Power of Love

updated 11/14/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/14/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

TYRONE POWER JR. BLUSHES CRIMSON when his fiancée, DeLane Matthews, explains why she loves him. "He shaves for me, even on weekends," says Matthews, as she sits in the dining room of their Mediterranean-style Hollywood Hills home. "A guy can go one day without shaving, but after two days it gets downright painful for a woman to be kissed. Ty understands that."

Smooth kisses may not be the most important element of a relationship. But for Matthews, 33, who plays Harry Anderson's spunky wife on the CBS series Dave's World, and Power, 35, an actor and, yes, the son of the late screen idol, it's nice to have things not so rough for a change.

Before she helped make Dave's World a Top 20 hit, Matthews' career consisted of a string of quickly canceled TV shows. Who else but her loved ones even remember such screen blips as Joe Bash (1986), Eisenhower &Lutz (1988), FM (1989) and Laurie Hill (1992)? When Dave came along in 1993, she says with a laugh, "somehow the producers hadn't yet associated the failure of a series with my name."

Power, too, had starred in a long line of failures—but of the romantic kind. Looking back, he says, "they all begin to blur together." And careerwise, with little besides small parts in Cocoon (1985), Cocoon: The Return (1988) and Shag: The Movie (1989), he says, "it's been a bit of a struggle."

Power never had his father around to provide guidance. The star of 1940's The Mark of Zorro and 1957's The Sun Also Rises died in Madrid in 1958, while shooting Solomon and Sheba, two months before Tyrone Jr. was born. "He didn't seem real to me because I didn't know him," says Power. Young Power was raised by his mother, Deborah, mostly on the Arizona ranch owned by theater-chain owner Arthur Loew Jr., whom she married in 1959. It wasn't until 1980, when he was a student at Pomona College outside L.A., that Power decided to pursue acting. Though he admits that he was tempted by a few fly-by-night producers who seemed eager to trade on his name, Power stayed in school and kept studying. "I had some advice from Henry Fonda, who was a friend of my father's," recalls Power. "He told me that if I wanted to act for a living, I had to get away from those people and learn the craft. If you don't know what you're doing, he said, they'll eat you alive."

Meanwhile, across the continent in Tallahassee, Fla., Matthews was coping with different challenges. The older of two daughters born to Florida State University professors—Charles, who taught science education, and Doris, who taught business education—she was diagnosed at 13 with scoliosis, which causes curvature of the spine, and forced to wear a back brace. She removed it, she says, on only two occasions: when she bathed and when she went onstage in her high school plays. Eventually, through physical therapy, she was able to remove it for good at age 16. The pleasure she found from acting, however, stayed with her. Matthews earned a degree in drama from Florida State and in 1983 studied with the Acting Company in Manhattan. Though she occasionally feels pain in her back, she says it's "no big deal."

What is a big deal is her love life. She and Power met in May 1993, when they were cast as friends in a low-budget and yet-to-be-released drama called Healer. Almost from the start they felt something special. "I talked to Ty shortly after they met," recalls his school friend Kelley Hinman. "He told me how much he really liked her." Matthews' mother remembers DeLane phoning to say she had met "the perfect guy. He's the one." It wasn't until a month after the movie wrapped, though, that they started to date.

Six months later they bought a home and began to cohabit. "Putting this place together has been our passion," Matthews says. The two love to rummage through antique stores. "I've spent my whole life living with Ikea," says Matthews. "I can't believe I have an 18th-century pub table!" Power can't believe he has Matthews. "Believe me," he says, "I went through a lot of actresses, and usually the greatest conversation you can have is about their latest AA meeting or therapy session. DeLane is very non-L.A., and I love that."

What he doesn't love are the ups and downs of the entertainment business. "I've had three independent projects where the financing fell out at the last minute," he laments, adding that maybe he should try capitalizing on a new family name. "I'm thinking of becoming a Sheen or a Baldwin," he says, grinning. Though they have no wedding date yet, Matthews says she can't wait to become a wife and a mother. "It's inspirational for me to play a mom on the show," she says. But even she admits that she's getting ahead of herself. "I really don't care to be happier than I am right now," she says. "It might involve self-combustion."

DAN SANTOW
CRAIG TOMASHOFF in Los Angeles

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