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'Ponch' (aka Erik Estrada) lends an ear to John McCain

July 1, 2008 | 10:22 am

Some actors inhabit their roles, then move on. Some get typecast in a particular part, much to their chagrin. Others simply roll with that reality.

Actor Erik Estrada known for his role on the television show CHiPs was among those in the audience for a speech to the National Sheriffs' Association by presumptive Republican presidential nominnee John McCainLike Erik Estrada.

Although the 59-year-old has worked steadily over the years -- and ensured himself a consistent paycheck by serving as the infomerical voice for National Recreational Properties -- for most Americans, he will be forever known for his star turn as Francis "Ponch" Poncherello on the 1977–83 television series "CHiPs."

Cruising the freeways on his motorcycle as a California Highway Patrol officer on the show, Estrada became one of those iconic law-enforcement figures that TV specializes in creating. So perhaps it shouldn't be surprising that The Times' Robin Abcarian sends word that Estrada was among those in the crowd of about 2,000 listening to John McCain today address the National Sheriffs' Assn. in Indianapolis.

McCain made a point of recognizing Estrada, who Abcarian reports was at the gathering to promote ways to protect children from the more nefarious influences of the Internet (he also is a spokesman for rigorous use of child car seats).

McCain, as James Oliphant writes for The Swamp, touted his law-and-order credentials in his talk, as well as excoriating the U.S. Supreme for its recent ruling overturning a Louisiana law that made child rapists eligible for the death penalty.

[UPDATE: Abcarian e-mails that after McCain's speech, he chatted briefly with Estrada and the actor told the candidate he was arranging a fundraiser for the him at the Laguna Beach home of an associate. “I told him we’d guarantee $250,000,” Estrada said. “I said I want to help him with the Latino vote. I consider him one of my heroes. He’s a loving father, a terrific husband ... a man’s man.”

Estrada also revealed he is now a part-time deputy sheriff in Bedford County, Va., and was a reserve police office in Muncie, Ind., for a short-lived reality show called “Armed & Famous." He duly whipped out his wallet and displayed his badges. “Before, I was an actor playing a cop,” he said. “Now, I am a cop who will act once in a while.”]

-- Don Frederick

Photo credit: NBC