Dynasty Cleans House
Ever since Dallas pumped up its ratings by shooting J.R., TV’s prime-time soap operas have sought to end each season with a bang: Last year Flamingo Road pushed Morgan Fairchild down a staircase, Knot’s Landing drove Don Murray off a cliff and Dallas, for an encore, drowned Mary Crosby. But this year’s most imaginative sea-son-ender belongs to ABC’s red-hot Dynasty, a Dallas clone (its working title was Oil) which chronicles the doings of the wealthy, Denver-based Carrington clan. Dynasty‘s triple-whammy cliffhanger this week involves a heart attack, a fatal fight and the possible kidnapping of Pamela Sue Martin and John James’ baby. But the real melodrama was off-camera. The day after Dynasty wrapped, four stars—Al Corley, James Farentino, Heather Locklear and Lloyd Bochner—were dropped from the show.
“In the serial form, as in life, no one lives forever,” explains co-executive producer Doug Cramer of the sudden shifts. “That makes for exciting shows—not to mention easier negotiations with actors’ agents.” Money, however, apparently wasn’t the root of upheaval. Cramer says that Farentino (who played psychiatrist Dr. Nick Toscanni), Locklear (Corley’s wife, Sammy Jo) and Bochner (Carrington rival Cecil Colby) fell to plot machinations. (Pamela Bellwood, who plays Claudia Blaisdel, will also be written out after three episodes next season.) “It is the tradition of the genre to bring in new characters,” Cramer notes. “Last year Bo Hopkins and Dale Robertson were written out entirely for story reasons.” Only Corley, who plays callow, bisexual Dynasty scion Steven Carrington, was fired, reportedly for bad-mouthing the series (see box). Another actor will play his role next year.
The two most likely beneficiaries of the exodus are Pamela Sue Martin, who, as Steven’s bed-hopping sister, Fallon, is Dynasty‘s most established young character, and John James, her TV husband, whose role will be expanded. For Martin, 29, the change is only the latest wrinkle in a career that first unfolded with fresh-faced modeling for Seventeen and the wholesome title role in ABC’s Nancy Drew. But more recently Martin has appeared seminude in Playboy (she makes no apologies) and has played the hot-pants Fallon Carrington with gusto. A self-described “product of the ’60s,” she supports her character’s independence—”Fallon has lovers, but they don’t mean anything to her”—and is vehement in her political opinions. “I don’t give a damn about sex on TV,” says Martin. “What I’m upset over is nuclear power, foreign policy. People can’t grasp the real situation regarding our economy because they are constantly being sidetracked by the Moral Majority and all that crap.”
If that sounds like more smog than substance, at least Martin is no armchair zealot. She has traveled to Newfoundland and appeared on U.S. talk shows on behalf of the Greenpeace environmental group to protest the annual harp seal harvest. “I used to stand up and make speeches to make people aware, but most of them didn’t want to hear it,” says Martin. “But once you get involved and take on an environmental consciousness, you never really let go.” She also campaigned for John Anderson, “but it didn’t do any good,” she says. “I’m a great admirer of Governor Jerry Brown and intend to campaign for him when he runs for Senator this year. I think the media have been excessively hard on him. As for Reagan, I disagree with him right down the line.” She sees herself as curious. “I’ve tried cocaine, I’ve tried everything, but I’m antidrug today,” says Martin. “I’ve seen so many people blown away by drugs.” As for other tastes, “I prefer Dom Perignon, but in a pinch I’ll drink Thunderbird.”
She grew up somewhere in between. “We were comfortable—I never felt an overabundance or a lack of anything,” says Martin, the daughter of a Westport, Conn. manufacturers’ representative. At 14, she began modeling for a fashion illustrator for $12 an hour “so I could buy a motorcycle,” she recalls. “My parents regarded me as very grown-up and never worried about me.” By 17, she was commuting to New York to model and dropped out of high school (but later acquired an equivalency diploma) to play a pregnant teen in the movie To Find a Man. She celebrated its completion with a motorcycle trip across Great Britain and Belgium and returned to find she couldn’t get into the college of her choice. (“My grades weren’t good enough for Yale.”) Instead, she moved West to take a role in The Poseidon Adventure and found she “hated L.A.” but has stayed for 11 years.
Home is a four-bedroom Santa Monica cliffhouse she shares with Gonzalez, a black mutt she found abandoned. “He had a broken leg and was a mess,” she recalls. “I fixed him up and now he’s my loyal buddy.” She’s found more than a buddy in Manuel Rojas, 48, a wealthy Chilean businessman and polo player she met skiing in Sun Valley last Christmas. (An earlier, months-long marriage to a wealthy Argentinean Fiat dealer, Jorge Brusch, ended in 1980.) “Manuel is my man—my main man,” says Martin, who just left with Rojas for a five-week skiing vacation in the Andes. “We’re planning to get married—but don’t ask me when!”
It couldn’t help but work out better than her TV marriage to John James—who, as Jeff Colby, plays her loving-but-unloved Dynasty husband. “There’s an attraction there in two people who know they’re wrong for each other,” says James, a freshly handsome 26-year-old who looks as though he might throw you a bottle of Old Spice any minute. He finds abrupt success enjoyably disconcerting. “This is a weird business,” he figures. “For so many years you’re looking to get inside. And then when you do get in you’re no different than before.”
Except, perhaps, that James now drives a platinum Turbo-charged BMW 320i, gets invited to judge the Miss U.S.A. contest, and finds women friendlier. “If I’m being considered a sex object, it’s nothing I’ve done consciously,” says James, for whom recognition sometimes means unwelcome competition. “A girl and I were having a drink at a bar, and another girl went by with a guy just taller than the Empire State Building,” he recalls. “She told him she was going to the ladies’ room, then came back and slipped me her phone number. And the guy looked mean! My date got upset. I can’t win for losing.”
The son of radio disc jockey Herb Oscar Anderson, James grew up in New Canaan, Conn. and recalls spending grammar school “looking out the window” and high school trying to be a jock. “But I never held together. I was always breaking something.” An interest in acting took him to New York’s American Academy of Dramatic Art in 1976, and after three months there he landed the role of Tom Bergman in the daytime soap Search for Tomorrow. Written out of the show in 1979, he moved to L.A. the next year, signed a “holding contract” with ABC, and auditioned for network shows until Dynasty hired him in late 1980. “I don’t get emotional about rejections,” he says of auditioning. “I just figure that if I don’t get a part, I wasn’t right for it. Every actor is a different color.”
But James admits, “If I had not succeeded in seven years, I would have dropped out.” Now in his lucky seventh year as an actor, he recently found himself flying from New York first-class on ABC’s ticket, heading for L.A. and a blossoming role on a hit show. The in-flight movie was that paean to stagestruck youth, Fame. “I couldn’t watch it,” says James. “I got choked up.”