At the tender age of 20, a hungry and dedicated strapping young theater actor named Mike Chiklis shaved areas of his head to play a 65-year-old man with male-pattern Baldness in a production of “You Can’t Take It With You”. Instead of using the standard powder on his head (as he did on his face), he used greasepaint, and failed to remove it properly at the end of each day. When the play finished its run, young Chiklis was informed he had killed most of the hair follicles on his head, and would be stuck with this tri-hawkish, Mr. T–esque “male pattern Baldness” look for the rest of his life.
Chiklis admits that the next decade was not the easiest for him.
Jump to 1991. As the eponymous star of primetime hit “The Commish”, a grown-up and beaten-down Chiklis sported a thinning, emasculating hairdo that is all-too-recognizable to most of us. Combined with the predictably rotund figure that develops when years of sexual frustration are placated by morbid binge eating, the formerly hungry young stage actor’s now-feckless appearance damned him to a career of light comic roles, no matter what he may have had in mind for himself. His “Commish” character, upstate NY police commissioner Tony Scali, was forced to work through problems with humor and creativity rather than with violence or force — after all, who’s afraid of this man?
With plenty of network-check laurels to rest on, Chiklis’s agents told him to kick back and relax on this gravy train. Despite his early greasepaint setback, he had persevered and was now on track to sail into entertainment history as a poor man’s Jim Belushi — a living inspiration for all the future Kevin James‘s of the world. Chiklis should have been content. But he wasn’t content. Because underneath his drooping, balding, pear-shaped exterior, Michael Chiklis was still a man.
A man doesn’t want to solve small-town crimes in a family-friendly timeslot on ABC. A man wants to fuck. A man wants to punch and kick and shoot guns. To throw things against the wall and hear them shatter. A man wants to crush his enemies, see them driven before him, and hear the lamentations of their women. There was animal inside Chiklis, clawing at his skull to be released. We all have that animal in us. Most of us struggle our whole lives to keep it locked up.
Michael Chiklis let it out.
Now, having ridden the razor’s edge straight to a starring role on the significantly-tougher TV show “The Shield”, the name Michael Chiklis is synonomous with the kind of rough and tumble murder and mayhem that would have caused his Commish character of yesteryear to defecate in his pleated pants. A yearned- after sex object amongst women and men alike, Chiklis has clearly defeated his demons. He took that youthful accident and not only embraced it, but wrestled it to the ground and unloaded a clip into the back of its head.
Though small in stature, Chiklis is a walking giant amongst the Bald community — the one we see in the mirror after we bench press, the one we imagine we resemble when we pull a tight fitted T over our smooth heads in the morning. When a leering teenager snickers at us in the cinema ticket line with our wife, and it only takes an icy look and a brief snarl to shut him up — that’s the contribution Michael Chiklis has made to Bald culture. The Bald have always lived a more persecuted life than the average passerby. They have had two options to deal with this dilemma: make the Haired love them… or fear them. By projecting such brutal ferocity in his work, Chiklis has brought about the latter. He created a lasting perception of “The Short Bald Man Who Will Kick Your Ass” that was so visceral, it is assuredly embedded in the minds of any potential tormentors — a caution light that flashes in their head before they dare to make a snide comment, warning them that maybe, just maybe, their bald target might go all “Vic Mackey” on them and respond with a faceful of fist.
In this way, the legacy of Michael Chiklis protects all Bald men. He is our Shield.