Add some appropriately irritating organ music and you'd think this midtown Manhattan health club was Soap Opera Fantasy Land. Here, in the skimpy gym clothes, is Guiding Light's Tony Reardon, pumping iron and keeping himself in shape for the next round in Sudsville's never-ending good fight. Over there, working up a sweat on the Nautilus machine, is low-down Trent Chapin, the tall, blond and handsome dark force from ABC's One Life to Live. If this were TV and you were home watching, these two would definitely tangle. But this is reality, folks, and the odd couple is two loving brothers. "They cast us both opposite the way we really are," says actor David (Trent Chapin) Beecroft, 29. "I'm not as bad as Trent and he [older brother Greg Beecroft] is not as good as Tony." Greg, 32, won't say it ain't so. "Actually," he says, "I've been better and he's been worse."

The Beecroft boys are rapidly rising stars in the daytime firmament, and though both admit that the soaps have been good to them, each harbors higher ambitions. "Doing soaps you get used to a type of acting that could be compared to high school sex," says Greg. "You don't take a lot of chances because if it doesn't work, you don't have time to do it over. I hate that." Yet David, a former Golden Gloves boxer, believes the grind of an hour-long soap five days a week has made him a better actor. "It teaches you how to make quick decisions, how to take a scene and do something with it."

Greg, on the other hand, felt the medium was trying to do something with him, and he wasn't entirely happy about it. "The first six months, every scene said, 'We open on Tony, shirtless, drinking a beer.' I would say I could make this scene work without the beefcake, but they didn't care." David is sympathetic, though he hasn't been asked to show as much skin as his brother on CBS. He agrees with Greg that working in the same business has brought them closer together. "We had always had an unspoken competition," Greg explains. "Now we've both experienced the same problems—the hustle and bustle, the jobs to pay the rent. You can't help but respect someone who's gone through that, because you know what it takes."

Born in Corpus Christi, Texas, the oldest of five children, Greg found himself thrust into the role of man of the house at age 12 after his car-dealer father and his mother divorced. His mother, Barbara, moved the family to Dallas and eventually became vice-president of a bank. The boys divided their time between her place in Texas and their father's home in Warwick, R.I. At the time Greg's rebellious, outspoken personality was at odds with David's more soft-spoken, serious nature. "I was the big brother," Greg says. "They give you a big brother book, and on page one it says 'Pick on little brother.' I used to think of creative ways to torture him."

In fact Greg grew up envious of his younger brother. "David was bigger than I was, a more talented athlete," he says. But it was Greg, who studied drama before leaving the University of New Hampshire a few credits shy of graduation, who landed the part of Tony Reardon in 1981, when the brothers went head-to-head at a casting call. By that time he had worked as a plumber, lifeguard and hotel house dick in order to finance his acting classes. David, meanwhile, had graduated from Trinity University in San Antonio before heading to Hollywood in 1979 to break into films. After a small role in The Border, with Jack Nicholson, he moved to New York, where he worked as a cab driver and bartender between off-Broadway acting assignments. A role in ABC's Loving led to a successful tryout for One Life to Live.

Ultimately, both would like to establish themselves as stage actors, while Greg also hopes to work in feature films. In the meantime he's practicing for stardom by answering his fan mail, some of it from women in loveless marriages who see Tony Reardon as a kind of way out. "That's sad," he says. "They're in love with a character I play. They don't know me."

One woman who does is the Bee-crofts' proud mother, who says her sons' success couldn't make her happier. "You know mothers always worry when their boys are away," she says. "With mine, I can see that they're well fed and that their hair is cut just by watching TV. They both look really good!"

  • Contributors:
  • Alan Carter.