TRUE, ROBERT KELKER-KELLY HAS the bod, but you gotta love this guy for his mind. He writes poetry. He, collects 19th-century editions of Shakespeare. Then there’s his latest toy, a souped-up computer—which right now seems to have some kind of bug. “I’m trying to run these flight-simulation games,” he grumbles.
At least Kelker-Kelly, 30, punches the right buttons as supercool cop Bo Brady on the NBC soap Days of Our Lives. “The guy’s magnetic,” says Days co-executive producer Tom Langan. The fan mail proves it. “Panties!” says Kelker-Kelly, “naked photos—weird!”
The actor’s fans seem far more excited about him than he was about himself as he grew up near Wichita, Kans. His parents, Jonetta Kelker, a nurse, and Robert Kelly, a pathologist, divorced when he was 7, and he moved in with his dad. At 11, when his father remarried, Kelker-Kelly, “jealous” of this new love, moved back with his mother. Three months later his dad died at 42 of a heart attack. Says the actor: “I blamed myself.”
Kelker-Kelly drifted between colleges but could never stick it out. “Unfortunately, everywhere I went, I brought me along,” he says. Fortunately, wherever he went, he studied acting and developed a Shakespeare “habit.” His big break, at 23, was the role of Sam Fowler on NBC’s Another World. Married in 1988 to World production assistant Linda Rattner, he didn’t exactly settle down. Childhood demons combined with professional unhappiness (“a soap,” he says, “is not about artistry”) sent him out, as he says, “drinking and drugging a lot to snuff what I was feeling.” He quit the show in 1989 to enter rehab.
The next few years were rough. In 1992 he and Rattner (amicably) divorced. But by 1993 he felt ready to plunge back into soaps. Now his life seems almost peaceful. He lives alone in Studio City, Calif., and after a recent six-month celibacy vow ended (after only four months), he’s dating. What’s next? If acting doesn’t work, he says, “I want to be an English teacher, grow fat and sit in front of the fireplace.”