It’s another perfect day in L.A., only better. Billy Moses and his steady girl, Tracy Nelson, are cruising the Pacific Coast Highway in Billy’s red Alfa Romeo. It’s Saturday, the only day of the week that both of the hardworking actors have off. Come morning, Moses has to be back inside CBS Stage 10 where he will trade his carefree Southern California beach attire for the black tuxedo he wears as Falcon Crest’s good-natured stud, Cole Gioberti. Nelson has to get up Monday morning and watch herself getting into bed with Nick Nolte, her co-star in Paul Mazursky’s Down and Out in Beverly Hills, now in post-production.
But right now the sun is bright, the sunroof is open, and rock ‘n’ roll blares from the speakers, as the sports car sails along the ocean road at a breezy 75 mph. Moses and Nelson peer over the top of their matching Ray Bans as they ponder the big question: What to do on such a pluperfect day? Billy wants to go sailing. Tracy wants to visit their Malibu “foot reflexologist.” With little debate they arrive at the only solution two beautiful, youthful (he’s 25, she’s 22) and rich Southern California lovers could possibly entertain: They decide to do both.
Stocking up on light beer for Billy, apple juice for Nelson, as well as Fritos and chocolate-chocolate-chip cookies for both of them, the striking pair fulfills Billy’s wish first, putting to sea for a quick turn in a small rented sailboat. “All right, sweetie, now just hand me the starboard rope slowly,” says Moses, as Nelson munches a cookie and tries to look calm when the boat veers suddenly. “Billy, honey, I’ve never seen the waves like this before, shouldn’t we use the engine?” asks Tracy. But Moses turns the boat smartly into the wind. Before returning to dry land, the actors play a convincing love scene, cuddling affectionately in the stern of the smooth-sailing boat. They gaze up into the clear blue sky. The sea breeze caresses their tanned faces. Tracy starts to giggle and says, “We’re really sickening, aren’t we?”
If life for these quintessential Hollywood kids sounds like something out of an ’80s version of The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, little wonder. Tracy’s dad is the eternal teen dream, Ricky Nelson, now 45. Her uncle, as every baby boomer knows, is Ricky’s brother, David, 49, and her grandma is Ozzie’s widow, Harriet, 71. Though his parents aren’t the American TV icons that Tracy’s are, Billy’s family bucket hasn’t exactly got holes in it. His father is advertising executive Richard Moses, his mother is actress Marian McCargo Bell, and his stepfather’s family, the Bells, once owned all Bel Air.
Grandma Harriet says, “Billy and Tracy remind me of Ozzie and me when we started dating. There’s real chemistry there.” Yet the elements didn’t mix right away. Moses and Nelson met while participating in Battle of the Network Stars in 1982. “We were the two shiest people there, so we just gravitated toward each other,” says Moses. Nelson, starring at the time in Square Pegs, remembers things differently. “I was petrified at having to be in the tandem bike relay, so I asked my Uncle Mark [St. Elsewhere’s Mark Harmon, brother of Tracy’s mom, Kris Harmon] who the best athlete around was. He pointed to Billy. I just wanted to make it through the race alive.” Tracy picked the winner. Moses picked up $15,000. For his part Moses was impressed by Nelson. “All the rest of the girls were preening, putting on full makeup, just to jump into the pool. Not Tracy. She was beautiful without all that crap.” Nelson blushes when she hears this. “I was a mess,” she says. “My hair was going in 12 different directions, and all I wanted to do was go home. Now I’m glad I didn’t.”
Despite his prowess in the athletic competition, Moses proved inept off the field. “After the show,” he says, “I didn’t have the guts to call her. Eight months went by, and I couldn’t forget her.” So Billy took a course of action that would occur only to a Hollywood kid: “I called her agent and asked her to set us up,” Moses says. “She did, and we went to the premiere of Brainstorm. But the following day Tracy left for Pennsylvania to film Maria’s Lovers. I wasn’t sure if she liked me and since she wasn’t in town, we lost touch. I didn’t think we’d ever see each other again.”
Six more months passed. Then Tracy found herself at the Burbank studios, where she was interviewing for a part. “I was feeling dizzy,” she says. “So I excused myself from my interview—which I never do—and I was sitting outside catching my breath, and up walks Billy. He asked me out to dinner.” Tracy accepted. But once again, Cupid misfired. “I had to cancel at the last minute,” Tracy says. “But the second time around, I showed up and we had dinner. We’ve been together ever since.”
Certainly, Moses and Nelson look as if they were made for each other. Billy is 6’1″ and weighs a trim 175 pounds; Tracy is 5’7″ and weighs 110. Moses starred in three sports in high school and remains an avid competitor. Nelson studied ballet for years and retains a dancer’s form and discipline.
Moses feels his three-year relationship with Nelson has given him the self-confidence that he lacked when he first met her. “I’m still the shiest guy around the lot,” he says. “But I’ve grown to be secure enough to speak my mind. My sweetie has helped me do that.”
Nelson’s self-confidence is also growing, now that she has moved on from two short-lived TV shows, Square Pegs and Glitter. Down and Out may prove to be her break, especially if Nelson lives up to director Mazursky’s advance notices. “I tested hundreds of actresses for that role,” says Mazursky. “Tracy was the only one I thought could play Madame Bovary if she put her mind to it.” Moses admits to some professional jealousy. “Sure,” he says, “I would like to have the promising film career Tracy has right now, and I’ve gotten frustrated by the fact that I don’t.” Similarly, Nelson would like the visibility that a long-running television series brings.
There’s another tender point generated by their careers. Nelson says she is reluctant to visit Moses on the Falcon Crest set “because it’s difficult for me to watch Billy kissing another woman, even though I like Ana [Alicia, who plays Moses’ scheming wife, Melissa] very much.” To which Billy responds, “It’s equally hard for me to watch my sweetie make love to Nick Nolte. We’ve both had to do some real soul-searching and become more open to more things. I look at my life so differently now. I want Tracy’s dreams to come true just as much as mine.”
Reclining on a sun deck at the Malibu home of foot reflexologist Andrea Pierce, Moses scans the California coastline, as Nelson explains Pierce’s talents. “Andrea can reach any nerve in your entire body through the channels she controls in your toes,” says Tracy. Moses alternately groans in delight and screams in surprise as he receives Pierce’s treatment. Pierce pauses for a moment, staring at Billy’s big toe. “Your bladder,” she says mysteriously, “is acting up again.” Measure, no doubt, of the beer Billy quaffed while sailing earlier in the afternoon. But right now an important question has been posed. Does marriage, Moses is asked, figure into their future? “I don’t know,” Billy says after a diplomatic pause. “Tracy hasn’t asked me yet.”