They’re not exactly Gable and Lombard. Hell, they’re not even John and Bo Derek, but Parker Stevenson and Kirstie Alley are leading examples of the new breed of Hollywood domesticity: uproarious, unpredictable—and unwed.
Four years ago granite-chinned Stevenson seemed to be a hopelessly incurable preppy as teen idol Frank Hardy in the TV series The Hardy Boys Mysteries. Then in 1981 he met Alley, the sexy protégée of Mr. Spock in Star Trek II. The result?
“Frank Hardy is dead!” laughs the 31-year-old actor. “It took me three years to overcome that image.” But he did, and now old Frank is even getting roles that put him in punk gear.
While Kirstie, 28, encouraged Stevenson’s new image, the big swing in his career came in Stroker Ace as villainous Aubrey James, Burt Reynolds’ foe on the stock car circuit. “People hissed me in the previews,” Parker says, and he couldn’t have been happier if it had been wild applause.
When he was playing the squeaky-clean sleuth Frank Hardy opposite Shaun Cassidy, Stevenson thought he would never be even allowed a try at a role where anybody could get mad at him. “It’s true that the Hardy role hurt my career,” he says now, lounging in his one-bedroom condo in West Hollywood. “I had reservations about being in the series even before I did it. I felt I would have to fight my way out of it. That’s why I never sang with Shaun—to avoid any more identification as a teen idol. Yet after the series ended all I got was calls for Hardy Boys kind of stuff.”
That changed when Reynolds summoned him. Burt wanted an actor who knew racing to play the heavy in his new movie. Stevenson has driven in sports car events; in the grueling Safari Rally in Kenya in 1980 he finished a creditable 15th in a field of 65.
Stevenson started acting at 14 (his first job was a Clearasil commercial). But in the present-day Hollywood of leading men whose last names end in vowels and who are a bit more dark and smoldering-looking than he is, his Eastern Establishment WASP appearance can work against him. And in his case, appearance is reality: Stevenson is an Eastern Establishment, Social Register, Princeton-educated WASP who complains, “I’ve always been cast as the blond, blue-eyed…”
“Covert a———,” shouts Kirstie from across the room. “He acts real sweet but he’s not. He is always doing crazy things. The leather clothes he wears in Stitches [a medical school spoof film he has just finished] are his! His class is all below his belt,” she smirks.
The fast-talking, irreverent Alley would seem an odd match for Stevenson, but they think they are right for each other. “I feel like now—the past year and a half—I’m into the main body of my career, and Kirstie has had a lot to do with that,” Stevenson says. “She helped it happen. She has a very interesting outlook on life. Kirstie is the only person I know who decided she was going to become a successful actress, made her move here from Wichita and was in a major picture in less than a year. When we met, she was making some changes of her own. Our career directions were paralleling, so it was reinforcement for me.”
Kirstie’s brash nature was bred in Kansas. She studied amateur theatrics and art at Kansas State University before leaving for a brief stint as an interior decorator. Her decision to try Hollywood led to the successful audition for Star Trek II. That good news came soon after she learned her mother had been killed and her father badly hurt in a car crash in Wichita. Paramount postponed the final audition for her starring role while Kirstie joined her brother and sister at her father’s bedside and her mother’s funeral. “It was the greatest tragedy of my life,” Kirstie recalls, “and getting the role in Star Trek was my happiest day.”
Stevenson was born in Philadelphia and grew up in Rye, an affluent New York suburb. His father, Richard, is an investment adviser who hoped his son would be a stockbroker. His mother does commercials (Arthritis Pain Formula, Porcelana) under the name Sarah Meade. His sister, Minou, 33, teaches aerobic dancing; brother Hutch, 19, is a Princeton sophomore.
“I started in show business doing commercials,” Stevenson says. “If my mother hadn’t been doing it, I might not have thought about it.” He made his first film, A Separate Peace, in 1971 while a senior at Brooks School near Boston. “I really fell in love with him in Separate Peace,” says Kirstie, though she would not meet him until later.
Parker studied architecture at Princeton while shuttling to New York for auditions. He took a year off to make his second movie, Our Time. As a junior he acted in Lifeguard, which resulted in TV roles in The Streets of San Francisco and Gunsmoke. After graduation in 1976 he “decided it would be nice to make a living at what I was already doing for fun—acting.” Next year he began his Hardy Boys run.
He met Kirstie in a bar. While she didn’t recognize him as her Separate Peace hero, she recalls the evening vividly. “I saw him and said to my roommate, ‘For him, I would die.’ ” Parker had a date, but they ended up dancing and have hardly been apart since.
Kirstie has an apartment in Sherman Oaks (decorated “like a French candy box,” she says), but they spend most of their time in Parker’s—which she’s emptied of pictures of his old girls, among them Morgan Fairchild.
They work a lot. Stevenson appears next in Shooting Stars, a July 28 ABC-TV movie; Alley will soon star as Maggie in an L.A. production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. They play tennis and of course go to car races. He owns a BMW 2002, a Porsche 911 SC and a racing Porsche Carrera RSR. He calls Kirstie’s Toyota convertible “a $16,000 radio” because she drives with the top down and the radio way up.
In other ways as well, they are a study in contrasts. She dislikes his apartment, calling the style American Gigolo. She is a Scientologist; he is a nonpracticing Episcopalian. She likes Big Macs, pasta and pastries. He likes breakfast cereal with orange juice poured over it. He disapproves of smoking, so she goes out on the balcony to feed her two-packs-a-day habit. She likes Bacardi cocktails; he drinks beer. “He likes to make love at night and I like it in the morning,” she says. “We’re both nymphs.”
As for marriage? Both are convinced it is a great idea. “We definitely plan to get married,” Kirstie says, “but we just haven’t decided if it will be to each other.”