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Bill Clark's latest beat

Former cop now advises and produces the dramas ”NYPD Blue” and ”Brooklyn South”

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Bill Clark stands over a woman whose throat has been slashed, and he feels right at home. As a real-life 25-year NYPD vet, he’s looked at lots of corpses. Now Clark’s on location with CBS’ new cop drama Brooklyn South — which today happens to be shooting on the block where he grew up (his mother gazes down at the scene from a nearby row house). ”This is like dyin’ and goin’ to heaven,” says Clark of filming on his native turf. He calls over South star Titus Welliver, points to the fake blood pooling next to the victim’s head, and offers a bit of advice: ”Try to avoid stepping in it.”

Clark keeps the cops on Steven Bochco’s Brooklyn South and NYPD Blue from stepping in it every day. ”He’s our bulls—t meter,” explains South costar Klea Scott. ”If he sees you do anything that looks slightly Hollywoodized, he’ll say, ‘Nobody does that.”’

During his 17 years as a homicide detective in Brooklyn and Queens, the 53-year-old Clark worked on such famously grisly cases as the Son of Sam and Zodiac murders. Blue cocreator David Milch hired him to be a technical adviser on the ABC series in 1993, and after a couple of years spent flying the red-eye between New York and Hollywood, Clark traded in his service revolver for a television producer’s side arm — a cellular phone. Quips Blue exec producer Mark Tinker: ”You know how boxers get cauliflower ears? Bill has cell-phone ears.”

Clark has moved up the ranks to become coexecutive producer of Blue and cocreator of South, but those titles don’t even begin to cover his contributions. Beyond consulting with the actors on police procedures — ”especially the crime scenes: when to use the gloves, what it smells like,” offers Blue‘s Kim Delaney — Clark develops stories based on his cases and brings in other cops to share their experiences. ”What made Bill a great detective is that he’s interested in human behavior,” says Milch, who coauthored a 1995 book with Clark, True Blue: The Real Stories Behind NYPD Blue. ”He’s a natural storyteller.”

Perhaps more important, Clark serves as a spiritual adviser on the shows. ”His value system and emotional outlook shaped the entire sensibility,” says Milch. Adds Blue‘s Jimmy Smits, who plays Detective Bobby Simone, ”The whole attitude of [Dennis Franz’s Detective Andy] Sipowicz — being very hard but having a very soft center — that’s Bill.”

Just how soft is Clark’s center? ”I’ve seen Bill pick up a hurt bird and put it in his pocket to take home,” says Milch. Clark now lives in Santa Monica — in a house he rents from Bochco — with his exotic birds and tropical fish (the inspiration for Simone’s and Sipowicz’s pets), and his wife of two years, Karen, an ex-NYPD partner who now advises the actresses on Blue and South. ”I moved out of a real small railroad flat in Brooklyn into a gigantic house in a canyon,” marvels Clark. ”I’m makin’ more money than I ever thought I’d make. I get treated well. I’ve had no difficulty.”

At least not since David Caruso left Blue in 1994; Clark had his share of clashes with the hot-tempered actor. ”It was a rough road the first year or two,” admits Clark. ”Caruso likes to keep people off balance, and when you’re the new kid in school trying to learn, and you got a guy challenging you on every turn, it’s not easy.”