YOU PROBABLY WOULDN'T WAVE TO SPEND YOUR WHOLE LIFE IN a one-or two-bedroom unit at Melrose Place. But for now you'd kill to sublet in this unpretentious stucco complex, just around the corner from one of Los Angeles's trendiest shopper-friendly avenues. You will never, ever be bored here. The nine tenants are all in their 20s, with nicely toned bods beneath their studiously casual clothes. They hop in and out of bed with each other, flaunting the gymnastic alacrity of aerobically fit youth. And the romantic entanglements are nothing compared to the weekly skulduggery.
There's that beautiful but emotionally overwrought redhead who's been dabbling in prostitution. And there's that young doctor—only recently able to walk again after a terrible car accident—who has just sent his ex-wife, whom he's trying to win back, a shocking videotape. It shows her new boyfriend in bed with a hooker. (The doctor set it up with the help of the redhead, who happens to be his ex's sister.) Best of all, your apartment manager is Heather Locklear
! As Amanda Woodward, she patrols this fish tank like a blond barracuda, scavenging for sex and trouble.
Wow, you're thinking, what's the rent?
Standing around the apartment pool (the series is filmed in Santa Clarita, 35 miles north of Hollywood), three Melrose Place stars—Locklear, Andrew Shue and Grant Show—try to pin down the figure.
"Eight hundred?" muses Shue, 27, who plays hunky writer Billy Campbell. (See related story, page 71.)
"I'm not sure," says Locklear, 32, previously best known as the nubile Sammy Jo on Dynasty. (See related story, page 68.) "But you get to peek through windows and sleep with the manager."
Turns out, the rent is 800 bucks, according to a previous episode. Cheap, they agree. "That's why we live here," says Ryan's Hope veteran Show, 31, who's mechanic-handyman-gawk object Jake Hanson.
Paradise! In this, its second season, the Beverly Hills 90210 spinoff has turned into a compulsively watchable, high-trash hit with almost unbeatable demographics. Melrose, currently the No. 2-rated drama in the Nielsens among 18-to 34-year-olds, is Dynasty for Generation X. No. 1 among this age group is 90210, which like Melrose was created by Darren Star, 32, and executive-produced by Aaron Spelling. And like 90210, "Melrose is fun to see with a lot of people," says Show, who watches with girlfriend and costar Laura Leighton, 25, who's Sydney, that dangerous redhead. (See related story, page 71.) "You can yell at it."
And soon you'll hear an echo: Melrose will in turn spin off an eight-episode series, Models Inc., debuting in June. It will not be about missionary nuns.
"There's such a thing as balance, and Melrose really satisfies one end of the scale," says Daphne Zuniga (smoky-voiced photographer Jo Reynolds), 30. "It doesn't have to do with the intellect."
Star can't resist pointing at Locklear, poolside in a short skirt. "We do try to make everybody look good," he admits.
Irresistible, in fact. Most members of the youngish cast can testify to the peculiar sort of stardom that comes with a hit prime-time soap. "When I was doing films, people didn't just come up and start giving you their opinions," says Zuniga, who costarred in The Sure Thing and Space-balls. "Now I hear voices behind me start talking, 'Don't get involved with this new guy!' " (That's guest star James Wilder, who plays an old flame just out of prison.)
Actually, Thomas Calabro, 35, the duplicitous Dr. Michael Mancini, is getting tired of people asking him why his character is so obsessed with winning back his perfectly nice ex-wife, designer Jane (Josie Bissett). "Guys on the golf course joke, 'Don't come near my wife,' " says Calabro, a New York City-trained actor, who recently bought a home in the L.A. area with his wife, Elisabeth, a writer. "At least people don't come up and smack me."
In the beginning he probably would have welcomed a slap—or any attention at all. When it premiered in July 1992, Melrose enjoyed a few weeks of high ratings despite a poisonous critical response. Then it sank.
"When we started," says Star, "this was a spinoff of 90210, and the show couldn't define itself." One problem was that Melrose, inspired by Star's own travails as a twentysomething, actually tried to be about the travails of twentysomethings. A typical episode, says occasional director Bethany Rooney, "was about Jake taking the GED because he never graduated from high school." Z-ville. That mistake was repaired, says Bissett, 23, "when we added more affairs, sex, dirty stuff."
With all the bedsheets flying, the creative team at Melrose is only now focusing on the sole gay tenant, social worker Matt Fielding. "We are beginning to get into areas of Matt's life," says Doug Savant, 29, the married father of two who plays him—and who concedes that even his parents are uncomfortable with the part. "They say to friends, 'This is our son Doug. He's a star on Melrose Place.' " says Savant. "And then they kind of whisper, 'He's the gay character.' "
Locklear, meanwhile, had no trouble establishing herself as queen bee. She initially joined Melrose for four episodes last year as the ad-agency boss of dimpled, decent-yet-driven Alison (Courtney Thome-Smith). In short order, Amanda had slept with Billy, got pregnant, miscarried—then bought the apartment complex. "She deserves a lot of credit for our success," says Thome-Smith, 25, perhaps best known as the Laker Girl who had an affair with Harry Hamlin's character on L.A. Law. "She brought in an element we really needed—the villain—and her energy."
So, young Melrosers, no resentment that Heather might have stolen your thunder? "We're a mature group of adults here," insists Bissett, who is married to Rob Estes, star of USA Network's Silk Stalkings.
Very adult, considering the on-set romances so far. The current pairing (of six months) between Leighton and Show stayed hush-hush "for about seven hours," says Zuniga. Before that, Courtney-Smith dated Shue.
Of course, this is minor compared to Melrose's fast-paced roundelay of lovers that's sped up by Melrose's hectic production schedule. The show, which has been renewed through next season, tapes 32 episodes a year, often two shows a week. (Quake damage has been repaired.)
Even now, the production crew has taken its place pool-side as Leighton and Locklear shoot a decisive Melrose confrontation. "With me gone," Leighton hisses, "you'll be the only bitch left in the building." She turns on her heels and strolls out of the courtyard. Then, to hoots of applause from the crew, she bounds back in and hugs Locklear.
Oh, Sydney, you twentysomething tigress, you can't go!
But, if you do, can we have dibs on your place?
TOM CUNNEFF and CRAIG TOMASHOFF in Los Angeles
HEATHER: LEAN, MEAN...BUT NOT ON THE DATING SCENE
, WHOSE COOLLY CONNIVING TURN AS Melrose landlord Amanda Woodward has earned comparisons with Dynasty's Joan Collins, isn't quite ready to inherit the tiara as Queen of Mean. "Amanda is misunderstood," says Locklear, who during eight seasons played Sammy Jo, a somewhat more girlish conniver, on Dynasty. Says Locklear: "Amanda never deliberately sets out to hurt anyone. If she has to save her ass, she'll do it. Just like we all do."
"Heather can laugh at herself," says costar Daphne Zuniga. "She knows what her image is."
Locklear may be on the verge of relinquishing her other unofficial title: Heavy Metal Dream Babe. Although she graces Wayne's World 2 with a schwing-provoking cameo at an Aerosmith concert, she is currently getting a divorce from her husband of seven years, Motley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee, 31. Both are reluctant to talk about the breakup and its causes ("I don't think either of us is going to say anything bad about the other," says he), but there have always been rumors about Lee's bad-boy behavior on the road. After he boasted in one interview about frolicking in a hot tub with a bunch of girls, Heather confronted him. "How do you think this makes me feel?" she asked. Now, she says, "I'm not devastated or destroyed. It's mostly just sad."
Their San Fernando Valley house is for sale, priced at $1 million, and she often spends the night at the nearby home of her parents, Bill, an official with UCLA, and Diane, an administrative assistant at Disney. Locklear says she enjoys singlehood but isn't dating yet.
She won't want for opportunities. Her Melrose wardrobe is more sedate (a bit) than the hot pants she wore as Officer Stacy Sheridan on T.J. Hooker (1982-87). But the size-3 figure remains sleek—105 lbs. on a 5'5" frame—despite only two gym sessions a week. That and all the junk food she can eat. "I'm naturally thin," says Locklear. "But the older you get.... My butt's becoming part of my leg."
LAURA LEIGHTON, THE NASTY GIRL
BEFORE MELROSE PLACE, LAURA LEIGHTON'S MOST CHALLENGING performance was probably in a commercial for Dep hair gel. "I can still do the move," says Leighton, flipping her lustrous red hair back over her shoulder. Say, isn't there something faintly...menacing about that flip?
Lately, every little move Leighton makes seems to be invested with glints of wickedness. When she first showed up on Melrose in January 1993 as Jane's kid sister Sydney, she was expected to stick around for only two episodes. But first Sydney threw herself at Jane's husband, Michael, then fell in with a Hollywood madam. And Leighton has been bad ever since. "Doing this show is great, nothing but great," says Leighton. Greatest perk: dating costar Grant Show, who says Leighton is "the sweetest, most fun person you could meet."
That description, at least, jibes with her squeaky-clean upbringing in Iowa City, Iowa. "I was Sandy," she says, comparing herself with Olivia Newton-John's wholesome character in Grease. Immediately after high school, she headed to L.A. and spent a year performing with the Young Americans, an Up With People-like troupe.
Back home, her mother, Melanie, first had trouble accepting Laura as Sydney. "She said, 'Oh, can't you just be good?' " recalls Leighton. "She's used to it now. On Thursday mornings she can get together with her friends, who all say, 'She was so bad last night!' "
SHUE BIZ: BODY AND SOUL
"IF ME DONT HAVE AN ATTITUDE CHANGE AND DECIDE WHETHER we're going to be selfish people or giving people, this country is going to go to pot."
Activist, patriot and unselfish—those aren't always the first three words that come to mind when discussing the stars on a prime-lime soap. But Andrew Shue, who has been acting for less than two years, is serious about a number of things. After graduating from Dartmouth in 1989, Shue played professional soccer with the Highlanders in Zimbabwe while teaching high school math there. Currently, Andrew is at work setting up Do Something, a grant program to assist young people with fresh ideas for solving local problems.
"I have a creative side, which is fulfilled by the show," he says. "My athletic side is fulfilled by soccer." (He's a spokesman for the World Cup.) "And then there's the side which wants to give back, be a role model, which is Do Something."
Shue is well aware that he can come across as overly pensive. Lately, though, "I've made more of an effort to be open to everybody instead of getting into my own world," he says. There was, for instance, his relationship with Melrose apartment-mate Courtney Thorne-Smith. They dated during Melrose's first season. "We're still very close." And if you're wondering whether those tabloid reports are true: No, he isn't dating Heather Locklear