Interview 20

Richard Chamberlain -The Most Eligible Bachelor

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"Iíve been thinking about marriage lately," he said. "Everyone I know has been getting divorced -including my own brother. But I wouldnít avoid getting married because of that. Itís like saying I wonít buy a dog because itíll die some day."

A curly-haired Richard Chamberlain was talking to me in an office high above Sunset Strip. Appropriately enough, the sun was setting over Los Angeles.

Richard had come from a guest appearance on the Dinah Shore TV show and was poised to take off for a few daysí holiday with his family.

Behind him were films like The Towering Inferno with Paul Newman, Fred Astaire and Steve McQueen and The Count of Monte Cristo, which had been made in Rome.

While in Rome, heíd spent much of his time with dark-haired Taryn Power (daughter of the late Tyrone Power). So, Rome had some beautiful memories for him.

"There, people meet your eye differently. In America thereís a fear of admitting the sensual side of interest. In Rome itís so blatant and wonderfully sexual," he said, grinning.

Behind Richard, too, were five happy years of living and working in England. He had returned to sunny California to see something of his family and to supervise alterations heís making to his rambling timber house in Coldwater Canyon.

"I went to England," he said, "on a strong hunch that London was the place to get my basic acting training. I did Portrait of a Lady for BBC and it all took off from there."

"I will be eternally grateful that I did it and broke my Dr. Kildare image."

He swivelled round in his chair, put his feet up on the bookcase, and reflected on that turning point in his career.

"It was difficult to adjust to England at first. Here in Hollywood Dr. Kildare had totally dominated my life for five years. I was used to doing the ĎSocial Charmí bit: the All-American Boy thing."

"Then I found the English dropping off to sleep after ten minutes of that! I had to learn to do something else. It was a good lesson for me to learn to get on a deeper level with relationships."

"Romantically, too, I found the same thing: there was a little more depth in relationships with English girls. I think that English women are a little bit softer than Americans."

"Mind you, I shouldnít generalise. But I know that the immediate image of an American girl that comes to mind is a sort of stewardess: very beautiful, very healthy -and very dumb!"

"But it doesnít hold true everywhere. I found English girls softer, and the relationship was never role-playing: it was for real."

"It wasnít: ĎIím a man -youíre a woman, and weíre going to relate on those levels.í"

"It was: ĎO.K., who are you? Youíre a human being. Iím a human being Ö WOW!"

"It was all at once more interesting and more frightening, because it was so real."

He stared intently at the floor for a moment, trying to put it all into place.

"It takes a while for me to get past the actor-image with some girls. I sometimes find that a considerable difficulty in life. Itís nice, though, to also have the protection of that image."

"On the other hand, when you meet someone you really want to get to know and want to know you and they keep relating to this actor-image -itís very frustrating."

"That happens much more in the United States -the English seem to recognise that actors are human beings."

"I just took to England and my friends there right away."

"My first ever visit was in í63 when I spent Christmas with friends in Kent. We got on so well Ö oh, Iíve had such good times in Britain." His blue eyes shone with enthusiasm.

He went on:

"There is something about working in British TV and theatre that is quite unique. The atmosphere is less one of business and more that of art."

"English actors donít earn so much, and are doing the work because they love it. Thatís living, I think."

"A lot of American actors are so wrapped up in the money and their billing; they should really be out selling insurance or something."

"It happens so easily out here. If an actor in England is good -thatís enough. Here, you have to be rich first."

"I still keep on my flat in the Bayswater Road in London. I like to have a home-base there."

"When Iím there I like to potter around at home. I like making stained-glass windows, which I find very relaxing. And I like to cook a bit -Iím not very adventurous, just steaks and salads and that."

"But my English girl friends used to cook for me mostly -wonderful things like steak and kidney pudding and cottage pie. I love those English dishes."

"When I wasnít working I travelled around a bit; but I still donít know the art galleries as well as I should. I spent a lot of time in Hyde Park, feeding the birds."

"Iím always madly busy -but I donít accomplish very much. I never remember sitting down for very long. But I do spend a lot of time talking with my friends."

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Richard Chamberlain with Taryn Power in Rome

Richard Chamberlain is one of the most eligible bachelors around: handsome, charming, very courteous, great fun to be with, intelligent and thoughtful. So why hasnít he been ensnared by now, I asked, steering him back to the subject he tries to avoid at all costs.

"Well," he started, hesitantly, "I love to think about having a wife and kids, as I said earlier."

"I love the idea. But Iím not sure Iíd be very good at it. I can barely keep myself organised as it is Ö I suppose a wife would help."

"I was saying to some friends at dinner the other night: ĎWhat I need is someone who can type, who can take care of all the laundry and stuff, who can cook, plan parties, keep the house in shape, etc.í"

"They said ĎWhat you need is a wife; get married!í"

"Except, of course, these days wives donít do all that stuff. Well, American girls wonít -theyíd resent it. But I gather British girls are different. They seem to be brought up to look after their man -so maybe thatís the answer!"

"Also, I wouldnít want to have kids unless I really felt I could devote a lot of time to them. I wouldnít want to have kids just because they happened to arrive."

"I do rush around a lot right now. Iíd loath to give up that total freedom. I mean even a cat intrudes on that, so I donít keep animals."

"Iíd like to be able to just pick up and go when I want to without any hesitation."

"But Iím sure there are compensations to marriage. If thereís love in the relationship, then Iím sure it would be heaven -and that may happen."

"I do still have a romantic image about building a relationship. And I think without love it would be agony."

"But I think love isnít what we imagine it to be. Nor would the relationship be what you plan it to be. Nothing is."

"You canít say: ĎThis is what love is, and this is what I want in my relationship with you.í"

"But you can have a relationship and discover what love is. On an almost daily basis, that is."

"Thatís my idea of a really living, loving marriage. Itís got a few punch-ups Ö a few this, and that."

"But if thereís that basic feeling there, and you both really want it to work and are willing to bulldoze through the hard parts, Iím sure itís possible to build a very marvellous life together. But it doesnít happen very often."

It was a realistic but rather pessimistic view. I couldnít help a thoughtful frown. I should have realised that a frown on a womanís face is a signal to Richard Chamberlain for the conversation to be steered along less serious lines.

"Díyou know my motto for life?" he asked with a disarmingly straight face. "Love thy neighbour as thyself Ö get the knife in first."

I was taking this in when two twinkling mischievous eyes gave the show away. And thatís Richard Chamberlain. Letís be serious but letís not get too intense.