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Character Profile of the Month - February 2002

COLUMBO, Lieutenant & wife, "the missus"
(Columbo / Mrs. Columbo)
728 Valley Lane 
( 555-9867 or 9861
San Fernando Valley, CA

Columbo is a detective for the Los Angeles Police Department's Homicide Division [badge #416]. He is married, smokes cigars and is compulsive about tying up loose ends and catching murderers. His wife, referred to as "the missus," is a homemaker. Their family pet is a basset hound named Dog. It likes to go to the ocean and look at the boats.

Peter Falk as Columbo
Peter Falk as Police Lt. Columbo

Columbo was born and raised in New York City. He lived near Chinatown and shared a home with his close knit Italian family. They included his parents, five brothers, a sister and his grandfather who made wine by stomping the grapes with his feet. During Prohibition his father was a tail-gunner on a moonshine truck. 

After serving a stint in Korea with the US Army [mostly KP], Columbo joined the New York police and received training at the 12th Precinct from an Irish cop named Sergeant Gilhooley. In 1958 Columbo moved to Los Angeles with his high school sweetheart, a.k.a. Mrs. Columbo. 

On duty, Columbo always wears a rumpled, stained raincoat and chomps on half-smoked cigars [his wife preferred he smoke a pipe]. Once after a suspect looked at Columbo’s attire, he asked "Are you undercover?" Columbo replied "No, underpaid."

To get to and from crime scenes Columbo drives a dilapidated, Peugeot model 403 Grande Luxe Cabriolet convertible. The car is graying with oxidized paint and an odometer reading over 100,000 miles. Per Lt. Columbo, his car is "a 1950 Peugeot - They're very rare." [License plate: 044 APD].

While interviewing his suspects, Columbo peppers his conversation with home-spun comments about his wife, her proverbs for any occasion and their family life. Upon leaving his suspect, he invariably utters his famous catchphrase "Oh, just one more thing." 

When hungry, Columbo goes to Barney's Beanery and asks the proprietor Burt for an order of chili [beans or without] with ketchup and handful of crushed crackers. "Y'see, it's the crackers that make the dish," says the Lieutenant. Columbo washes down his chili dinner with a sparkling creme soda or a cup of coffee. He also likes to eat fish, a good steak [rare] and egg rolls [a taste he acquired from his Chinatown days as a kid.] 

To relax Columbo likes pool [his father taught him], cooking [he makes a superb omelet], limericks, bowling, Westerns, Italian Opera, Straus waltzes, golf, classical music and football on television. Medically, Columbo has low blood pressure, allergies, and gets seasick and airsick. He wears size 10 1/2 to 11 socks and he can’t swim. His boyhood hero was Joe DiMaggio. 

Columbo’s hefty but athletic wife [who is not that good of a cook] enjoys dancing, singing, bowling [she cries when she loses], crossword puzzles, Ann Landers, African violets, and a variety of music including Opera, Classical, Country and Rock. Mrs. C. likes to hum the song "This Old Man" while she does chores around the house. In her spare time she does the family taxes, attends an accounting class at night school and urges her husband to exercise. Once she even thought of taking a class in mind control. Every morning, she gives her husband a pencil before he goes to work. Columbo’s handwriting is so bad that he confesses he should have been a doctor.

The Columbo’s numerous relatives included a nephew who married a girl with a Hungarian accent; a 15-year-old nephew who idolized Francis Ford Coppola and shoots 8mm films; a brother-in-law named George who is a good fisherman; another brother-in-law who is an attorney; and still another brother-in-law who is a waiter; a nephew who wants to be an accountant; a mother-in-law who lives in Fresno [later Albany]; a cousin who wears big, thick glasses who also lives in Albany; a sister-in-law who gets smashed at times; his wife’s niece Marilyn, [she’s divorced, married to a policeman and has six kids]; an uncle who plays the bagpipes in a Scottish band; a 38 year-old brother who still has his sneakers from his younger days; and a nephew who lost his contact lens in a bowl of cereal. 

TRIVIA NOTE: Richard Levinson & William Link, who created the Columbo character, modeled him after Petrovitch, the detective who appeared in the 1866 Russian novel Crime and Punishment written by Feodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky. The Columbo character was first played on Broadway by Thomas Mitchell in 1962. Later singer Bing Crosby was offered the TV role, but declined. On the COLUMBO TV series, the first name of Columbo's wife and the names of his children were never revealed. The short-lived series MRS. COLUMBO depicted life at the Columbo household while Lt. Columbo was off at work. On this show, Columbo's wife was named Kate. She worked as a  reporter for The Valley Advocate, a weekly newspaper and had a seven-year-old daughter named Jenny. And just as Lt. Columbo's wife was never seen [but often spoken about] in the original COLUMBO series, Lt. Columbo was never seen on MRS. COLUMBO. In addition, the first name of Lt. Columbo was never revealed on either series. His name has erroneously been stated as "Philip" in a number of sources. This name was actually invented by Fred L. Worth, the writer of The Complete Unabridged Super Trivia Encyclopedia. He used the name "Philip" (found on page 107 of his book) as a check word to prove whether anyone cited his work in their publications. In a lawsuit, against the makers of the Trivial Pursuit game, Worth’s lawyers proved the game’s creators had used Worth’s book as a primary source for their game material because one of their game cards asked "What is Lt. Columbo’s first name." Their game card answer was "Philip." By the way, Fred Worth also listed Columbo's wife name as Mildred. Other sources claiming they have discerned the first name of Columbo from ID badges flashed on the program have attributed his first name to be "Frank" and "Joseph." In 1993 the Columbo character  began appearing in a series of critically acclaimed novels by William Harrington.

Lt. Columbo and his car

     Columbo on the job in his trusty Peugeot convertible.

 *In the made for TV film "Caution: Murder Can Be Hazardous To Your Health" Columbo says his car is "a 1950 Peugeot - They're very rare". In fact it is a 1959 Peugeot Model 403 Grande Luxe Cabriolet convertible, manufactured in Sochaux, France, by "SA Des Automobiles Peugeot."



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