AN OLD FRIEND REMAINS INTREPID–AND BECOMES SEMI-FAMOUS ALONG THE WAY
A few months ago, I sat down for a cup of coffee with an old friend, Hudson Cooper–a high school buddy and an editor on my high school newspaper, where I was editor-in-chief. Hudson and I had never lost touch, not really. We had gone away to different colleges, pursued different majors and career paths, but still managed to spin back into each other’s orbits through intermittent reunions, milestone personal events and random occasions.
This time, we decided to meet in Bryant Park, adjacent to the New York Public Library, by the bocce court. Actually, this was the first of several conversations. As we confirmed each rendezvous I joked that we had turned into government agents: “See you same time, same place. The bocce court, Agent Cooper.”
What we had not turned into was the usual catch-up kids: “How are the boys? How’s mom? What’s new? Remember so-and-so?” Like many old friends, we had little trouble picking up each other’s lines midstream, as if there had been no ellipses in our conversation over the years.
But as I listened to Hudson’s stories about where he’d been in life, where he was now, and where he intended to go, one word sprung to mind: intrepid. I hadn’t lighted on this trait before, but I realized that this is what has consistently defined Hudson over the years–and something I deeply admired.
In high school, Hudson had been “the science guy.” He was smart and funny–he had great bedside manner, if only he chose to be a doctor. But medicine wasn’t for him. He tried the law but that wasn’t for him, either, although he did have a diverting gig as an administrative judge for the New York Taxi & Limousine Commission.
Then Hudson zig-zagged into a career as a professional writer. I did my part, without knowing it, by assigning him to write a sports piece for a regional magazine that my brother and I were trying to launch for Long Island. The magazine had a short life–one issue–but Hudson produced his first published piece about Formula V car racing on eastern Long Island. He cut out the article (it was the only clip he had), pressed it between plastic sheets, and presented it at an interview for a book-writing job. He was hired on the spot. He wrote a book about baseball for a young adult audience (Secrets of The Super Athletes: Baseball), which went into 10 printings and led to a similar book about football, and eventually 11 other books.
Ever the explorer, Hudson decided to try something even riskier than writing: stand-up comedy. He appeared at clubs around New York City, forming a sketch group called Kick Booty. After one Saturday night performance at Stand-Up NY, a casting agent asked him whether he wanted to appear in the Matthew Broderick version of “Godzilla.” The catch: He had to start work the next day, a Sunday. He agreed and a week later got his Screen Actors Guild card.
Gradually, Hudson Cooper (that became his screen name) began picking up an assortment of parts in movies and TV series, including “Law & Order: Criminal Intent,” where he had a recurring principal detective role playing alongside the lead detectives, Vincent D’Onofrio and Kate Erbe. Now he’s playing a State Department advisor in “Madam Secretary.” (Check out the Hudson Cooper Actor Reel on YouTube.)
As we sat in Bryant Park talking about the behind-the-scenes of entertainment industry, he kept checking his phone for emails and text–every week was a high-wire act, waiting to hear from directors or agents as to whether he was cast in the next TV episode or movie scene.
More than 18 years after “Godzilla,” Hudson has now written several episodes of a television pilot called “MAC,” which he’s shopping around to the networks. It’s a “cop show for the family,” he says, “ripped from the headlines–but more like page nine than page one.”
So my old friend, Hudson, remains a science guy, of sorts, endlessly experimenting–and teaching all of us how to navigate a profoundly vital life.
I can hardly wait for my next transmission from Agent Cooper.