"Okay, George, let's get down to the nitty-gritty," says Sean. After the ante is upped to $50, Sean promises to walk Alana's dog and empty her garbage for a week. At that, Hamilton, in a blue-striped dress shirt and crisp chinos, gently doffs his alligator loafers and belt, saunters toward the deep end and, just before diving in, turns to Stewart, rolls his eyes and, with a flourish, says, "It takes so little to entertain your children."
Would that the same were true of the morning talk show audience, which is the one Hamilton and Stewart, as hosts of the two-month-old syndicated George & Alana show, are the latest to try to amuse. In a seascape already bobbing with Regis and Kathie Lee, Sally Jessy, Ricki and a raft of others, the George &Alana show is still afloat, albeit among the lowest-ranked of this season's new talk shows. Its existence, says Stewart, is a testament to the power of novelty. "There's nobody else who's been married and divorced and working together," she says. "We're not reinventing the wheel. We're just putting our own spin on it."
Hamilton, 56, and Stewart, 48, whose five-year marriage ended amicably in divorce in 1977, are about as far apart as their Hollywood studio office decors. Hers is spartan, with just a desk; his, an Art Deco showplace complete with cappuccino machine and wet bar. Not to mention the 22 pieces of lawn furniture that he had airlifted onto the rooftop.
"Oh, his tan. He drives me crazy with it!" says Stewart. "They can't light him. To make him look halfway human, the lights make me look like Casper the Friendly Ghost."
"The problem," he interjects, "is that she's so pale."
"It's because you're so dark," she counters. "It's not healthy for your skin."
"I'm not going to change my color for you," he says, pauses, and then adds sweetly, "Other things, yes."
Don't be fooled by the bickering. Their affection, says the show's executive producer Barbara Corday, is as obvious as "the way she rests her hand on his knee or when he gets her a drink of lukewarm water, which is what she likes. They have a warmth with one another that you don't see in a lot of married couples."
Maybe that's because time has given them perspective. Back in 1969, Stewart, modeling in Acapulco, met Hamilton at a party. Later, at a club in L.A., "I felt somebody pinch me on the rear end," says Stewart. "I turned to slug him. It was George."
Raised dirt poor in East Texas by a four-times-married mother who died of a drug overdose in 1976, Stewart "was a very feisty person—and I liked that in her," says Hamilton. "She was very outspoken, and I was very couched and polite." The only child of a down-at-the-heels Palm Beach socialite and her bandleader husband, he learned manners early. "I went to coming-out parties and met rich debutantes," recalls Hamilton. "And I had two dinner jackets that I bought in a thrift shop." By the time he became involved with Alana in the late '60s, he had established a career in Hollywood. Then, in 1972, while visiting their friend Col. Tom Parker, Elvis Presley's manager, the couple hitched a ride on the singer's jet and eloped to Las Vegas. But the marriage soon lost its momentum despite the birth of their son Ashley, now 21. "George had already done the whole Hollywood scene," says Stewart. "And I wanted to be out partying."
In the years after their marriage's remarkably civil close (the two penciled their settlement on a restaurant napkin), Hamilton became a virtual one-man Hollywood escort service, squiring Liz Taylor ("We had an amazing friendship ), Britt Ekland, Vanessa Redgrave and Jeanne Moreau.
In 1978, Alana met Rod Stewart at a party thrown by mega-agent Swifty Lazar. "Rod kept staring at me," she recalls. "The next day, his gofer called and said that Rod wanted me to have dinner with him. I said, 'Is his finger broken? If he wants to talk to me, he should call me himself.' I thought he was kind of funny-looking." Not prohibitively, though, and after he did call, they married, in 1979. Five years later, after two children (Kimberly, 16, and Sean), they split up. "I had been just certain he was faithful," she says. "But I had a very rude awakening."
Since then, Hamilton and Stewart have bucked each other up through some tough times. Two years ago, Ashley, then 19, married Beverly Hills, 90210's bad girl Shannen Doherty; they divorced seven months later. "Ashley's very impulsive and obviously she is too," says Stewart. Far more troubling is Ashley's drug problem, which his mother says resulted from the painkillers prescribed after brain surgery following a devastating 1992 motorcycle accident. "Who knows where it'll end up," she says. "But he's working on it now."
Today, Hamilton lives in a three-bedroom condo in West Hollywood and claims his bachelor's life has worn a little thin. "I'm at a point where dating is boring," he says. "I like quiet."
Stewart is making changes in her life as well. Last year she removed her breast implants because she thinks they contributed to her chronic fatigue syndrome. "I looked better with them, but I didn't feel better," she says.
Even if the show sinks, Hamilton has a blithe prediction. "I'm sure if they cancel it, we'll get a call from Brandon Tartikoff wanting to know if we'd like to do a series based on a talk show," he says.
"He's stuck with me," says Alana gleefully.
"Well," shrugs Hamilton with mock resignation. "At least I'll get all the alimony back."
TOM CUNNEFF in Los Angeles
- Tom Cunneff.
THE SCENE IS WHAT PASSES FOR en famille in Hollywood these days: the willowy blond with her bronzed ex-husband, lounging around her pool with sundry offspring. "Hey, George, I'll give you 10 bucks to jump in the water with your clothes on," shouts 15-year-old Sean Stewart, Alana Stewart's son by rocker Rod Stewart, her second ex-husband. But her first, the ever-dapper George Hamilton, is having none of it.