The lush lower lip still promises pleasure, the tawny mane still has its sun-hued highlights and the body retains its prime-time curves. At 34, however, actress Kathryn Harrold recognizes that her days as a perpetual up-and-comer are numbered. The next few weeks are crucial to her career if she wants out of future membership in the Nancy Davis Reagan “I Could Have Been a Star” Club. Harrold’s hopes hang on MacGruder and Loud, ABC’s new police show which debuted with rock ’em, sock ’em hype immediately after the Super Bowl. John (Blood Simple) Getz and Harrold play secretly married cops who partner each other in the squad car and the bedroom. MacGruder and Loud features shots of L.A.’s figure-eight freeways and shots of Harrold in a pair of police pants so snug that one suspects Erik Estrada’s tailor from CHiPs has a new job.
The beauteous Harrold has always just missed being a star. She originated the role of the slut-vixen Nola Dancy on the soap The Doctors, but had the cold comfort of watching her successor in the role, Kathleen Turner, enjoy the professional warmth of Body Heat. Using her cut-glass cheekbones and green eyes to great effect as Lauren Bacall in the TV movie Bogie, she won praise but the movie didn’t. Her chance as a leading lady in Yes, Giorgio required Harrold to do love scenes with hefty tenor Luciano Pavarotti. Says Harrold: “I tend to blank out on that film.” Alas, the critics didn’t.
On a recent Saturday night Harrold stretched out on the couch at her home in Studio City, Calif. In one hand steamed a big mug of herbal tea and in the other dripped a tattered, wet tennis ball. Harrold’s personal life, she confessed, revolves around the ball’s owner: a 2-year-old yellow Labrador named Mo who accompanies Harrold everywhere—to the studio, to TV locations all over L.A., even on dates. “I have this test for men I go out with,” she says. “If I’m sitting at dinner and start thinking, ‘I wonder what Mo’s doing,’ then I know this is not someone I want to spend the rest of my life with.”
Harrold thought she wanted to spend her life with actor Richard (Cruising) Cox; they lived together for five years. But with his desire to work on the New York stage, “we grew apart emotionally and geographically,” she says, and the couple split in 1980. She later dated her co-star in Modern Romance, Albert Brooks, but professional competition interfered, she says. Since her breakup with Brooks in 1982, boob tubing hasn’t been the same. “He’s the greatest person in the world to watch TV with. He can make you laugh at the cable-TV listing channel.” Because of these affairs, “I’m always saying I won’t get involved with an actor again, but then I realize how silly that is. The men I meet most often are actors.”
Despite professional uncertainties, Harrold doesn’t sit at home training Mo to open her cans of Stroh’s beer while awaiting ratings for MacGruder and Loud. A native of a small town in Appalachia, she hikes in the Santa Monica Mountains and goes white-water rafting. She also contorts herself into various yoga positions, a habit she developed as a student at Mills College.
Otherwise Harrold’s social life is confined to serving Sunday brunch to an eclectic group of pals each week. Harrold says, “They’re all grateful to have a place to go on Sunday morning where they don’t have to stand in line.”
Harrold has a small part in the just released film Into The Night. The role was something of an eye-opener. “I had to do all this running around in a bathing suit,” she says. “In the opening scene, I’m with all these Playboy bunnies. They’re all 20 years old and perfect—with perfect behinds!”
Although doing bikini scenes at 34 gives Harrold pause, she’s confident about making babies in her fifth decade. “I’m not ready for children now,” she says. “But I don’t do drugs, I don’t drink a lot, I eat healthy food. I don’t see any reason why I couldn’t have a child when I’m 40.” With a resolute smile, Harrold extends the same chipper approach to the distant future. “I think,” she announces, “I’m going to end up as one terrific old lady!” So who needs a perfect behind?