“As long as you stand out in the sun and you work hard, your neck’s gonna get red,” drawls actor Tommy Lee Jones, 34. “Hell, if somebody called me a red-neck, I’d be proud of it.” These days, if the Hollywood swells want to call Jones at all, they’d best dial long-distance to Austin. The craggy co-star of Coal Miner’s Daughter and Back Roads has abandoned the old Marilyn Monroe house in California he once rented, parted ways with supermodel Lisa Taylor and gone home to Mother Texas.
He has, moreover, taken a Texas bride. Slipping out of his favorite Levi’s and leather boots last week, Tommy Lee squirmed into a tux for his marriage in Austin’s First Baptist Church to Kimberlea Gayle Cloughley (pronounced clockly), the 23-year-old extra he met on the Back Roads set last July. After the 15-minute ceremony, the couple threw a hoedown for 300 guests at a reception complete with a country & Western band, sourdough bread and brisket. The Joneses already are thinking about family planning, with Tommy Lee joking to Kim that he would like to have three sons so he can field an all-Jones polo team. “Our Texas values are important to us,” says Kim. “We are very family-oriented.”
Kimberlea, a University of Texas graduate and an aspiring photographer, set up house with her new leading man last February in a three-bedroom four-decker overlooking Lake Austin. The rented quarters are about 300 miles from Tommy Lee’s 23-acre citrus-and-horse farm in La Feria, and a shorter haul from San Antonio’s Retama Polo Center, where he rides two or three times a week. Although “the movie business is paying for everything I do,” says Tommy Lee, star-tripping in Hollywood has lost its appeal. “All you got to do is buy some pants that don’t have any hip pockets on ’em, get a little spoon hanging around your neck, go to the right restaurants, buy a couple of Hawaiian shirts and a Mercedes convertible. It’s not too hard to be a star. But being an actor is something that few people can afford to do.”
Jones’ renegade ways began taking root in west and central Texas, where his father, Clyde, worked as an oil field driller and his mother, Marie, served as the first policewoman of Midland County. Their stormy marriage (they now are divorced) Tommy Lee remembers as a “psychically horrifying story.” After a scholarship to preppy St. Mark’s School of Texas in Dallas, Jones went east to Harvard, picking up cum laude honors in English and acting in Shakespeare, Brecht and Euripides. He also made all-Ivy as an offensive guard in football. His shovel-size hands still bear witness to the summers Jones spent earning tuition money as an oil field roughneck.
From a 1969 Broadway walk-on, Tommy Lee moved on to better stage roles, a three-year stint on daytime TV’s One Life to Live, and into a seven-year marriage with Katharine Lardner, the granddaughter of sportswriter Ring. The couple separated several years later just as Jones began hitting ” the big time in The Amazing Howard Hughes, the 1977 TV bio that catapulted him into title roles. Cast next as a maniacal Manhattan detective opposite Faye Dunaway in Eyes of Laura Mars, he met model Lisa Taylor while filming the fashion world whodunit, and the pair, who were together for three years, once shared MM’s Brentwood home.
Surprisingly, Jones’ much-praised 1980 performance as Loretta Lynn’s husband Mooney in Coal Miner’s Daughter drew none of the movie’s seven Oscar nominations. “What they do with their award is their own business. I prefer checks to statues myself,” insists the actor. This year his role as a lunky, ruined prizefighter opposite Sally Field in Back Roads inspired good reviews and led to the whirlwind romance with Kimberlea. She admits that at their first meeting, during filming in Brownsville, Texas, “I was scared to death of him. I was worried he was on the rebound. I had heard movie stars assume they can have any girl they want.” Four days later, however, “I started liking him.”
Away from the cameras for more than 11 months now, Jones has spent some of his time playing polo (he keeps a string of five ponies) and scouting for Texas ranchland to buy. His West Coast trappings have all but vanished—except for the L.A. and Santa Barbara property he owns and a sleek black Porsche that still bears California plates. Always an early riser (“I don’t think Picasso or Genghis Khan slept till noon”), Jones clearly relishes his off-screen image as a tough-hided hard worker and scoffs at suggestions that he carries the cowboy ethic too far, even though he is a Lone Star beer and Marlboro man. “Sometimes I’ve been drunk at the wrong time,” he concedes, “but who hasn’t?”
Yet for all his bluster, the onetime Ivy League scholar still admits to “an abiding interest in poetry” and sprinkles references to Aristotle and Joyce in his conversation. As soon as a movie role “that I’m intrigued about” comes along, he says, the bleached range of Texas will give way again to the bright lights of Hollywood. “But you need to look for some kind of motivation other than money,” cautions Tommy Lee contentedly. “There’s a matter of heart to be considered.”