YAS-AMATAZ by Dennis Hensley
From what I gather from my female friends, mixer games at bridal and baby showers are designed to make one look goofy, and rare is the well-meaning guest who doesn't cringe a little when the perky hostess announces its time to play Blind Man's Diapering or Pin the Manhood on the Man. Still, its doubtful than anyone has an embarrassing party game story quite like Yasmine Bleeth's, who brought the house down at a recent baby shower for a friend. The game was Celebrity 20 Questions, wherein names of stars were taped to the back of each guest who would then ask the other guests yes or no questions until they were able to guess their secret identity. The twist here is that Yasmine Bleeth was given the name Yasmine Bleeth. "And I couldn't figure it out!" blurts the former Baywatch babe turned Nash Bridges star over high tea at one of her favorite L.A. hang-outs, the swanky Hotel Belair. "So I'm asking all these questions, 'Did she do film or TV?' and they'd say, 'Well, she's done a couple of films, mostly TV.' I'm like, 'Is she a respected actress?' and they go, 'Well, we respect her.' Then I said, 'Is she a bimbo?' They're like, 'Some people might think she is but no, absolutely not.' I'm like, 'Does she have fake breasts?' 'Absolutely not. In fact, she's known for not having fake breasts.'"
I interrupt Bleeth's horror story here to tell her if I were playing such a game and I had Yasmine Bleeth's name on my back, the fake breast answer would be a dead giveaway. I mean, you'd have to have spent the last few years in Antarctica (specifically from '94 to '97, her Baywatch years) not to have read that the contents of her crimson one-piece bathing suit were, in fact, silicone-free.
"I still didn't get it," laments Bleeth, who today is looking sexily sophisticated in a curve-hugging gray top and matching skirt. "There was no dead giveaway. They finally had to tell me." The 31-year-old Manhattan-born actress polishes off a cucumber and cream cheese sandwich, brushes the crumbs from her hands and offers up an apologetic shrug. "I guess, in a way that's kind of nice," she muses. "It shows that I'm not thinking of myself the entire time."
Bleeth's happy to leave that to her fans. Thanks to Baywatch, a slew of TV movies like the recent ratings grabber Road Rage ("In real life, I think people probably have road rage towards me because I'm still under the impression that the rearview mirror is for putting on your mascara"). and let's not forget that fetching milk ad ("They said I gave great milk mustache."). Yasmine Bleeth is recognized the world over. She's huge in cyberspace as well, and has even taken to lampooning her oft downloaded status in a current TV spot for Motorola. And somehow along the way, quite unwittingly, she's become talk show supergirl, the person to call when a host wants to trade barbs with a starlet who's both quick-witted and photogenic. "I have a crush on all talk show hosts," she coos. "I think [The Late Late Show host] Craig Kilborn's truly in love with me because I just chugged a Sake bomb on his show. If men see a girl who's all made up and very feminine and they can really drink, they're very impressed. It's like when you're sitting at dinner and they think, 'Oh, she's going to order a salad,' and you have the rack of lamb and mashed potatoes. They think, 'Oh. wow.'"
It's a good thing Yasmine Bleeth can hang with the boys given her current gig opposite time-honored good-time guys Don Johnson and Cheech Marin on Nash Bridges. "I'm good around men," she admits, "but in terms of friendship, I'm a girl's girl. I like girls. And men laugh at the stupidest things, like the other day the camera zoomed in on my butt as I was bent over, and every guy on the set was cracking up as if it's the funniest thing in the world. I mean, it's mildly amusing, but for ten minutes?" The actress with the uproarious backside joined the San Francisco-set series midway through last season as Kaitlin Cross, a wily internal affairs officer who was investigating Johnson's title character. "Now we're living together so I'm no longer Internal Affairs," Bleeth reports. "You have to give the producers credit, though. I thought they would have me in the sack with him in two shows. It actually took eighteen." So this season, in addition to being a romantic foil to Nash, Kaitlin's a pistol-packing, booty-kicking detective. It's a job change Bleeth is less than thrilled with. "I'm not an action chick," she shrugs. "You should see me try to shoot a gun. Charlie's Angels look good compared to me. And trying to fit the gun inside the suit can make unsightly bulges, which I can't stand." And then there's all that police jargon. "The other day, I had two half-page monologues so I had my lines written on the clipboard that I'm carrying as a prop," she explains. "So in the middle of the scene, Don takes the clipboard from me and I completely choked. He only did it to bust me." Bleeth got revenge, though, a few scenes later. "Nash calls me a bitch so I spontaneously flipped him the bird in my close-up," she says proudly. And if that doesn't keep the former Miami Vice star in his place, she's got another juicy revelation that might. "Back in the 80s," she whispers, surveying the patio for eavesdroppers, "I was a Magnum P.I. girl."
Not that Yasmine Bleeth had a lot of time on her hands during the 80s. She started appearing in commercials and print ads at six. "I really loved modeling," recalls Bleeth, whose first gig was a baby shampoo ad when she was just six months old. "My parents used to own location vans for fashion shoots and I remember going on a Francesco Scavullo shoot. He invited me because I had modeled for him. All these famous models were there and I remember Kim Alexis dressing me up and putting makeup on me. I thought it was very glamorous." Still glamorous, but slightly less so, were the soap operas (Ryan's Hope and One Live to Live), that Bleeth worked on in her late teens and early twenties before moving to L.A. at 26. "The soaps were my formative, growing-up years," she says, "and in terms of acting, they give you great discipline." Still, she could have done without the plot twist that had her Ryan's Hope character getting pregnant and fleeing her small town, only to return in disguise to spy on her ex-lover. "You had to play that it's believable that nobody recognizes you just because you have on glasses and a wig," she laughs cringing at the memory. "You know, you slept with this guy 500 times and he can't tell it's you?" It was around this same time, when Bleeth was just 20, that life dealt her a harsh blow. Her mother, Corina, a former model, succumbed to breast cancer."It was sort of a slap of reality," says Bleeth softly, "especially because to me, she was indestructible. Even when she was diagnosed, I never thought it would be fatal. Since then, I've tried to live every day to its fullest."
And much to her credit, she's managed to do it without taking much of anything, especially herself, too seriously. Bleeth can serve up a funny anecdote or self-deprecating one-liner on just about any subject, from the aesthetic flawlessness of the people on Baywatch: ("I always thought I looked like a drowned rat on that show.") to her tabloid appearances ("I have such fond memories of those shots of me picking my nose on the telephone.") to her delightfully over-the-top turn as a crazed beauty queen in the 1997 TV movie Crowned and Dangerous. "I keep my crown from that film on my desk in a little Lucite box," she boasts. "My little brother tried it once and I screamed at him, 'Take it off! Take it off!' I get a little nasty about my crown." She can get a little nasty when it comes to discussing her childhood crushes as well. "I was seven or eight years old and I remember having sexual fantasies about Elvis Presley," confesses Bleeth, who even named her Boston Terrier after the pelvis-swinging icon. "I knew where it would go and everything. I was very sophisticated."
These days, Bleeth's having her romantic yearnings tended to by actor Richard Grieco whom she's been seeing for the past three years. In an interesting bit of foreshadowing, Grieco was actually Bleeth's first public celebrity sighting when she arrived in L.A. over eight years ago; she spotted the darkly handsome Mobsters star at a Sunset Strip bar but didn't end up speaking to him until they were paired together in the 1996 indie Heaven or Vegas. Though Bleeth says she won't be having bridal or baby showers thrown in her honor any time soon, it's obvious from the way she talks that she and Grieco greatly enjoy being together. And when location shoots keep them apart, there's always the telephone. "Once when Richard was away, he left me this really detailed message," says Bleeth, starting to blush. "I won't say what it's about. I'm sure it's obvious. But by accident I left it on my voice mail for a while. Well, my dad is my business manager and I'm sure he heard it but he never said anything." Bleeth shakes her head bemusedly, then adds, "He also pays my bills and he'll jokingly be like, 'What did you buy at Trashy Lingerie for $400?' Luckily, my dad is really cool."
Though Bleeth obviously adores the men in her life, there's one thing about them she'll never quite get: their obsession with TV sports. "They're so mesmerized that nothing else can happen when sports are on," huffs Bleeth. "Richard has ESPN2, ESPN West, ESPN East. It's like 24 hours a day!" The woman, who last year starred with the South Park guys in the sports-themed flop BASEketball, is really letting off some steam here. "In the beginning, Richard led me to believe that it's only football season he was into. Then it turned into basketball, which turned into baseball, which turned into hockey, which turns right into football again. I could walk in the room wearing a vinyl dress and 7 inch heels, and he wouldn't notice."
"Is there a support group you can go to?" I ask.
"You have to accept it," she says throwing up her hands. "There's nothing you can do, so I decided I'm going to entertain myself."
That shouldn't be too hard, I figure, as I watch Bleeth devour a chocolate covered strawberry. After all, she's been entertaining others for years. "Thank God I didn't become famous overnight," she says, when asked how she's managed to stay grounded in a business that chews up starlets like cucumber sandwiches. "I think I have a very realistic view of my life. My career is not the most important thing to me and it never has been." Still, Bleeth must have a fantasy role she'd like to campaign for right here in the pages of Channels. Dallying with DeNiro, perhaps? Sparring with Streep? "I've always, always wanted to be on The Love Boat," she gushes before sipping away the last of her tea and reclining back in her chair for effect. "I'd be like Barbie Benton in some sexy Bob Mackie dress, lounging by the pool and Isaac and the Doc would be fighting over me."
And we'd all tune in to watch.