Smell that,” exults Jameson Parker, the blond half of the CBS hit Simon & Simon, who at the moment is in his home kitchen energetically kneading fresh potato bread dough. “That’s pure booze,” he says of the heady aroma. Parker, 34, an expert baker who believes his hobby is therapeutic, is singing Sunshine Superman while he kneads. Bonnie, his wife of six years, is at work preparing chicken curry. Jamie Jr., 3, is asleep on his giant teddy bear downstairs.
Bonnie comes over and playfully squeezes her husband’s ribs. “Ooooh, don’t do that—please,” begs Parker. “They’re very tender.” Another Parker hobby is boxing, and the night before at a San Fernando Valley gym where he spars several times a week, the 5’11½”, 160-pound actor had his torso pummeled during 10 bruising rounds with a two-time National Police Olympics champion. “I was supposed to go more, but people were waiting,” he says of the amateur bout, “and frankly I was relieved.”
The fisticuffs might be in character for a scrape-prone TV shamus, but the domestic bliss is not in the script. On Simon & Simon, Parker and co-star Gerald McRaney, 35, who plays scruffy brother Rick to Jameson’s preppy A.J. Simon, are determined bachelors whose sleuthing derring-do is matched this season only by the way they have cracked the Nielsens. On the verge of cancellation most of last year, Simon was given an improved time slot in October—it follows red-hot Magnum, P.I. with Tom Selleck—and since then has edged up among TV’s Top 10 series. The season premiere, in fact—which featured a combined Magnum and Simon plot line—was the No. 1 show of the week. Quite a ratings turnaround for a series that last year kicked up sand when it threatened to abandon its purported San Diego setting (in fact, the show has always been shot in L.A.) for a “sexier” city.
Simon stayed put, and its sexiest aspect now is Parker, who is blue-eyed and well conditioned (he works out daily and is going for his second-level karate black belt). But forget it, ladies. His wife gave birth to a second son, 10-pound seven-ounce Christian Buchanan Parker, in late November. “He’s the ideal man, husband and friend,” praises Bonnie. “He has a sense of honor, of fairness. He has great willpower, and you can trust him.” Parker flippantly responds. “She makes a great pumpkin pie,” he quips, his arms draped lovingly around Bonnie. “She puts in half a cup of dark Barbados rum. Hey, I’ll eat anything with rum in it—old tennis shoes…”
Life at their Spanish-style three-bedroom home in the Hollywood foothills is more Ozzie and Harriet than Simon & Simon. “We’re really atypical of Hollywood types,” says Bonnie. “Everything you read about Hollywood we don’t do. We’re just normal people doing normal things.” Parker dotes on his children, calling Jamie Jr. “as beautiful a piece of magic as you’re ever likely to lay eyes on. My idea of a hot night on the town,” he adds, “is chasing Jamie around the coffee table.”
Parker met Bonnie Dottley, a former airline stewardess, in a New York acting school in 1976. The son of a State Department father and a short story writer mother (both deceased), Jameson was born in Baltimore and saw most of the capitals of Europe during his father’s foreign service career. Young Parker also managed to see an inordinate number of boarding schools, claiming to have attended 10 in 13 years, and being bounced out of two. “I was caught with booze. I stole a school car. Once I put a cow in the room of a student I didn’t like,” he explains. The high jinks didn’t stop at Wisconsin’s Beloit College. Once, one step ahead of campus security, he chose to leave a girls’ dorm via a third-story window, severely injuring his knee. During a recuperative year off, he acted and worked in production at the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., and he returned to finish his Beloit degree in theater arts in 1972.
After graduation he moved to New York, getting his first break in a commercial for a breath mint. (“A nauseating experience. I had to pop candies into my mouth for hours.”) The ad, though, helped him get a role on the now-defunct NBC soap Somerset, which led to a two-year part on ABC’s One Life to Live. Parker’s credits now include films like 1979’s The Bell Jar and 1980’s A Small Circle of Friends with Karen Allen and Brad Davis, as well as such TV movies as 1981’s Callie & Son with Lindsay Wagner.
If Parker’s 1980 move to L.A. hasn’t changed his super-WASP typecasting, it has given him fine geography in which to indulge his love for camping and hunting. He shares those passions with co-star McRaney. The two often go together to a private preserve in Texas to hunt deer, wild pig and javelina. A bit defensive about this sideline (“Hunters have an unfortunate reputation because there are a lot of drunken yo-yos out there”), Parker is well armed to defend his position—particularly after his sixth wedding anniversary last Halloween. He and Bonnie were dining at L.A.’s elegant La Scala when the maître d’ brought over six presents from Bonnie, one by one. In each box was a different gun. “I opened the first and said, ‘Oh, my God,’ ” remembers Jameson. “By the time I finished opening all of them, I could only hope we weren’t stopped by the police on the way home.”
It didn’t happen, but that might be the only way Parker could be stopped these days. With Simon skyrocketing, he’s naturally looking to the future. He and Kristy McNichol have already wrapped White Dog, based on Romain Gary’s novel about racism, which is apparently so controversial that its release has been delayed indefinitely. This April Parker and buddy McRaney (whose nickname is Macky) plan to co-star in the action feature Maximum Charge. The movie will be set in Texas, where they both plan some hunting while on location. “Macky and I don’t have fat heads,” Parker says. “We don’t go around pretending we’re a couple of big stars, because we’re not.” Then Jameson grins. “Give us a couple of years.”