Fathers and Sons

updated 11/16/1998 at 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/16/1998 01:00AM

Jimmy and Kino Smits's bond transcends distance

You don't have to be a Big Apple detective to discern the link between NYPD Blue's Jimmy Smits (easing out of the hit show after four seasons) and son Kino (short for Joaquin), 15. "The genetic thing, even if you're miles apart, comes through. The way he walks or facial gestures that he makes-that astounds me," says Los Angeleno Jimmy, 43, who has spent school breaks and occasional weekends with Kino since he and former wife Barbara, a New Yorker, split up in 1986. (Daughter Taina, 24, now lives in Virginia.) Kino is making the most of his inherited gifts. Just an inch shorter than Jimmy at 6'2", he plays forward on his Manhattan private school's basketball team. ("He's become way better than me" at one-on-one, Jimmy reports.) Kino, who says he's a "mostly A" student, doesn't date yet-"I just go out with friends a lot"-but his dad, partnered with actress Wanda De Jesus, 40, for 12 years, has already stressed the importance of finding "someone who likes me for who I am." Including being "EAR-resistible," teases Jimmy. "I'm always telling him, 'Close the car doors.' "

What Jimmy can't tell Kino anything about is poise. "When I was 15, I was much gawkier," Jimmy recalls. "He seems very comfortable in his skin." Then again, Dad has apparently grown easier in his own epidermis-judging from his willingness to bare it on Blue. "Friends come up and say, 'Hey, I saw your dad's butt on TV,' " Kino says. "I usually just laugh, but sometimes I wonder why they're watching it if his butt's on the screen."

Tony Danza and son Marc: Close in age, and just close

Ask Tony Danza and his son Marc, and they agree: There's something to be said for early fatherhood. And it's not only that the two look eye-poppingly handsome together as adults. "The good thing is that we sort of grew up together, so we're pretty friendly," says Tony, 47, who was just 19 when Marc was born. He split with Marc's mom, Rhonda Yoemen, a year later. Father and son shared summers and holidays until Marc was 14, when he moved in with Tony, who was single and, as he says, "running around in Hollywood." Having a heartthrob pop was a plus, says Marc, now 27: "A lot of people said I look like him." Tony deflects the compliment. "You know the truth?" asks the actor, who is known for roles on TV's Taxi and Who's the Boss? and this month plays a street-smart lawyer on The Practice. "If I had his eyes, I'd be a big movie star now."

Marc says he learned about love by observing Tony and present wife Tracy, 39: "After I saw the respect and admiration in their relationship, I wanted those things too." He was best man when they wed in '86; they now have two daughters, 11 and 5. Tony reciprocated in May, when Marc, a venue planner for ESPN's X Games, wed Augsburg College (Minn.) classmate Julie Frattalone, 27. Now living in San Francisco, Marc often visits Tony in L. A. and recently did an MCI spot with his dad. "I'm stoked on it," he says of the job. Tony beams. "He makes me very happy," he says, adding with a laugh, "in spite of me, always."

John and Colin Irving take their sex appeal in stride

"I knew growing up that I had something to look forward to when girls would tell me how cute my father was," recalls actor Colin Irving. In 1978, when he was in junior high, his father's face—captured in a photo by John's then-wife and Colin's mother, Shyla—was on the jacket of his blockbuster The World According to Garp. The novel—and Irving's rock-jawed visage—inspired more than good reviews. At readings, says the 56-year-old author of nine novels, "I had underpants thrown onstage." But he wasn't entirely surprised. "I was always good-looking," he allows. Colin, 33, the first of John's three sons (Brendan is 29; Everett, from his present marriage, is 7), shares John's easy confidence: "Like my dad, I have grown up feeling that I'm attractive. But fame seems to determine a man's sex appeal—it catapults you to a category that is baffling."

Does fame await the next generation? Colin, who appeared in 1989's Dead Poets Society, will be back onscreen in Miramax's film of John's Cider House Rules next year. Sharing a home in L.A. with jewelry designer Heather Wilson, 30, he is a romantic who goes for the grand gesture. He once hid valentines on
her ceiling fan so that when she turned it on, she was showered with hearts. "I was proud of myself for that one," he concedes. John, who lives in Dorset, Vt., is similarly devoted to wife Janet Turn-bull, 44, a literary agent. On the eve of a tour to promote A Widow for One Year, he frets about leaving her: "For 12 years we have not spent a night apart."

"If there's a recurring compliment I'm fond of," says Colin, "it's that women say they like me a lot more than they thought they would." His dad laughs: "Probably they mean that they expect you to be as obnoxious as your father!"

Son Cliff follows Ken Olin's generous, liberated lead

Cliff Olin was too young to pay much attention when his father, Ken, starred in the late '80s series thirtysomething as Michael Steadman, a modern model of liberated male domesticity. But tenth-grader Cliff and sister Roxanne, 13, were seeing the real thing up close, at home with mom Patricia Wettig, 46, Ken's thirtysomething costar and wife of nearly 17 years. "I've never been perceived publicly as a single man," notes Ken, 44, who is easing into the role of abrasive bachelor Roger Cattan on the new CBS series L.A. Doctors. "If people find me attractive, it must have a lot to do with my marriage." Still, he remembers enough about his dating days to offer Cliff some wise words. For instance, don't try this move: "I was once making out with a girl, and my nose got caught in her earring," he recalls. "I tried discreetly to pull away from her, but I scraped my nose and started bleeding."

"The only thing he tells me is, 'Treat her to dinner,' " reports Cliff, whose friends usually go dutch on dates. "Dad thinks that's the gentlemanly thing to do. He's a nice guy-that's what I want to be like."

Right now he also wants to be a guy with a driver's license. Five months shy of 16, Cliff holds a learner's permit and is logging hours behind the wheel. Ken, who rides shotgun, supports his efforts, noting, "It's sort of weird to have a date and be driven to the movie and picked up by your parents." Cliff concurs: "That is a little embarrassing." Like having a dad women swoon over? Cliff takes Ken's TV image in stride. "It's not like, 'Oh, isn't he handsome.' It's just, 'There's Dad.' "

Away from dad Robert, Ryan Urich carves out his own identity

TV actor Robert Urich, 51, cracked many a case on Vega$ and Spenser for Hire, but son Ryan, 19, can still stump him. "He's great at verbal sparring," says his father proudly. "I can't keep up with him. He's into all sorts of metaphysical stuff. Now he's talking about living on the beach in Costa Rica and growing his own vegetables and asking me, 'Why do we have to have things like drivers' licenses?' "

Hmmm. For starters, to get from Los Angeles-where Urich and his wife of 23 years, Heather Menzies, 48, live with daughters Emily, 17, and Allison, 7 months-to Cal Poly at San Luis Obispo, where the freshman biology major and avid surfer has been known to "totally mess" with classmates by telling them "my father delivers milk or something." Robert says he chose a TV career "because I wanted to be around the kitchen table when the kids decided what to be on Halloween. But I think Ryan felt the pressure of being 'the son of....' He's very sensitive to just being Ryan."

Make that just plain sensitive. "I once wrote 24 lines of poetry for a girl in iambic pentameter," recalls Ryan, who's "very single," but a true believer in his father's "chivalrous" example. "Ryan's relationships with girls have been very respectful and polite," says Dad, who returned to the small screen as captain of Love Boat: The Next Wave last season after undergoing treatment for a rare cancer in 1996. "I think he got that from being around it in our family. When he says, 'You and Mom should go out and do more things,' Heather stops him and says, 'We're best buddies. On a perfect day we just pal around together.' "

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