Photo submitted).


I had hoped to interview actor Stuart Margolin in time for last week's column about James Garner and Garner's recently released book, "The Garner Files: A Memoir" co-authored with Jon Winokur in which Garner mentioned a fondness for Mesa where part of "Murphy's Romance" was filmed.

But the delay in interviewing Margolin, who was one of the best character actors in television history, worked out for the better as he was getting ready to knock off 18 holes of golf last Thursday morning on a course somewhere in Mississippi. He was visiting family there during a cross-country trip en route to California and was able to do the interview later in the day.

As many of a certain age will recall, Margolin played the shifty but lovable bearded weasel, Evelyn "Angel" Martin on "The Rockford Files" between 1974 to 1980 and won two Emmy Awards for best supporting actor in the role. Before playing Angel, Margolin was noticed by Garner when he played a drunk hitting his head on jail cell bars in the 1970s show, "Love, American Style."

From there, Garner tapped Margolin for the role of Mitch, a deputy to Sheriff Nichols played by Garner in the early 1970s short-lived show, "Nichols." From there, the rest is history as Margolin and Garner resumed their acting chemistry on Rockford.

A 1958 graduate of Scottsdale High School, Margolin's roots in the area run deeper than Garner's.

As a kid in the late 1940s, Margolin would come from Texas to spend about two weeks during the winter at his grandfather, Adolph Kalina's turkey farm in east Mesa and attend an elementary school in downtown Mesa, his first experience with ethnically diverse kids.

"The bus would pick all the kids up out there and take us to school, said Margolin, 71, who lives with his wife in New York and West Virginia. "Kids would play marbles in the dirt. It was my first experience with playing marbles - ‘steelies.' It was a good experience. My grandfather's farm was way past town - it was near the Buckhorn Baths."

Margolin's father, Morris Margolin, Kalina and uncle also later started Palm Springs, a development near the Superstition Mountains in Apache Junction along the Old West Highway between Superstition Boulevard and the US 60.

Margolin will be passing through the Valley again soon.

His rock-and-roll roots in the Valley also run deep as he and his longtime friend, Jerry Riopelle, wrote about 60 songs together.

Margolin and Riopelle recorded many of the songs during recording sessions in Los Angeles in the mid 1960s, including "Blues on My Table," written by Margolin and Riopelle's first big hit.

Margolin will be in Phoenix for Riopelle's New Year's Eve concert at the Orpheum Theater and said he might join him on stage.

"I might do something," Margolin said, but I'm not sure if I'd call it singing."

These days, Margolin said he reads about two books a week and is writing short stories himself, possibly for a book. He more recently appeared in the Richard Gere film, "Arbitrage." He also is shopping a musical play he wrote based on Candy Barr, the stripper connected to Dallas nightclub owner Jack Ruby who fatally shot Lee Harvey Oswald, the believed assassin of President Kennedy.

As for his acting experience with Garner on "The Rockford Files," Margolin said, "It was the best time of my career. That was a pretty good experience. As actors, we had a pretty good feel for each other. The writing for the show was great. We both loved the show, and I loved the character Angel played."

• Mike Sakal's column runs on Fridays. Contact him at (480) 898-6533 or or write to Mike Sakal, East Valley Tribune, 1620 W. Fountainhead Pkwy., Suite 219, Tempe, AZ 85282.


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