Scott Baio has a crucial tip to share with the bachelors of America: “Don’t ever take a shower with a woman, because you’ll probably end up proposing to her,” warns the actor, 45. This is especially true when your Ms. Clean happens to be Pamela Anderson, whom Baio dated—and lathered up with—in the late ’80s and early ’90s. “I literally had an out-of-body experience,” says the former teen heartthrob, best known as Chachi Arcola on Happy Days, of popping the question. “There was a lot of soap and I was making a speech, but my entire being was going, ‘What are you doing? Shut up!’ But I didn’t stop.”
That engagement didn’t stick. Neither have Baio’s relationships—lots and lots of them—with other women. The long list, compiled by Baio over the last two decades, includes Playboy playmates, models and several celebrities including Nicollette Sheridan, Denise Richards and Joanie Loves Chachi costar Erin Moran. That is why the never-married actor agreed to shoot a new reality show, Scott Baio Is 45 and Single, premiering July 15 on VH1. With the help of a life coach, Baio confronts some of his exes for their views on why he’s such a commitment-phobe, in the hopes that one day he’ll be capable of settling down.
His take on his womanizing? “I never did drugs and I can’t really drink because I have zero tolerance for alcohol, so my vice became women,” he explains. “I was never faithful to most of them. I was this Catholic guy from Brooklyn and my parents were married for 53 years. But [my lifestyle] crippled me. It made it very difficult for me to commit. I started doing it because I was a normal heterosexual guy and I could. Then it snowballs to where it’s all about the game.”
Eventually, though, the years of requests for grandkids from his mother, Rose, 73, a homemaker, and father, Mario, Baio’s onetime manager who died of a heart attack in March at age 74, began to sink in. “There has to be something more,” Baio says. “I am not a spiritual guy, but all of a sudden I felt the need to really feel things. [My ladies’ man reputation] started to feel like a big bag of rocks I was carrying around. ”
Especially when he looks back at the the women he has hurt along the way. “I remember one girl, whose name I didn’t even know, crying like a baby,” he says. “I crushed her. It changed the way I treated women, because I was really getting mean, uncaring and rude.” No wonder he braced for some serious retaliation during his sit-downs with exes on the show: “I covered my groin, literally,” says Baio, who confronts Moran, as well as several of his lesser-known actress and model exes, on the show. Says his life coach Dr. Alison Arnold: “Scott spent many years blaming women, thinking it was all about them. The biggest thing was getting him to look at himself and say, ‘Okay, this is about me.'” Baio agrees. “I regret losing certain women, but it was always my fault,” he admits. “Heather Locklear [whom he dated in the early ’80s] was the first girl I was ever in love with. She is the greatest chick in the world and I just ruined it.”
So did the reality show turn Baio—who went into the two-month shoot with a girlfriend—into the marrying kind? “You will have to watch,” he says. “All of it changed me profoundly.” It certainly got him thinking about fatherhood. “Absolutely, I want kids,” he says. “That’s a big part of this. Every day I think, ‘Can I commit?’ I think I can and that I will.” Still, the half century that his parents were married seems like a daunting prospect. “Fifty-three years with the same human being?” marvels Baio. “I can’t be around myself for more than four hours before I want to kill everybody.”