ANDOVER — Most people think Michael Chiklis' big break came with his role as the easy-going police commissioner on the television show "The Commish."
They obviously don't know about his ninth-grade debut as Hawkeye Pierce in Andover High School's production of M*A*S*H.
Classmates, coaches and family remembered Chiklis' lesser known roles as football player, disco dancer and impersonator of teachers when they gathered in front of Andover Town Offices yesterday to celebrate Michael Chiklis Day.
"You are entering rarefied air," Town Manager Reginald "Buzz" Stapczynski told the 44-year-old actor as he handed over the representative key to the town where Chiklis was raised. Only two other keys have been given out that Stapczynski could remember, one to a visiting principal from China last fall and the other 12 years ago when a group from Andover, England, came to visit. No other entertainers, including Andover native Jay Leno, have a key to the town.
Stapczynski pointed out that makes the key more rare than an Emmy or a Golden Globe, both of which Chiklis has won for his role as corrupt cop Vic Mackey on the television series "The Shield."
"My father said a place is only as good as the people who live there," Chiklis told a crowd of about 200. "I've been all over the world and there are no better people than those in Andover, Massachusetts."
His mother, Katie, smiled as she stood at the back of the audience and looked around at the crowd.
"I think it's nice when people care enough that they want to see you and talk to you and be a part of things," she said when asked what she thought about her son being honored.
Katie Chiklis said there was never any doubt in her mind her son would be an actor. She remembered when he came in her room one day and said he wanted to talk about something.