It’s probably just a matter of time until Mike Chaplin weighs anchor and is off to his next adventure. He’s been a Navy sailor, a New York City cop, a massage therapist, a chiropractor, a life coach, guitar player, a teen model and a college professor. For now, he’s floating in Boot Key Harbor, and currently starring in Marathon Community Theatre’s “Greater Tuna.”
Buckle your seatbelts, it’s a wild ride.
Full name: Mike A. Chaplin, D.C.
Nickname: Mike or Chappy.
Where were you born and raised? In Flushing, New York.
Why did you enlist? I went into the Navy rather than being drafted. I ended up on an ammo ship during the Vietnam War. When I got home, I messed around for a couple years before becoming a New York City cop.
Why join law enforcement? (laughing) I was the only one in my neighborhood without a gun! Listen, I grew up in a neighborhood where everyone was either Irish or Italian. The dads joined the police force or the sanitation service. Some of them joined the “private sanitation” service, if you know what I mean. And all the mothers were nurses.
How long were you on the force? For 14 years. I started as a beat cop on foot patrol in Harlem, or South Bronx, or Queens. I worked my way up to a position on the first elevator vandalism squad. My partner and I had to figure out if the elevators were down because of vandalism or maintenance issues.
Why did you leave the force? I tore up the ligaments in my left knee chasing and catching a suspected serial rapist. The chief called in a huge task force to get this guy who was following women home, pushing in behind them, robbing them and raping them. The oldest victim was 92 years old and died as a result of the injury.
Then what? I moved down to Florida, to the Lake Worth and Palm Beach area and then I decided to become a massage therapist at 40 years old. I moved to Tampa and went to school for two years, and eventually started working with the University of South Florida athletes. Then I moved to Tallahassee to try to set up a similar program with Florida State University athletes. And then I became interested in holistic health care.
Where did you move next? Well, I did my undergrad in Tallahassee first, then went to Texas to attend chiropractic school. I lived in a town called Cut N Shoot, among other places. (This is where he became familiar with the “Tuna” series of plays.) Eventually, I got tired of fighting insurance companies, closed my clinic and bought a boat.
How did you choose Boot Key Harbor? Well, I had been stationed at the Key West Naval Base back in the ’60s. And we heard about Boot Key Harbor from friends. We pulled in here for the season in 2013 and haven’t left since.
What do you do when you’re not on the stage? Well, I have my boat, I have my 50-ton captain’s license, I’m a health and life mindset coach, and as soon as the show is over, I’m going to finish my pilot’s training.
Any other projects you’re thinking of taking on? I think that you don’t lose mobility because you get old, you get old because you don’t move. I was 50 years old when I became a doctor, and remember, I’m a high school drop out.
If you could have lunch with someone dead or alive, whom would you choose? I would have lunch with Edwin Dunbar Chaplin … I can’t remember if he’s my great-grandfather or my great-great-grandfather, but he was a contemporary of Albert Einstein. He was one of the first inventors of the electric automobile, but his backer died before they could get it in production.
Name your top three musicians: Lyle Lovett, Gordon Lightfoot and Harry Chapin.
What are you reading right now? I’m reading “Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand for the fourth or fifth time. I originally read it in 1957, the year it was published.
Who would play you in a movie? Robert Downey Jr. We have the same type of “joie de vivre.”
What’s your guilty pleasure? Good cigars and good scotch. Actually, at this point in my life I don’t feel guilty about it.
If you could have any superpower, what would you choose? The power to cure cancer. It’s taken or threatened too many people that I care about. But the doctors won’t find the cure, because it’s big business.
“Greater Tuna” runs weekends (Thursday to Saturday) through Dec. 7. The curtain is at 8 p.m. except on the day of the only matinee, on Sunday, Dec. 1 at 3 p.m. To purchase tickets, call the box office at 305-743-0994 or visit www.marathontheater.org. Tickets are $25 each.