August 19, 2002 12:00 PM

Three years ago, after getting cast as a Baywatch babe in Los Angeles, Brooke Burns phoned her parents back home in Dallas. As she recalls, “it was, ‘Uh, Dad? I have a new job wearing a very small red bathing suit. And I’m pregnant.’ ”

That was then. These days, Burns, 24, is a single working mom and the host of NBC’s hit summer game show Dog Eat Dog. On Dog she fires off trivia questions at contestants whose wrong answers can land them in a dunk tank or worse. The main attraction, though, is Burns, with a racy wardrobe of bustiers and studded chokers. So, uh, Dad, your reaction, please? “I’m always wondering, ‘Now what? ‘ ” jokes Brad, a health care entrepreneur who has two other daughters with wife Betsy, a home-maker. “But Brooke,” he says, “has given us a lot of confidence over the years.”

And shown a lot herself. As an aspiring model, she moved to New York at 17. Turning to acting, she caught her big break in 1997 with a guest gig as Ally McBeal’s sultry Fantasy Girl.

Then reality bit. In December 1999 Burns wed actor Julian McMahon; daughter Madison arrived six months later. Last year Burns filed for divorce, following McMahon’s brief fling with Charmed costar Shannen Doherty. “I don’t like to talk about it,” says Burns. “But we are extremely good friends today.” Although currently unattached, “I’ve never been happier,” says Burns, who shares a cozy L.A. cottage with Madison, 2. “I’ve got a great job—and Teletubbies every Friday night!”

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