Lorenzo Lamas Is Starring for Disney, but His Real Beachhead Is in Travolta Turf

updated 04/02/1979 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 04/02/1979 AT 01:00 AM EST

People knock on doors for years, and here I am suddenly getting all these breaks," marvels Lorenzo Lamas, 21, the smashingly handsome actor who stars for the first time in the new Disney release, Take Down, and who has three other features in the works. "I'm a little apprehensive that things have happened too fast. What have I done? Why is it happening to me?"

Among the answers to those questions are Lorenzo's Travolta-esque good looks, a mesomorphic physique that's 6'2", 185-pounds and some experience as a high school wrestler, the part he plays in Take Down. Of course, it hasn't hurt that Lorenzo's father is 1950s Hollywood leading man Fernando Lamas, 56, his mother is actress Arlene Dahl, 51, and his stepmom is the now-retired Esther Williams, 58.

"I'm sure a lot of people will think that I got my break only because of my parents," admits Lorenzo. "Being Fernando and Arlene's kid does get you past a lot of secretaries. But when you're in there you have to rely on talent. And, if anything, you're scrutinized more carefully."

If that sounds like the apologia routinely issued by scores of second-generation actors—well, at least Lorenzo is refreshingly unpretentious when he describes why he likes his profession. "I'm crazy about being a movie star," he admits. "I enjoy the recognition. It's fun going to the bank. I'm not doing anything serious, like finding a cure for muscular dystrophy or cancer. This is a business to me, like being a carpenter or a plumber would be to anyone else. My father was in it, my mother was in it, and now I'm in it."

Which is not to say that many carpenters' kids got their "first kiss with Eva Marie Saint's daughter when we were both 4 years old." Lorenzo also "once took Gregory Peck's daughter Cynthia to a sophomore dance, but that's about as Hollywood as I go." His mother transferred him from L.A. schools to Admiral Farragut military academy in New Jersey ("She was busy with her career and needed time to do her number"). There he was a B+ student and played football, wrestled at 141 pounds and broke the school discus record. After graduation Lorenzo went to Santa Monica Junior College "to swim and take acting lessons." He then abandoned plans to become a veterinarian ("Did I really want to find myself at the age of 40 swabbing beagles' ears?") and supported himself working at a McDonald's and pumping gas until producer Allan Carr cast him as Olivia Newton-John's bleached-blond boyfriend in Grease. That windfall came only after another famous offspring, Steven Ford, son of Gerald and Betty, withdrew.

Lorenzo was helped along the way by his father's direction in an episode of the now-defunct CBS series Switch. "Dad's advice is a lot cheaper than hiring a professional manager. I do half the things I do for him because I love him so much," says Lorenzo of his dad (who was most recently seen in The Cheap Detective). His mother, Arlene, is president of Scandia cosmetics in New York. "All those thousands of miles tend to separate us," he reports. "She sends me birthday cards, and I send them to her."

Lorenzo's dating habits "are open. I don't want to limit it. I date people from 18 to 27, but I've had a few relationships with women a little older. Age to me is just a number." As for the other vices, he doesn't smoke or drink (except for beer and a daily half gallon of milk) and claims to have never even tried pot. Coming up, Lorenzo has a starring role in a football saga, The All Americans, as well as appearances with Brooke Shields in Tilt and Marsha Mason in Promises in the Dark. At that rate, Lorenzo is living up to the Anglicized nickname he was given before Latin pride made him drop it. As a child, he was known as "Lucky."

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