Starlet Kate Vernon's Climb to Success on Falcon Crest Has Been One Sweet Girlish Giggle

updated 04/01/1985 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 04/01/1985 AT 01:00 AM EST

It was quite an audition for Kate Vernon. The Kewpie doll blonde lay sprawled on the floor as studly Lorenzo Lamas stroked her trembling body while he murmured, "I love you, I love you." Seated round the lovers were nine TV execs, addressing the crucial question: Could Kate Vernon make it as Falcon Crest's newest cupcake?

She's cut the frosting so far. Cast as vile Richard Channing's stepdaughter, the dishy little Vernon has succumbed to Lamas and is now pregnant with an heir to the vast estate. Her ripely rounded form infuriates Lamas' imperious grandmother, Jane Wyman. With such cunning complication, Vernon looks set for the series' duration, unless the writers "kill me off in childbirth," she says.

Off the set life is one sweet giggle for Vernon, 23. Indeed, the sunny blonde resembles her favorite party drink, the "Slammer." Pour 7-Up and tequila, cover the concoction with a napkin and slam it down. "It fizzes," Vernon says. "You drink it down in one gulp, and then you're ready to go!" Vernon is always ready to go. She scoots to her aerobics classes in a battered tomato-red VW bug, which has a nifty license plate, "KT Jazz," referring to the jasmine perfume she used to affect. Her hobby is shopping. She loves Bruce Springsteen, her cat, Muffin, her three labradors and "cookies, big soft cookies." Because of this perky personality, Vernon's family nickname is "Spazchow," as in spastic.

So far Kate has only had to face a couple of icky things in life. One of them was breaking up with boyfriend Vincent Spano, with whom she appeared in Alphabet City. The romance was, well, "off and on," she sighs. "He lives in New York and I live here...We're buddies now." And of course there were those "lecherous men professing to be something that they're not," says Vernon of the Guccied execs who were going to make her a star. "Yeah," she says, "I fell for it a few times, but then I learned real fast. I'm not bitter about it at all."

Vernon's career has advanced nicely, even without the casting couch. After she signed with her agent two years ago, she quickly landed jobs on Dallas and Family Ties, as well as a role in the B movie Roadhouse 66, where she was a hot kitten with her claws deep into Judge (Beverly Hills Cop) Reinhold. Joining Falcon Crest boosted her career, but on the set things haven't been, like, totally peachy for Spazchow. "Oh, they've cooled [to me]," she says about the rest of the female cast (with the exception of Jane Wyman, who is "a kick" according to Vernon). "That's for sure, they cooled beyond cool. I was the new girl and I was getting a lot of attention." The rumors weren't very pleasant either. "There were stories about me and everybody," she complains. Things got so steamy that the producers, she says, quizzed people about her. The source of the false rumors? "The crew," she moans. "They were all claiming me."

What about her co-star and audition amour, Lorenzo Lamas? "I'm not in pursuit of him," she says firmly. "He's a married man." But referring to their horizontal audition, she laughs, "Hey, that was sexy." And she burbles, "I like 'em Latin." Lamas himself says, "She's developing into a great actress who would make her dad proud." Dad is John Vernon, who played Dean Wormer in National Lampoon's Animal House. When Kate arrived on the set, though, David Selby, who plays her stepfather, Richard Channing, recalls thinking, "Goodness, I've got to remember she's my daughter."

Vernon recognizes that her life has all the angst of a melting Creamsicle. Mum takes care of the dogs at the family's spacious Mulholland Drive house. Kate and her sister, Nan, who is a model, share a wacky house with an outdoor fireplace on the roof in West Los Angeles. With a couple of pals, the two had a blast in Europe after Kate graduated from high school in 1979. "Four girls terrorizing Europe," she recalls. "It was lovely."

After that Vernon attended Santa Monica College and took acting classes while living with Mum, Dad and the dogs. "I decided to put all this energy into something that wouldn't get me arrested," she jokes. To keep herself in pantyhose, Vernon worked as a waitress in an Italian eatery. That career ended when she threw a plate of pasta on a pin-striped patron. "I was forgetting the hot peppers and the Parmesan and their cappuccinos, and he was rude and belligerent. He said one more thing and I just, ZOOM!"

Now that she's pulling in around $120,000 a year, Vernon looks back on those waitressing days and confesses, "I could charm my customers into tips, but I could never serve them that well." On the other hand, who wants to fetch hot peppers when you can lie on the floor smooching with Lorenzo Lamas?

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