September 16, 1985 12:00 PM

Although Grant Cramer has been living in his tiny Santa Monica apartment for four years, nothing in it suggests that the 23-year-old is a rising soap star whose life has been touched by money, fame and high drama. A script for The Young and the Restless sits in the sunny living room, which is bedecked with posters for Grant’s Z-grade films: New Year’s Evil and Hardbodies. But none of the nearly 200 fan letters that he draws every week are in evidence, and the fanzines that plaster him on their covers are banished from the premises.

There’s no clue to Cramer’s past here: nothing to tell the visitor that his mother is Terry Moore, 54, the actress who found fame in films like Mighty Joe Young, Peyton Place and Come Back, Little Sheba, and later as the wife of Howard Hughes. (Claiming Hughes wed her in a 1949 shipboard ceremony, Moore sued his estate in 1976 and in 1983 settled out of court for an estimated $15 million.) Nor is there any trace of Grant’s father, California land magnate Stuart Cramer III, who stopped speaking to his son when, at 17, the boy announced that he wanted to become an actor. Grant reconciled with his father about a year and a half later and remains close to the doting Terry, but he has spent the last six years proving he can make it on his own merits. “When I left home,” he says, “I didn’t want any strings attached. I’ve always done better when I was my own boss.”

Cramer is abrupt on the topic of the millions his mother got from the Hughes estate. “I decided a long time ago that if anything drops on me, that’s fine,” he says. “But I’m not going to wait around for it. For all I know I’ll never get a penny.”

Even so, Cramer seems uniquely suited to his soap role of Shawn Garrett, the slightly schizy heir to a substantial fortune. As children, he and brother Stuart IV (now 25 and a California land developer) lived in a mansion in Brentwood, Calif., where they were bounced on Glenn Ford’s knee and taken trick-or-treating with Cary Grant and his daughter, Jennifer. Educated at private schools, Grant spent a year perfecting his French in Annecy, France before he buckled down to study economics at UCLA.

But his adolescence was hardly ideal. Terry’s marriage to Cramer (who succeeded Hughes, gridiron star Glenn Davis and entrepreneur Eugene McGrath) ended after 13 years. After her divorce in 1972 Terry fell into a severe depression. It was around that time that Grant began to fend for himself: “I learned to do my laundry and cook for myself at 14. I’ve always been able to go off on my own—to be alone without being lonely.”

His survival skills served him well when, in his sophomore year, he left UCLA to study acting. “Everyone reacted negatively,” says Moore, who offered no allowance in the interest of helping her son stand on his own. His father cut off all financial support, and Grant took an assortment of starving-actor jobs while testing for roles in shows like Finder of Lost Loves. Not until he had studied for two years did he land his first part—in New Year’s Evil.

“The irony,” he says, “was that I was playing an aspiring actor who gets his first major break. When he goes to tell his mother—a big star—she’s too busy to listen, and he goes crazy.”

Parts in a CBS movie, Desperate Lives (in which he played a drug-crazed teenage gang leader), Hard-bodies, a failed NBC pilot and six episodes of General Hospital followed. Then, last November, he found his niche on The Young and the Restless.

After General Hospital, Grant says, “I really didn’t like the whole soap experience…. All I remember about [GH executive producer] Gloria Monty is her yelling at me.” His stint as a hunk-skunk on CBS’ top-rated soap has been happier: “The producers are friendlier, and it’s very relaxed.” While Wes Kenney, one of the show’s producers, says Cramer had trouble adjusting to the soap’s relentless pace, he praises him as a “spontaneous” actor who “had an immediate grasp of…the character.” Some of Grant’s colleagues, however, are less laudatory. Two, who ask to remain unnamed, describe him as egotistical and unimaginative. “When he’s not acting, he’s nice,” one allows.

Cramer spends his offscreen time going to the gym and dabbling in yoga. On weekends he climbs into his VW Rabbit and drives 90 miles north to visit chum Harold Ramsey, a retired nurse, on his Ojai ranch. In L.A. Cramer dates model Jenny Paa, 20, and has been seen with Playboy playmate Roberta Valasquez, but his life is hardly soap stuff. There is still time, however. “I know Grant is going to be a superstar,” says Terry. “I can feel it.”

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