In Tune with Dad
No question there. The 26-year-old upright-bass player and bandleader is quickly becoming his jazz-loving father's alter ego. Audiences loved his combo's performance at last year's Monterey (Calif.) Jazz Festival, and since then it has become one of the hottest jazz acts in L.A. All of which makes Clint, who directed Bird, the 1988 movie about saxophonist Charlie Parker, particularly proud. "Kyle's band sounds great," Eastwood, 65, said last April. "They have a lot of spirit. I think they're ready to happen."
For the moment, though, all that jazz is taking a backseat to a more pressing concern. Kyle and his wife, Laura Gomez, a former model whom he married last May after they eloped to Las Vegas ("No rice, just dice," she jokes), live in a three-bedroom Hollywood Hills home, where they are raising their 18-month-old daughter, Graylen, Clint's only grandchild. "He is a real charmer," says Laura, describing how the two flirt with each other, "and so is she." As for Kyle, he says, "I used to keep musician's hours; these days it's baby's hours."
As a burgeoning superstar in the '70s, Kyle's father sometimes had trouble seeing his family at all. His schedule often yanked him away for months from first wife Maggie Johnson, 63, Kyle and his sister, Alison, 22, now a model working in Paris. But at home in Pebble Beach, Calif., Clint, who played piano before his acting career took off, improvised at the keyboard and listened to jazz records for 10 hours a day. "Kyle heard jazz constantly," says Maggie. "I think he got his love of the music by osmosis."
In 1979 the couple legally separated, and Johnson ended up with an estimated $25 million settlement. "It wasn't bad as divorces go," recalls Kyle. "There was no weird custody thing. We lived with my mom and saw my dad whenever we wanted to." In an interview with Good Housekeeping last July, Alison admitted that Eastwood had "missed out a bit with us because he was in the prime of his work." A few years after the split, Clint cast the 14-year-old Kyle as his nephew in Honkytonk Man, a film about a down-and-out country singer. Unlike his father, however, Kyle didn't get the same thrill from acting. After high school he briefly attended UCLA but dropped out in 1988. "I decided to take some time off to study music seriously," he says. "I never went back."
When Kyle, who had picked up the electric bass as a hobby in high school, told his father he wanted to become a musician, Clint found him a teacher, acclaimed upright-bass player Bunny Brunel. "I like the fact that with all those other [acting] opportunities in front of him," says Brunei, who has taught Kyle since 1988, "all he wanted was to be a bass player."
Soon Eastwood began landing gigs in small clubs, then he formed his own band a year and a half ago. These days, he rarely travels anywhere without his trusty upright. Not long ago, Kyle visited his father's house in L.A. "He's got a piano at all of his houses," says Kyle. "I just happened to have my bass with me, and we started playing this blues thing. Just us, no audience."
ROBERT MASELLO in Los Angeles