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The Mod Squad‘s three hippie cops were actually drop-outs from “normal” society who each had their own brush with the law.
Pete was the longhaired one who had been kicked out by his wealthy Beverly Hills parents and stole a car. Linc was the son of a ghetto family of 13, who was raised in Watts and arrested in the Watts rioting.
Julie was the daughter of a San Francisco prostitute who had run away from home and been arrested for vagrancy.
All three of them were on probation and looking for some way to improve their lives when they were approached by police Captain Adam Greer, who recruited them for a special “youth squad.”
Their mission was to infiltrate the counterculture and weed out the adult criminals who preyed upon the youths in Southern California.
In the beginning of the series, they got around town in a run-down old 1950s ‘woody’ station wagon – which was eventually driven off of a cliff.
Despite their culturally different backgrounds, the trio proved an effective undercover task force against adult crime.
The Mod Squad was created from the true experiences of creator Bud Ruskin, a former police officer and later private detective. While a member of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department in the 1950s, he was a part of an undercover narcotics squad made up of young officers which served as the inspiration for the series.
While fans of The Mod Squad saw it as “relevant,” tackling such charged issues as the My Lai massacre in Vietnam, draft resisters, militant priests and slum lords victimising ghetto tenants, the show’s three stars dismissed talk of relevancy as absurd when interviewed in 1971.
“It’s nothing but escapist entertainment, man,” insisted Clarence Williams III, who played hip undercover cop Linc.
Michael Cole, who portrayed hip undercover cop Pete, agreed. “Our job is to entertain, not to write social documents.” Summing up, Peggy Lipton said: “It’s all cop stuff.”
Compared with the thoroughly dreadful 1999 big-screen version, the show was sheer artistry.
Lipton ditched her acting career after meeting music producer Quincy Jones, whom she married in 1974, and then concentrated on family life with Q and their daughters Kidada and Rashida. The marriage broke up in 1990 and she returned to acting.
A role as Norma Jennings in David Lynch’s Twin Peaks led to other parts, but in 2004 she was diagnosed with cancer of the colon.
Clarence Williams III
Captain Adam Greer