Alec Baldwin Had Women Tied Up in Knots but He Does An About-Face for NBC's Dress Gray

updated 03/17/1986 at 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/17/1986 01:00AM

It happens all the time to Alec Baldwin. In a sleek Manhattan restaurant he is talking earnestly about politics, but all his female listener can do is stare. The sun-streaked hair, those intense blue eyes, that round, romantic jaw. "I've never had much of a problem meeting women," he says later, with a straight face. "They like me for my personality." Sure they do, Alec. And the Easter Bunny drives a Porsche.

Whether he is playing a sexy TV evangelist on Knots Landing or the straight-arrow hero in Dress Gray, a two-part miniseries that airs this week on NBC, Baldwin, 27, is simply the kind of man who drives women to distraction. Just ask Lisa Hartman, his Knots co-star. When newcomer Baldwin auditioned in 1984 for the role of Joshua Rush, her unholy preacher-husband, Lisa "was very taken with him." Driving away from the studio parking lot that day, "I couldn't resist staring back at Alec through my rearview mirror," she says. "While I was looking back, I smashed into the car in front of me."

Baldwin says, "I don't get acting jobs because of my looks." He may be right. In Dress Gray, based on the 1979 best-selling novel by Lucian K. Truscott IV, he portrays Ry Slaight, a military academy cadet who investigates the cover-up of a homosexual murder. The part required more than a searing set of baby blues. Recalls producer-director Glenn Jordan of the auditions: "I thought if I heard that scene one more time, I'd scream, but when Alec read it, it was as if I was hearing it for the first time. It's unusual for someone to be as good-looking and as talented as he is."

Throughout his life success has followed Baldwin like charms on a bracelet. He began filming Dress Gray a mere two weeks after plunging ignobly to his death last December on Knots Landing while trying to murder Hart-man. "I knew from the beginning I was going to die," says Baldwin, who was given a going-away party to show his death was nothing personal.

After Knots, where he enjoyed "sucking the lips off" Hartman, Dress Gray was an abrupt about-face. Filming with the virtually all-male cast was like junior boot camp. On location at the New Mexico Military Institute in Roswell, Baldwin ate in the mess hall and practiced marching with real cadets. "Every time you turned around there was a cadet saying, 'Excuse me, sir, but you would never wear your tie like that, sir,' " he recalls.

Born in Massapequa, Long Island, Baldwin was the second of six children. His father taught government in high school. Three years ago Baldwin was shaken when his dad, Alec, died at age 55 of cancer. "He was a really hardworking guy, but there were a lot of things he didn't get to do with his life," says Baldwin. "That fuels me on to do what I want."

He once thought he wanted to attend law school and then enter politics. But in 1979, after three years of study in political science at George Washington University in D.C., he took a friend's suggestion and decided to try acting. Almost as a lark, he transferred to New York University to study politics—and acting. Before he could finish school, he was cast as a villain in the daytime soap The Doctors. After two and a half years, he left the show and moved to L.A., where he promptly won a starring role in TV's short-lived Cutter to Houston. That helped him land on Knots in 1984.

Baldwin, a liberal Democrat, still toys with the idea of running for office someday. His celebrity won't hurt. He recently manned the volunteer phones for California State Assemblyman Tom Hayden, hubby of Jane Fonda, but Baldwin's cover was soon blown. "The women there whispered, 'It's Joshua on Knots Landing,' " he remembers. Hayden, at first unaware of Baldwin's star status, wound up inviting the actor to his and Fonda's star-studded January dinner for South African Bishop Desmond Tutu.

In the near future Baldwin would prefer to find his constituents at the box office instead of at the polls. He has been offered the romantic lead in Forever Lulu, a comedy-thriller starring Deborah Harry and Hanna Schygulla. All he needs now is a permanent love interest of his own. He has been dating actress Holly (Days of Our Lives) Gagnier for a year, but right now their relationship is on hold. She works in L.A.; he's a Hollywood hater who has returned to New York. "I don't know what's going to happen with us," he says. He shares his new two-bedroom duplex on the Upper West Side with brother Stephen, 19, an aspiring actor on whom he keeps a fatherly eye. (Another brother, Billy, 22, recently signed to model Calvin Klein clothes.)

While Baldwin enjoys being a sex symbol ("Women come up to me at parties and tell me they like my butt"), he has a crush of his own. She is actress Julie Harris, 60, who played his mother on Knots. Harris has been a cultural mentor to Baldwin, giving him books and sending him to art museums. "What makes Alec so attractive is that he's always absorbed in whatever he's doing," says Harris. "He's not at all full of himself." Baldwin, in turn, rhapsodizes, "I'd like for Julie to be my roommate, I'd like to read the paper every morning with her and say, 'What do you think about this, Julie?' "

Ladies, spruce up your current events.

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