By Susan Schindehette and Michael Alexander
Updated November 21, 1988 12:00 PM

Back in 1973, Nancy Reagan was one of the most recognizable customers at the trendy Country Mart barbecue shack in Brentwood, Calif. She was, after all, the Governor’s wife. But that didn’t matter to the wiseacre high school kid behind the counter. Every time she tried to charge her chicken order to a special account, Hart Bochner recalls, “I’d ask her what her last name was. And then I’d have her spell it.”

Today, at 32, the hunky actor is still an adamant Democrat, but audiences know him for anything but his politics. He’s the memorably gorgeous guy in all those often-forgettable flicks: a would-be Romeo in 1984’s Supergirl; a Rolling Stone reporter in Rich and Famous; and a soap star in 1987’s Making Mr. Right. This week he’ll have a chance to make a bigger, and perhaps more lasting, impression on audiences when the first 18 hours of ABC’s $110 million megaseries, War and Remembrance, begin marching across TV screens. In the TV version of author Herman Wouk’s second volume about World War II, Bochner plays a dashing U.S. submarine commander tormented by the disappearance of his Jewish-American wife (miniseries staple Jane Seymour) in Nazi-occupied Europe.

Bochner’s friends will tell you that he would already be a household name if it weren’t for his face, which, they say, is too handsome. “The lame thing is that for years casting directors would always say to Hart, ‘Too good looking,’ ” says Cameron Crowe, a former Rolling Stone reporter who met Bochner while the actor was prepping for Rich and Famous. “Hart would get a yellow tooth, or part his hair in a different way, or grow a beard.” Alas, the only result, says Crowe, was that “the casting people would then say, ‘Hey, that’s a really good-looking guy with a yellow tooth.’ ”

Even his friends suffered. “There’s this curse on guys who go anywhere with Hart,” says Crowe, who often does. “He’s sitting there, at a bar or whatever, thinking about the ball game or a movie, and suddenly there’s this shift in the room. You’re suddenly surrounded by all the gorgeous women, who’ve called their gorgeous friends. And they all come around and smile and bump into him or maybe spill something on him.”

For all the adulation, Bochner sees himself as a regular guy, and his unpretentious $600-a-month Brentwood apartment contains significant physical evidence to support his claim. Exhibit A: sneakers airing on his front steps. Exhibit B: a baseball-card collection that he estimates is worth “thousands.” Exhibit C: a cherished baseball signed by Hank Aaron, Joe DiMaggio and Sandy Koufax, his all-time hero. “I gave up baseball, and boy am I sorry,” says Bochner, who pitched two no-hitters for a West L.A. Little League team and still looks back on those days with great fondness. “I was quite the fiend as a ball player,” he says. “I think it’s the thing I did best, of anything on the planet.”

His other loves include a behemoth black Caddy that’s been in the family nearly 20 years, a 1965 midnight blue Porsche convertible and women, whom, he says, “I just adore.” He hangs out, platonically, with the likes of Jamie Lee Curtis, and fesses up to a couple of long-term live-ins, both of them with actresses, neither of which came close to matrimony. “Every time I say to myself that I’m not going to go out with another actress,” he says, “I break the rule.” On his wrist is the silver bracelet given to him by his most recent ex, Italian actress Mirella D’Angelo, whom he met on location in Argentina while filming Apartment Zero, a psychological thriller.

He hastens to add, however, that there hasn’t been a cast of thousands. “I’m not interested in putting notches in my belt, and I’d much prefer to be by myself than with somebody I’m not absolutely crazy about.” The idea of marriage and a family, he adds, “is absolutely critical to the welfare of my life. I don’t want to be a 50-year-old bachelor, and I don’t want to be a geriatric when my kids grow up.” A self-described stay-at-home, he avoids fashionable clubs on the grounds that “they suck the life out of you. They give me the creeps.”

Crowe backs up his buddy’s version of events. “A lot of people in Hollywood can’t bear going to parties and not getting blitz-clicked by paparazzi. Hart’s cool enough to back off from that, play the smaller parts and just wait his time.”

The son of noted character actor Lloyd Bochner, known to TV audiences as debonair Cecil Colby on ABC’s Dynasty, Hart broke into acting with a Kool-Aid ad while still an English major at UC San Diego. Six months later he was spotted at a screening by the wife of Oscar-winning director Franklin (Patton) Schaffner, and a resulting audition led to a role as one of George C. Scott’s sons in the 1977 film Islands in the Stream, based on the autobiographical Hemingway novel. The experience, Bochner says now, was like “taking an 18-month-old baby and throwing it into the deep end of a pool.” Since then he has managed at least to stay afloat, and even make a notable splash or two, perhaps most memorably as the coke-snorting, sleazoid young exec in last summer’s action hit Die Hard.

Now, mindful that 140 million people watched War and Remembrance’s 1983 precursor, The Winds of War, Hart Bochner, handsome minor leaguer, is hoping to make it, finally, into the majors. “For everyone’s sake, I hope this thing is huge,” he says, breaking into a characteristic grin. “Who knows? I might end up being the Tony Orlando of the ’90s.”

—Susan Schindehette, and Michael Alexander in Los Angeles