May 09, 1994 12:00 PM

Carrottops James Cagney and Spencer Tracy made it big in black and white, but Technicolor wasn’t always kind to NYPD Blue‘s David Caruso. “Red hair stigmatizes you,” says the 38-year-old actor, who won acclaim for small roles in An Officer and a Gentleman and Mad Dog and Glory. “You end up playing the oddball.” These days that blazing bean—along with a New Yawk attitude—has made Det. John Kelly prime time’s most-wanted cop: a sensitive stud who bares his soul as well as his buns. The Ladies’ Home Journal said, “He’s made the art of decency sexy,” while Sherry Stringfield (who plays Kelly’s ex-wife) glows of her Golden Globe-winning costar, “His looks are so unique to TV. He’s not your basic L.A. fare.”

For his part, Caruso, the son of a former Newsweek editor and a library administrator, is proud of his arresting edge. “My visibility may have gotten Hollywood to redefine what’s attractive,” he says. Maintaining that definition with daily workouts and low-fat food, Caruso shares his spacious West L.A. home with girlfriend Paris Papiro, 30, a former masseuse, and weekends with daughter Greta, 9 (by second wife, actress Rachel Ticotin). Set to star on the big screen in the remake of the 1947 thriller Kiss of Death, Caruso isn’t getting a big head. The only difference now, he quipped, is that “women are not totally nauseous after seeing me.” But they do get dizzy, David.

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