Small World

Teen dream

Rex Smith looks good, which is not what you expect from someone who graced the cover of Tiger Beat 20 years ago. The shoulder-length blond mane is gone now, but somehow he's retained the wide-eyed boyishness. He's in town for Cole Porter's Kiss Me Kate, having long since made the leap to legitimate Broadway musical actor, but you can't help taking the way-back machine with him.

He talks in animated swoops, acting out his reminiscences and enthusiastically cutting off his own sentences. He's genuinely happy about the good times he's having and the good times he's definitely had—back in his early hard-rock days, he even opened for Ted Nugent and Lynyrd Skynyrd on their co-headlining tour. "I really lived what was my dream," he says. "And then it became the teen idol thing."

The teen idol thing was a doe-eyed 1979 TV movie, Sooner or Later, an accompanying album, and a scrumptious, goopy single, "You Take My Breath Away," that hit the big time "You/You smile and it's OK/Like water from a spring/On a sizzlin' summer day"). But he has better stories to tell.

On Ted Nugent: "I learned more about what not to be in show business from Ted than anything else. But I'll give Ted this—that Cat Scratch Fever tour was great coliseum rock."

On rehearsing with Faye Dunaway, his initial but soon-dismissed leading lady in Sunset Boulevard: "She's just as set in her ways as a man would be, [but] because she's a woman she catches a lot of flak. I mean, it took her half a day to figure out how to pick up the telephone, but when she picked up the telephone, it was the right way to pick it up, OK? Took two days to figure out how to pick up the monkey."

On two years as Daryl Crawford on As the World Turns: "On Monday you'd say, 'Don't you understand? I love you.' On Tuesday you'd go, 'I love you. Don't you understand?' And on Wednesday you'd go, 'I hate you.'"

He's entertained three presidents. He's got a bizarre following in the Philippines, where he was recently the victim of an attempted kidnapping. And he's soon to be inducted into the teen idol section of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: "The real reason they said that they were interested in me was the fact that I had not been a one-hit wonder," he explains with some pride. "It was just an occurrence in the path of a career."

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