Rona Barrett's Gossip
"What's Wrong with a Pretty Face?"
by Bill Royce
Sitting in a Sunset Strip restaurant on a late fall afternoon, the 24-year old actor--one of the stars of NBC's new hit, The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo--sips a bit of white wine, puffs on an almost endless supply of cigarettes, and ruminates on the twists-and-turns his rollercoaster career has already taken.
Brian's creative "collisions" with John Conboy, the producer of The Young and the Restless, were admittedly "stormy" but not so traumatic that Kerwin can't laugh at the memory--or even Conboy--today.
Q: Then it was the "political" things you found hard to take on Young and the Restless?
Brian: The producer I particularly didn't get along with. John Conboy had a certain sense of his power... And I overracted.
Q: Can you give me an example?
Brian: Well, he'd just drop these little "hints" like, "Gee, Brian, maybe you ought to have voice lessons. And I didn't get voice lessons. And, all of a sudden, my story on the show stopped. And the secretary on the show kept asking me, "I don't suppose you got voice lessons yet, did you?" So I went and got voice lessons and the very day I had my first voice lesson I got three scripts for the next week. I was just like that.
Q: Weren't you glad when the whole thing was over?
Brian: Relieved is more like it. The way they put it was, "We're dropping your character for awhile, Brian." So I went to John and I asked him, "When the character does come back--in six months or a year or whatever--does this mean that I still have the part? And he said, "Well, Brian, we certainly will want you to read for it!"
Q: Do you find that some people assume you're not much of an actor or even dumb because you have those all-American good looks?
Brian: So what's wrong with a pretty face? (Laughs.) I don't think I've gotten anywhere with my looks. I was checking the mirror this morning and my hair's coming out in handfuls back there. A bald all-American boy! (Laughs.)
Q: Have you ever run into the so-called "Hollywood casting couch" syndrome?
Brian: I've only run into it once. On a gay level. It was just one guy. A casting director. I'm not very naive, but I did accidentally lead the guy on because...well, I'd met the guy once before and he'd never made any moved toward me. I had just had some new photos taken and I was looking for wark. It was a hot summer day and I'm wearing these cut-offs that were ripped up the sides and I'm delivering pictures all over town to all the casting directors. I walked into this guy's office in Studio City and said, "I'd like you to look at my new pictures." And he said, "Well, sit down, Brian." And it was just talk, talk, talk. It went very well. He seemed to like me very much and I felt great. I didn't suspect anything. But when I got up to leave, the guy stood up in front of me and said, "I just thought that I ought to tell you that I think you're a really sexy guy." And I said, "Oh?" And then he said, "I hope you don't mind that." Considering myself cool, I said, "No..uh, I don't mind that at all." And then I walked out. And by five o'clock that evening, I had been invited to dinner, a movie, and a weekend at Zuma Beach! (Laughs.)
Q: Didn't Jimmy Coco have something to do with your getting started?
Brian: Yes. One day Jimmy and Terence McNally, the man who wrote The Ritz for him, came into the shop and they liked my shirts and they liked me. This one kind of shirt Coco loved but he's a difficult man to make a shirt for but I made it. And talking with him one time, he told me about the trade papers and the newspapers which had all the notices of new plays and auditions. And I went out and I think my fifth audition, I got a play. And before that was over, I was signed for another play with the same company.
It was ridiculously easy and it was even a little embarrassing because you see all the people who come to New York and struggle and struggle and here I come along and snap up these parts. But they were in off-Broadway productions. Still, I was very lucky.
Q: I think you've had the oddest jobs I've ever heard of--
Brian: You haven't heard nothing yet! (Laughs.) Once I worked for Carnation up in Oregon and they were, by the way, developing Lady Friskies. Do you know what that is, Bill?
Brian: Lady Friskies is dog food with contraceptives in it! (Laughs.) They had these long production lines and cases and cases of Lady Friskies sitting around the warehouse.
Q: Didn't anyone want to buy it?
Brian: It never got on the market. Do you know what the problem was?
Q: Uh, no...
Brian: The problem was that they were worried teenage girls would start eating Lady Friskies because they couldn't get a prescription for contraceptives! (Laughs.)