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Finkin’ Ain’t Easy

Before there was Snoop Dogg, the streetwise but adorably namedrapper, there was Huggy Bear, the streetwise but adorably namedpolice informant, who offered assistance to TV cops Starsky andHutch in his unique-if sometimesunintelligible-vernacular. So in this month’sbig-screen adaptation Starsky & Hutch, which casts BenStiller and Owen Wilson as slightly dopier versions of the’70s-era crime-fighting pair, who’s more qualified toplay their stylin’ stool pigeon than Snoop himself? Speakingfrom his California home (a.k.a. Tha Chuuuch), the Doggfathershared his secrets about filling out Huggy Bear’s famous felthat.

When you were growing up, did you watch Starsky & Hutch? You strike me as more of a Diff’rent Strokes fan. I watched all of them-Starsky & Hutch, The Jeffersons, What’s Happening!!, Good Times. Anything that had black people on TV-I was watching it.

Did the original Huggy Bear, as he was played by Antonio Fargas, shape the person that you’ve become today?No, he wasn’t a big influence on my life. I just remember I liked hischaracter on the show. I felt like I could do that, too, but add alittle more flavor to it. Do certain things he wasn’t allowed to doback in the day, but I was able to do now.

And what’s Huggy Bear like now? Well, he’s like hewas in the ’70s-he’s just got a little more style, a little more grace.A little more conversational. He’s more of a ladies’ man now. Know whatI’m sayin’?

Were you able to incorporate your own clothing into his wardrobe? Oh, yeah. All his outfits had a little bit of my flavor. This had to be all the way official. I wasn’t gonna do this halfway.

Is anyone allowed to call you Huggy Bear when you’re not on the set? Some of my people still do! A few of the females.

Was it difficult to convince the filmmakers to give you the role?Convincing them that I could do it was more about me showing up on timeand knowing my lines, not if I could handle the role. I didn’t have agood name in Hollywood, because they hadn’t dealt with me as anactor-they had dealt with me as a rapper. As a rapper, I show up late,I smoke weed, I do what the fuck I want to do, ’cause I’m the boss. Inthe movie world, you got to have a little more respect.

So did you behave better for the film? Hell, no! Iwas still being me. I wasn’t gonna change for them. I was just lettingthem know I understand making movies is a different process.

Who’s whiter-Ben Stiller or Owen Wilson? Man, I really enjoyed working with those fellas. But probably Ben Stiller.

When Hollywood makes the movie about your life, would you want your mom to be played by Kim Basinger? Naw, my mom’s got a little more soul than that.

How about Halle Berry? She can play my wife.

In the year 2004, are you concerned that your Snoop-speak might be getting played out? Yeah, I think it went overboard after a while. It’s weird to hear kids talking like that.

Do you have any words of advice for George Clinton? Yeah: Get Johnnie Cochran.

I understand you’re a big fan of AOL 9.0. Can you tell me what advantages it might offer over, say, the latest version of MSN? They pay a lot of money to Snoop Dogg. That’s probably the biggest advantage.

Whilethey bantered and backslapped their way through four campy seasons ofundercover assignments, was it possible that Dave Starsky and KenHutchinson were secretly the small screen’s first same-sex couple? “Iwill not comment on whether or not Starsky and Hutch are gay,” says thefilm’s director, Todd Phillips. “I think there’s been far too much madeof it already. But I will say that I always saw this as a romanticcomedy between two men-two straight men.” It’s a theme that the33-year-old filmmaker has previously explored in the bawdy male-bondingfarces Road Trip and Old School, which Phillips acknowledges are “really about men’s relationships with each other.” The plot of Starsky & Hutch,he says, “has the beats of a romantic comedy. The movie starts withthem apart. They get put together, and they fight it at first, but thenthey’re pried apart, and they come back together. Those are the samebeats that you’d see in Notting Hill.”

That sublimated sexual tension isn’t exactly defused by the presence of Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson (Meet the Parents, Zoolander, The Royal Tenenbaums),cast once again as a mismatched duo who find themselves inexorablydrawn to each other. “They make such a good comic pairing,” saysPhillips, “because they’re so different. That’s the same reason Starskyand Hutch make such good cops together. They sort of fill each other’svoid.” Even when he isn’t trying, Phillips shrugs, “I’m selling themovie as a gay love story.” D.I.