They were New York City-trained, street-smart and edgy, qualities that led to constant—if quirky—casting when Bruce Dern and wife Diane Ladd moved to Hollywood in 1962. Says Bruce, 57: "We played every sicko imaginable, people who were stoned or imbeciles or bullies." No surprise then that Diane, 61, who separated from Bruce when Laura was 2 months old, advised her daughter, "Be a doctor. Be a lawyer. Be a leper missionary!"
Instead, Laura—who made her debut at age 6 opposite Mom's Oscar-nominated performance as the waitress Flo in Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore—became a star. Last year, in a role inconceivable back when Diane was, as she quips, "playing hookers from every state," the 27-year-old actress was featured as a paleobotanist in Jurassic Park, the highest-grossing movie ever. Still, Laura frets that high-tech tricks deprive audiences. "Films were once about human struggles," she says. "Now it's The Terminator." Bruce, though, isn't above taking credit for some movie wizardry himself. "I didn't behave particularly well with Diane," he admits, "but we had an interesting seven or eight years." Hugging his daughter, he adds, "And look what came out of it: magic!"
Melvin and Mario Van Peebles, directors
With his 1971 box-office surprise, Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, director-producer Melvin Van Peebles, 61, paved the way for Spike Lee, John Singleton, the Hughes brothers and, yes, his hunky actor-auteur son. But Mario, 37, doesn't owe his success to nepotism, insists Melvin, because "I avoided that parental pit where you help your offspring too much. In the end, they can never be sure that they got there on their own." Mario, who directed his paterfamilias last year in Posse, agrees. "All he gave me was this advice: 'Early to bed, early to rise, work like hell and advertise.' "
Mel and Pam Tillis, country singers
Mel Tillis, 61, remembers the hardscrabble days and honky-tonk nights of Nashville in the '50s, when stars like Webb Pierce and Willie Nelson wrote and played their songs and drank beer till dawn. "Tootsie's Orchid Lounge was our hangout. It was business and pleasure," Tillis recalls. "There was only about seven or eight local songwriters." Not anymore, says daughter Pam, 35, who had her first No. 1 hit, "Don't Tell Me What to Do," in 1991—exactly 10 years after Mel topped the charts with "Southern Rains." Now, she says, "there's gotta be 50,000 writers in this town."
Pam, who was a rocker before taking Dad's advice and switching to country, sometimes thinks the old days in Nashville might have been better days. "Dad's fans stayed loyal," she says. "Nowadays, to stay in the Top 5, I gotta work my butt off, because there's always someone else coming along." Mel understands the grownup concerns of the little girl who used to sleep in his guitar case but thinks that country was "gettin' kinda stale. It needed some younger artists." Pam counters, "I don't know if we need as many as we got!"
Lauren Hutton and Niki Taylor, models
Niki Taylor first met Lauren Hutton four years ago. The two were not on a Paris runway or at a glamorous photo session but backstage at Burdines department store in Miami, getting dressed for a fashion show for special charge customers. Taylor, then 14, had not yet hit her stride. Hutton, 46, was way past her prime. "Lauren took me aside," says Taylor, "and said, 'Make sure your family is running your business. You're going to be a big star.' " Not only did Taylor take the advice and appoint her mother as one of her managers, but she and Hutton both went on to greater fame—Taylor as a young supermodel, Hutton making an unlikely comeback as an old one.
While Taylor, who has appeared on 90 covers, allows, "I've had it real easy," Hutton recalls her early career, "when the best of us got $60 an hour." Then in 1973, she says, "I negotiated the first modeling contract—for Revlon. Now there's a hundred times more money in modeling."
But Hutton didn't stick around to reap much of it. "As soon as I stopped looking like a girl," she says, "I was gone." In 1989, though, after suggesting to photographers that "there should be all different kinds of images of women out there," Hutton reemerged. Smiling triumphantly at Taylor, she says, "You know? I'm two years older than your mommy. How about that?"
Calvin and Grant Hill, athletes
Calvin Hill, 47, was an authentic prince of the fields in his day, a record-breaking Yale running back who played for 12 years with the NFL's Dallas Cowboys, Washington Redskins and Cleveland Browns and earned a Super Bowl ring. So he and his wife, Janet (a dormmate of Hillary Rodham's at Wellesley College), had a rangy son who doesn't like football at all. "I don't even watch it," the 6'8" Grant admits, "even though my first word was football." Cal, who stands 6'4", remembers that when Grant was 3 he "wore a white helmet and ice bags taped to his wrists and ankles—because that's what I put on when I came home." Yet Grant's forte became basketball—which he proved by beating Dad one-on-one when he was 13. "He's been ducking me ever since," says Grant, who has starred on two Duke University NCAA championship teams. Now the Blue Devil senior and cocaptain is aiming for a third NCAA title this season, while Dad works on a third sport: He's a vice president of the Baltimore Orioles.
Miss America 1974 and Miss America 1993
You weren't even a twinkle when I was crowned," says Miss America 1974, Rebecca King Dreman, 43. "I was born a month after you stepped down," responds Kimberly Clarice Aiken, 19, the University of North Carolina sophomore who won the title last fall. What a difference a generation makes. Dreman, now a Denver attorney, wife and mother of two, recalls one of the most startling events of her reign: "I was speaking at a college in Kimberly's hometown, Columbia, S.C., and a streaker ran across the podium." Asks Aiken earnestly: "What's a streaker?"
There's no generation gap, though, when it comes to the Atlantic City competition. Both winners are pleased that the interview portion, which wasn't a separate category 20 years ago, is now 40 percent of each contestant's score. Both insist that chaperons are companions, not morality police. And both believe anti-pageant feminists are misguided. "The pageant is a scholarship program," says Aiken. Adds Dreman: "It was considered the antithesis of feminism when I was crowned. But it was a great job for a woman. I made close to $100,000." And what's a Miss America's cost-of-living increase? Aiken stands to earn $200,000.
Guiding Light's "Blake"
Sure, Bewitched had two Darrins, and Dynasty two Fallons, but nobody recasts like the daytime soaps. In 1975, Guiding Light gave birth to Christina Blake Bauer, daughter of aggressive businesswoman Holly (Maureen Garrett). Young Chrissie, played by Cheryl Lynn Brown, now a sophomore at Kean College in New Jersey, was sent off to boarding school in 1982. Chrissie returned six years later but 11 years older as Blake, portrayed by Elizabeth Dennehy (Brian's daughter), now 33. "They couldn't figure out whether to make her bad or good," says Dennehy, who saw Blake through a reunion with her father, who had been killed off several years earlier. When Dennehy was replaced by Sherry Stringfield in 1989, Blake became "a total mess," says Stringfield, 26, who added two marriages and a fake pregnancy to the character's résumé. Stringfield, who is currently starring in NYPD Blue, proved hard to follow after she bolted for prime time in '92. "They sent me to have my hair straightened so I'd look more like Sherry," says Elizabeth Kiefer, 29, who has given Blake a comic edge. "But then Holly and I had a catfight, and she threw me into a pool. My hair dried curly, and it's been that, way ever since."
Betty Ford and Susan Ford Bales, health care activists
It was in the aftermath of her White House years that Betty Ford began a dark journey fueled by pills and alcohol, and 20-year-old Susan intervened to get her mother help. But the harrowing times only cemented the bond between them. "In 20 years we've been through hell and back..." begins Susan. Betty finishes her daughter's sentence: "...with my alcoholism, breast cancer, bypass surgery..."
And yet, at 75, Betty presses on. "She continues to survive," says Susan admiringly. "I was a young child when my grandparents died, so I'm happy that my children have a wonderful relationship with my parents."
Gathering at the elder Fords' retirement home in Rancho Mirage, Calif., after a meeting of the board of directors of the Betty Ford Center, founder Betty and board member Susan, 36, ponder their battles and achievements. "The whole world has become much more liberal in addressing women's health issues," says Betty, who last spring met with Hillary Rodham Clinton "to make sure," she says, "that they were going to include alcohol and other drug dependencies in the health bill." Susan has followed Betty's activist path. Now living in Tulsa with second husband Vaden Bales and her two daughters, she travels around the country much of the year speaking about breast cancer. "I just want to keep the ball rolling, but I will never fill my mother's shoes," says Susan. "She has these long, 9 ½ AAA boats that I don't want."
Ruth Korthuis, teacher
In the old days, we used phonographs and movie projectors. Now we use videos and computers. "Surrounded by students from each of her 20 years as a kindergarten teacher, Ruth Korthuis, 59, is reflecting on her career at Mitchell Elementary in Golden, Colo., and on the complications of childhood for which advances in technology have not compensated. "Nowadays you have to be a significant other in their lives," says Korthuis, who plans to retire in May, when the last of her 1,300 students go on to first grade. "She influenced me so much," says Hope Pershing, 23, class of '77, who now runs a preschool of her own. Current student Young Fei, 6, is less introspective. Mrs. Korthuis, he says, is "pretty nice."
Liz Callaway and Betty Buckley, cats
If a cat has nine lives, then the fallen feline in Broadway's longest running show has only two left. Oddly, the first Grizabella—Betty Buckley—and the seventh—Liz Callaway—both auditioned for the role back in 1982. Buckley, 46, who won the Best Actress Tony the following year, had an auspicious feeling even though "I was the picture of health, and they wanted an actress who radiated death." Callaway, 32, was only mildly disappointed. "I knew I was too young," she says. Since then, both actresses have learned that Cats is indeed now and forever. "Grizabella has been everything to my career," says Buckley, previously in TV's Eight Is Enough. "One time, I took 'Memory' out of my cabaret act, and people asked for their money back." Callaway, who joined the cast last year, understands. "When Betty was in Cats, I was a singing waitress," she says. "When I performed that song, I got my best tips."