Kathy Cronkite Throws the Book at Celeb Parents Including Her Own Dear Dad, Walter

updated 04/13/1981 at 01:00 AM EST

originally published 04/13/1981 01:00AM

What's in a name? Well, sometimes grief, insists Walter Cronkite's actress daughter Kathy. It is only now, at age 30, that she has come to terms with being the child of a celebrity. Before that, she had her fling at rebellion. As a teenager she liked to sneak down to Greenwich Village, hang out with musicians and smoke pot; she dropped out of six colleges (she still lacks a degree) and failed at her first marriage, to a college boyfriend. Her account, On the Edge of the Spotlight (Morrow, $12.95), has just been published. "I did not write a Mommie Dearest," she insists, but adds, "I don't think it's a whitewash. I think I was honest."

So do her parents, Walter and Betsy Cronkite, who gave her a book-launching party at Manhattan's tradition-heavy Players club. "It was the longest gestation in history," teased her father, referring to the three years it took Kathy to complete the book. "Her mother and I are proud of her."

Kathy's opus grew out of a 1977 magazine article she wrote on her dad. She decided to expand on the idea, interviewing 26 other celebrity offspring, including Chris Lemmon (son of Jack), Mary Crosby, Christie Hefner, Arlo Guthrie, John Blyth Barrymore, Jack Ford, Susan Newman and Bela Lugosi Jr.

A year into her research a close friend, Scott Newman (Paul's son), died from a combination of drugs and alcohol. "Scott's death made me want the book to be a message instead of just a survey," Kathy says. The book is dedicated to him.

Children of the stars, she found, resent having to share their parents with fans and feel guilty at their ambivalent feelings toward parental figures the public puts on pedestals. If there is one universal feeling, Kathy claims, it is: "I want to be accepted on my own merits or fail on my own failures."

That is the criterion she applies to her own acting efforts. Married to second husband Bill Ikard, 34, a Houston lawyer (and son of former Texas Congressman Frank Ikard), she makes frequent forays to New York and Los Angeles in her career pursuit. So far most of her credits have been bit parts in movies (Network and The Trial of Billy Jack) and TV guest appearances (Marcus We I by, M.D. and The Waltons).

Gathering interviews for her book took Kathy from coast to coast. But two of the most revealing were held at home—with her sister Nancy, 32, also an actress and writer, and brother Chip, 24, a film editor. Their conclusion is that Mom and Dad did the important things right. "I have never had any doubt about my parents' love," says Kathy. "I always felt I could come home again, that nothing I did would be so terrible that they would turn their backs on me."

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