Meet the man they’re calling the Clark Gable of the ’80s. At 36, he’s got the body of an NFL linebacker (6’4″, 200 pounds) and the head of a Viking sea lord. His wild green eyes belong in a jungle, his voice purrs like a vibrating mattress and his dimples could hold a split of champagne apiece. Amazingly, Tom Selleck also has a mind—and more than a touch of talent.
In Magnum P.I., his hot CBS detective series, Selleck is a laid-back anti-shamus who lives the Honolulu lotus life and tries to put his Vietnam War traumas behind him. Maybe he isn’t always slick enough to get his man and bed the broad, but inside that noisy Hawaiian shirt of his, you find a heart instead of a Smith & Wesson.
In the past year Selleck has become the hottest hunk in showbiz. His fan mail tonnage rivals Larry Hagman’s, and producers assail him regularly with million-dollar movie contracts—he was offered the lead in Raiders of the Lost Ark but had to turn it down because of Magnum. So why does Selleck so often stare into space like someone recently poleaxed? “My whole life has done a flip-flop,” he explains with a sigh. “Too many changes. I used to be a rock, but now I feel flaky.”
Sudden success is a social problem that attracts very little public sympathy, but to Selleck it is ferociously real. Crowds of autograph addicts and Instamatic fanatics follow him everywhere, and women gasp when he walks into a restaurant. Even stars pursue him. Burt Reynolds sent a joshing telegram to the guy who may be his successor as the movies’ Mr. Macho. And the press is relentless. From two or three interviews a year, Selleck has been catapulted into hundreds.
Another cause for anxiety: Selleck’s domestic life is in disarray. The son of a Los Angeles investment executive, Tom grew up in a strict but happy family—he still does not drink, swear or smoke (though for four years he was the Salem cigarette model). Without a family around him, he feels more lonely than liberated. Though he broke up with model-actress Jacquelyn Ray, his wife of 10 years, about six months before Magnum went into production, the pain of separation continues. Still married, they see other people, but Selleck says that another attachment now would be a “nightmare.”
Most of his time and energy go to Magnum. While it’s in production, he often puts in a six-day, 80-hour week. He fights hard for quality scripts, but he’s less inclined to throw his weight around than credit for the show’s success. He’s uncommonly generous to other actors. “If someone’s part is too small,” says a cast member, “he’ll give them some of his own lines. Unheard-of in this business.”
In what spare time he has, Selleck putters in the garden of his new $500,000 villa in a Honolulu beach community and plays volleyball with the top spikers in Hawaii. A magnificent all-around athlete, he won a four-year basketball scholarship to USC and was once assured by Mickey Mantle that he could easily make it in the major leagues as a power hitter.
Selleck would rather play the TV game. “This year’s been like a huge snowball,” he says. “Once it starts, you can’t stop it. But maybe next year I’ll get control of that snowball. Or maybe it won’t be there.”