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Frustrated, he and a friend on the force, David Durk, a graduate of Amherst College who had become an officer in 1963 after quitting law school, contacted a reporter for The New York Times.
The front-page story by David Burnham on April 25, 1970, pressured Mayor John V.
Anyone who has seen the celebrated 1973 film “Serpico” knows that he often dressed up bum, butcher, rabbi to catch criminals.
His off-duty look was never vintage cop either, with the bushy beard and the beads.
He eschewed what he sees as an ugly American addiction to consumerism and media brainwashing. Serpico relies on Chinese medicine, herbs and shiatsu.
He eats mostly vegetarian and organic food, cooking on the wood-burning stove that heats the cabin, where there is neither television nor the Internet. He practices meditation, the Japanese Zen flute and African drumming, and dance: ballroom, tango, swing.
In 1997, he spoke out after the brutal beatings of Abner Louima in a Brooklyn station house, but mostly he stays far from his old nemesis. Serpico is working on his own version of the harrowing adventures chronicled by Peter Maas’s biography, which sold more than three million copies (royalties from the book and the movie have helped him live comfortably without working). I’m still living it.’ ” Though he is healthy, he added, “I’m getting close to the line, so I figure I better get busy.”It is, ultimately, a story of healing.
His intrigues with the ballet and opera rubbed against the conservative culture of the station house.He lived a bohemian life, with a small garden apartment on Perry Street in the West Village, where he was known as Paco and hid his police badge.The street-savvy but idealistic Officer Serpico was appalled at the cliquishness and the payoffs free meals as well as big, blatant bribes from criminals, gamblers, numbers men and ordinary merchants whom he saw as a beat cop in Brooklyn’s 81st Precinct and later while working vice and racketeering.The movie along with news reports and the best-selling biography of the same name seared the public memory with painful images: of the honest cop bleeding in a squad car rushing to the hospital, where, over months of rehabilitation, he received cards telling him to rot in hell. Serpico took his fluffy sheepdog, Alfie, and boarded a ship to Europe; the film’s closing credits describe him as “now living somewhere in Switzerland.” Which was true at the time. Serpico returned to the United States around 1980 and lived as a nomad, out of a camper.He finally settled about two hours north of New York City, where he lives a monastic life in a one-room cabin he built in the woods near the Hudson River.