The actor who personified the legendary shuffling, raincoat-wearing detective named Frank Columbo has died. Peter Falk passed away yesterday in Beverly Hills after suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Born in New York City, his parents were Madeline and Michael Peter Falk, an accountant/buyer and the owner of a clothing and dry goods store. He used a glass eye after his right eye was removed because a tumor at age three. In a 1997 interview in Cigar Aficionado magazine, Falk said, “I remember once in high school the umpire called me out at third base when I was sure I was safe. I got so mad I took out my glass eye, handed it to him and said, ‘Try this.’ I got such a laugh you wouldn’t believe.”
Falk first acted at a camp in upstate New York — where Ross Martin (later of Wild Wild West fame) was a counselor — but didn’t become a professional actor until much later, when he was 30 years old. In high school, he was a star athlete and senior class president. After briefly attending college, he tried to enter the armed forces but was rejected because of his eye. He ended up joining the Merchant Marine as a cook and mess boy instead. After that stint, he attended several colleges and obtained a master’s in public administration at Syracuse University.