There is a pig in the house, which is fine with Kelly Preston. It was, after all, love at first fright. “When I saw Max, I screamed. I loved him,” says the blond actress as she strokes the black animal snorting in her living room. Max was a birthday present from her live-in lover, actor George Clooney, who has shown his hoggish side as Roseanne Barr’s chauvinistic boss on the top-rated sitcom Roseanne. “The only thing was, Max was scared of me at first,” she says. “I think it was because he was castrated by the woman who owned him.”
Clooney takes up the pig’s tale. “Max wouldn’t get near her, so I put food in Kelly’s bra. He’ll do anything for food.”
“Yes, he was eating out of my bra to learn to love me. After a while, he loved me,” Kelly says.
This is not just a swine romance. This is what two nascent Hollywood sex symbols, poised for major success (and usually each other), do in the privacy of their own home. As Booker on Roseanne, Clooney, 27, supplies the popular blue-collar beefcake that is often the butt of Barr’s jokes. “I think the producers are going to foist him off on Roseanne’s sister. They’ll have a couple of crosseyed kids and then a spin-off,” predicts series co-star John Goodman, who foresees prosperity for Preston as well. “I met Kelly once in Warren Beatty’s office auditioning for something. She is beautiful. After all, I am a hetero, I notice these things.”
So do movie producers. Although she has previously adorned such feeble fare as Space Camp and 52 Pick-Up, Preston, 26, has recently upgraded her co-stars to Arnold Schwarzenegger and John Travolta. In The Experts, she plays a Soviet spy who seduces Travolta. “She definitely has leading-lady potential,” observes Travolta. “All of this is her entryway into the big time.” Preston cuts a more fashionable figure in Schwarzenegger’s $87-million hit, Twins. As the woman who robs Schwarzenegger of his virginity, Preston romances Conan the Republican, although he doesn’t get her squeal of approval. “Arnie is a terrific kisser,” says Kelly, “but he’s not as good as my man.” In fact, no performance in their young careers is as persuasive or playful as the love scenes Clooney and Preston act out in their Hollywood Hills home. Right now, Kelly is punctuating her conversation with kisses for George. In the first year of their relationship, this twosome has collaborated on fame and fortune, home and hog. What is the attraction?
“She’s got a lot of money,” deadpans George.
“He’s got a great bod,” says Kelly.
“She drives a Jag,” adds George. “He wears tight jeans,” says Kelly.
Perhaps only an agent could have brought them together. After Kelly’s marriage to actor Kevin (Space Camp) Gage foundered in 1987, she was attracted to Clooney, who was handled by the same agency. “Aw, she just went down the client list,” cracks George. When the agent invited them both to a party, “[George] gave me a ride on his Harley, and I was hooked,” says Kelly.
As a member of the famous Clooney clan, George knows show business is not always so accommodating. “My aunt, Rosemary Clooney, became successful when she was very young,” says George. ‘Too successful, too fast, And then music changed, pop was gone, and she went through a lot of pain. So I don’t like to set goals. I’m afraid that I might hit them at an early age, and then what?”
Even as a youngster in small-town Kentucky, Clooney grappled with his famous name. His father, Nick, Rosemary’s brother, is a much-admired TV anchorman in Cincinnati and the host of the syndicated show On Trial. In Ohio his parents’ courtship was local folklore. Nick met his wife, Nina, when he was emceeing a beauty pageant, and Nina was first runner-up. “I was always ‘Nick Clooney’s son.’ Everybody knew my dad. He was God.”
“Growing up, there was no question I was going to be in some form of the entertainment industry,” he says. When George went West in 1982, he achieved a semblance of sitcom fame as carpenter George Burnett on The Facts of Life, but movie success has eluded him. His first feature film, The Predator, co-starred Charlie Sheen. “It was so bad, it will never be released—even as big as Charlie is,” says George. In L.A., George also has found it difficult to escape his famous last name. “I became ‘Rosemary Clooney’s nephew,’ ” he says.
Preston has suffered from a different identity problem: the frequent mispronunciation of Palzis, her last name until she changed it professionally. “People were calling me Pelvis,” she says. In her youth in Honolulu, her father, Ken Smith, was more of a puzzle than a presence. He died when Kelly was 3, but not before waging a bitter custody battle over her with his ex-wife Linda, now the director of a mental health center in Hawaii. “It was a whole mess,” she says. Her mother’s second marriage, to a government official, brought emotional stability to the family, although the stepfather’s work took them frequently to such faraway spots as Iraq and Australia.
Originally, Preston wanted to work in advertising, but an internship convinced her otherwise—”A lot of people had ulcers.” Next she tried modeling in TV commercials (Sunkist and McDonald’s), which helped pay for her education at USC. Those commercials also led to such film flops as Secret Admirer, Mischief and others that she’d prefer go unmentioned.
“Hey, I’ve got Return of the Killer Tomatoes,” jokes George.
“Don’t you dare tell my films!” Kelly shouts.
“Hey, go out and rent…” he starts. As usual, Preston silences him with a kiss.
Wedding bells are unlikely to ring. With the failure of her two-year marriage, Preston is content to continue cohabitating for the time being. “Aaahhh!” she cries. “Don’t say the ‘m’ word.” But George doesn’t worry about the ‘c’ word—commitment. “Let’s say it’s pretty serious,” he says. “We bought this house together, and we have the pig.”
At which point Max sneezes, and dirt scatters all over George. “Bless you, Max,” says George. For a change, Kelly doesn’t kiss George immediately. Instead, she jumps up and wipes Max’s nose.
“The most important thing in my life is my relationship with Kelly,” says George.
“Aw, good answer,” says Kelly.
“And my relationship with Max,” adds George.
“But only when I’m out of town,” jokes Kelly.
Their love is here to sty.
—Scot Haller, with Vicki Sheff in Los Angeles