A Method to His Doofus
updated 03/15/1993 AT 01:00 AM EST
•originally published 03/15/1993 AT 01:00 AM EST
I ALWAYS MARL SURE MY BEDROOM IS immaculate," says Joey Lawrence, the deceptively shaggy teen star of NBC's Blossom. "I like things totally clean." Here in his family's three-bedroom home in North Hollywood, you can see that he speaks the truth: His high school textbooks are perfectly lined up on the shell; his baseball cap collection is hanging neatly on the wall; and you could bounce a handful of change off the bed. Plus, next to the books, there's that handy can of Lysol. "That's for when the dog, Jack, comes in here," says Lawrence, 16. "He stinks."
In short, showbiz has its next Felix Unger, should some producer decide on a major revival of The Odd Couple in 30 years or so. For now, Lawrence is doing quite well as Blossom's Joey Russo, one of three children in a single-parent family. Mayim Bialik, 17, is the plucky star of the show and the one that teenage girls identify with, but Lawrence—as the sexiest dimwit since John Travolta's Vinnie Barbarino (Welcome Back, Kotter)—is the one they long for. "One fan even sent me a box of bras and panties, he gasps. And strong young women have been known to grow faint when he is introduced to the audience at a taping. So imagine what will happen when, in the great teen-star tradition, Lawrence goes on tour this summer to promote his forthcoming R&B-influenced album, Joey Lawrence, "I can-not wait to get out there and sing in front of 2000 people," says Lawrence. adding. "It's not a teenybopper album—it's very legitimate."
This is what Lawrence is like. There is the occasional burst of adolescent enthusiasm, followed by the seriousness befitting a young man who has earned a 4.6 (out of 5.0) grade point average in honors courses, including Greek, Latin and trigonometry—and one who has made his mark on a hit series. "It would be great to be like Joey Russo," he says, "to just worry about sports and girls, but I've had to assume a lot of responsibility." His mother, Donna, 40, a former elementary school teacher, laughs when she says, "I do a double take when I see Joey acting like a normal 16-year-old." Indeed, his ambition leaves little room for the temptations that have been the undoing of other TV teens: "I'm not about to experiment with anything that would be detrimental to my mind."
Growing up in Philadelphia, Lawrence always had a love for performing. At age 3, he would lip-synch to the Saturday Night Fever sound track while doing Travolta disco moves. He persuaded his parents to let him audition for commercials, and ads for Coca-Cola and Tonka Toys followed. One of those spots caught the eye of Johnny Carson, who invited 5-year-old Lawrence to appear on The Tonight Show (he belted out Give My Regards to Broadway). That led to four seasons with Nell Carter on Gimme a Break—which in turn led to a 1990 role in the film Chains of Gold opposite the man he idolizes, Travolta. The film went nowhere, but the buddy relationship endures. "He's always there for support and friendship," says Lawrence.
Since 1982, the Lawrence family—Joey's father, Joe, 43, is an insurance broker—has lived primarily in California. (Joey's two brothers, Matthew, 12, and Andrew, 4, are also actors.) But the Lawrences still maintain a five-bedroom house in suburban Philadelphia, and they spend four months out of the year there. Joey hopes to be back in Philly this May, for the junior prom at the private school he has attended since kindergarten (his tutors in L.A. stick to that school's curriculum), but he doesn't have a date in mind. He briefly went out with Life Goes On's Kellie Martin but that, says Lawrence, "was just kind of a fun thing."
Yes, he does manage to work in some fun. Around Blossom's set in Hollywood, Lawrence likes to rap with Blossom brother Michael Stoyanov, 26, about "guy things—sports, girls, life, lunch." To keep buffed, the 5'9", 154-lb. Lawrence is a weight-lifting zealot. "He'll come up to me and say, 'Touch this,' and flex his biceps," says TV dad Ted Wass. Another passion is torn jeans—he owns 35 pairs ("lots of nice air"). And he loves to tool around town in his black Lexus SC400 ("My mom wanted me in something safe").
Lawrence even sometimes thinks about a future outside show business. He's considering applying to colleges, including Yale and Harvard, next year, and speculates, very vaguely, about politics. "It'd be sort of neat," he muses, "to be a Senator or something."
JOHN GRIFFITHS in Los Angeles