Revenge of the Nerd
updated 03/28/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST
•originally published 03/28/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST
IN THE BLARING CONFINES OF BAR ONE, where the shiny-grungy demimonde of Young Hollywood hangs, Brian Austin Green, 20, surrenders to the beat of Bell Biv DeVoe. Sporting a hip-hoppy cap and a Cypress Hill T-shirt, he heads for the dance floor with his sister, Lorali Kovach, 29, a hair stylist. Catching sight of the Beverly Hills, 90210 star, a cadre of bell-bottomed girls begins circling. "That girl's scamming you down," says Kovach. Green glances into the dark. It is only recently, explains Kovach, that her brother has become the target of heat-seeking stares. "We'll go grocery shopping, and girls will, like, freak," she says. "And Brian's totally unaware of it." Green, who can work a tough homeboy pose, suddenly softens. "It's flattering, but it's still something I'm not used to," he says. "Some girls spend a month making wooden plaques with my name on them. You can't help but be overwhelmed."
Green will have to acclimate fast. For four years, as West Beverly High's rich but geeky music lover David Silver, he has lived in the shadows of 90210 male supernovas Luke Perry, Jason Priestley and Ian Ziering. But this seems to be his breakout year. The emerald-eyed actor's voice has dropped, he has grown several inches (to 5'11") and now ranks as the tallest actor on the set. Fueled by cheeseburgers and chocolate donuts, his gym-maintained, 155-pound frame has filled out nicely. So the 90210 writers have had to catch up. David has graduated to the status of "California University" stud, dumped girlfriend Donna (Tori Spelling) because she wouldn't have sex with him (they reconciled) and survived a harrowing amphetamine problem.
Off-screen, Brian's life has been less soap operatic. Despite the bell-bottoms faction on this night at Bar One, Green remains true to his real-life girlfriend, Tiffani-Amber Thiessen, 20, who plays Kelly on NBC's Saved by the Bell: The College Years, and who is back at his house, sleeping. "If I want to go out with my friends, she doesn't get insulted," he says. "She's real secure." Thiessen, whom Green has dated for a year, constitutes his first "serious girlfriend"—she gave him the silver bracelet he's fidgeting with. "I'm surprised I've hung in as long as I have," he admits. "With the success of the show, I kind of learned to close myself off from people."
That two-bedroom Spanish-style house in the San Fernando Valley, which Green bought when he moved from his childhood home in North Hollywood two years ago, reflects his pared-down, vid-kid taste, from the Ikea furniture to the Star Wars figurines in the living room. He cohabits with a Rottweiler puppy named Cube (after rapper Ice Cube) and a five-foot boa constrictor named Bo (for Boba Felt, a creature from The Empire Strikes Back). In off-hours, Green tinkers with home improvements, skis, plays pool, shoots at a gun range and rides his Suzuki motorcycle.
The house also boasts a recording studio. Green, who performs his own rap music on 90210, hopes to land a record deal soon. Eventually, he says, "I'd like to step aside from acting for a little while and make music."
"He's always listening to stud like Snoop Doggy Dogg, with the music LOUD!" says Priestley. "Or he's dancing. I've had to tell him, 'Brian, sit down! Relax and be quiet!' "
Not likely. Green has been hooked on music since he was growing up the youngest of three children of Joyce Green, a housewife, and her husband, George, now Brian's manager but previously a professional drummer who once toured with Glen Campbell. (Brother Keith, 35, is a salesman at a car dealership.) A precocious drum and piano player, Brian commuted to USC's School of Performing Arts, a magnet elementary school that offered jazz classes, and eventually graduated from North Hollywood High. Early commercial and TV guest bits led to his being cast, at 13, as Donna Mills's son on Knots Landing. The actress, he confesses, sparked pubescent rumblings. "I used to sneak on-set and watch her do her sex scenes," he recalls.
When, at 16, he entered the now-illustrious zip code, Perry and Priestly took him under their wings. Says Priestley, 23: "We've tried to impress on him that although things might be great now, he better bank that money because there could be down years."
"I feel like I raised him from a pup," says Perry, 28, who recalls that "once, on a press tour, Brian got pretty excited. He said, 'Whoa, look at ail those girls!' And I said, 'Don't buy into it, man.' And he snapped out of it. He's a quick learner." Green is devoted to his castmates and is a stalwart defender of occasional running mate Shannen Doherty, who may be leaving the show. "She's always been the coolest girl," he insists. "She just got stuck in a situation where she can't do anything right in the press's eye." (Green notes that he, not Shannen, ignited l'affaire Roxbury—a shoving match between Doherty and sometime actress Bonita Money at the nightclub in 1992—when he accidentally stepped on someone's foot.)
But Green knows there's a difference between Hollywood horseplay and the fast track's direr distractions. "Don't turn me into f—-ing River Phoenix," says Green, as he lights up a Marlboro. "Smoking's the only habit I have."
Other potential perils of fame just come with the turf, although a trip to Spain with fellow 90210-er Ziering last year left Green shaken: At his hotel, he recalls, "I woke up in my underwear, opened the window, and there were all these people out there looking at me and screaming." Which was too much for this reluctant hunk. "I don't eat up all the screaming," he says. "I kind of get shy. It's still strange to me."
JOHN GRIFFITHS in Los Angeles