Playgirl article – March 1985

Shy and serious, this Simon & Simon star has strong opinions
about what makes a man – and a marriage
– by Samir Hachem**

 Jameson Parker looks tired.

It’s only  lunchtime on the set of Simon & Simon, and yet the show’s blond co-star is already collapsing at the shoulders.  He sits in the trailer parked outside Stage 26, rewarding his new dog, Max, with a  biscuit and a gentle rub.  A few feet away sits his wife at a lunch table.  Jameson Parker is watching her bite into a pita bread  sandwich that he could not finish.  He has about him the aura of  surrender.  The golden hair is rumpled; the blue eyes are drooping  and the lower lip is pouting.  Staring at his wife as she finishes  his sandwich, Parker looks like a terribly naughty but handsome young child ordered to take a rest from playing.

“You know why  my husband looks tired?” asks Bonnie Parker.  “He looks tired because he worked out for two hours this morning,” she announces in a tone  decidedly disapproving.  If it were up to him, actually, the  35-year-old star of CBS’s highly rated detective series would work out  every morning, and he would go boxing as well.   “My first  choice is always to go boxing in the morning,” he admits.  “My second choice is everything else.  Ideally, I’d love to leave early enough at the end of each day to go boxing and then go home to play with my kids.”

Bonnie Parker  has a proposition.  “If I get you off work early today, will you take me out to dinner?"

"How early?" her husband wants to know.

"What's early  for you?"


"Oh, definitely  by five."

“How can you get me off work?” he exclaims, before suddenly remembering something.  “Oh, wait a minute!  It’s an early day today, and you knew that.  Boy, I just walked into that one.”

“Now watch,” says Mrs. Parker about her leading-man husband.  “He’ll say he’d rather go to the gym.”  She is disappointed but correct in her  prediction.  “Yeah, I should go to the gym,” he concurs.

"He'd rather get his head punched out by some guy than take his wife out to dinner,"  she says, at last giving up and sighing.

Jameson Parker is hard to predict, but his wife can pretty much predict him.  He  doesn’t think of himself as eccentric, but assumes that his friends do.  He is shy and serious.  He is witty, sardonic and something  of a paradox.  He loves both books and guns; he is equally at home  boxing or baking bread.  But mostly, Jameson Parker has definite ideas on certain topics – on being a man, role-playing, ethics,  sensuality, and the death penalty – and he has no qualms whatsoever about stating them frankly.

In Parker's  family, you see, they valued the mind.

“My father and mother were very honorable people,” he says.  “They would have a hard  time comprehending the world as it is today.  They were old-fashioned people, There is right and wrong, and it’s clear.  My grandfather wouldn’t park his car at a parking meter with another person’s money in it because it was money he didn’t earn.”  One gets the feeling that the young actor himself has a hard time forgiving the world for what it has  become since his early training in tradition and ethics.

“I don’t believe in situational ethics.  I was brought up to believe there is a code, and you don’t alter the rules because of the game you’re playing.  If somebody said, ‘Isn’t this a pretty dress?’ and you look at it and it’s repulsive, you don’t say it’s beautiful.”

The son of a high-ranking state department diplomat (his father) and a writer of short  stories (Mrs. Parker), Francis Jameson Parker II was brought up diplomatic and attended 10 boarding schools in places like Virginia, Washington, D.C., Belgium, Germany and Switzerland.  His own personal diplomacy,  however, has proved over the years to have dangerous elements, although it  has never been cunning or ruthless.

The young  Jameson Parker was always finding himself in trouble – in and out of  girls’ college dormitories.  Yet everybody liked him despite his  foolish deeds, or perhaps because of them.  When he spoke his mind,  he usually stuck with his opinion and did not back down.  He remains  this way today.  He has a reputation, for example, of being a rebel, and an eloquent and harsh critic.  He neither likes nor approaches the Hollywood party scene, and when a script that is undernourished falls in his hands, he anxiously calls attention to its faults and needs.  Sometimes too anxiously.  It was not uncommon for him, on the first  season of Simon & Simon, to rush into the producer’s office  yelling, with script in hand, “This is the most insipid piece of  trash I’ve ever read!”

“I went about  it totally the wrong way,” he now admits.  “Out of frustration, I was behaving like a six-year-old.  Tom Selleck once made the comment that  writers are not out there to sabotage his career.  Then I caught myself ranting and raving one day, and suddenly Selleck’s words popped into my brain, and now I can handle it by suggesting a solution calmly,  because I know it’s just as easy to go on and say, ‘Look, we need more character development here for the guest star.’  Our writers work around the clock, too.  I mean, I did some acting this morning, and  there’s a piece of bad performance there.  I mean, I **** up,  too.”  Earlier that morning, while rehearsing his lines, Parker  looked up from the page and with laughter announced: “This is the  sickest metaphor I’ve ever heard!”  Somehow, superlatives seem to  naturally swim in his forever boiling blood.

If you were to check on his body insides, you would agree with Parker when he says he’s a real mess.

The bones in one arm were crushed by a machine when he was four.  The ligaments of  his right knee were ripped when, as an adventurous college kid, he landed  on it after jumping out of the girls’ third floor dormitory.  Things  got further complicated when (and messy) when Parker broke a vertebra in  his back.

“I’ve broken just about everything at one time or another,” he remarks.  “I was always climbing the highest tree or taking chances beyond my ability.  I made every mistake in the book.  ‘Am I not a  man?  Does a man not do foolish things’  Some were fun, and some  were agonizing.  Some were both.  Now I’m paying the price.

“My back is  totally messed up, and they can’t fix it.  I see a chiropractor and a masseuse.  But they can’t operate.  I am in constant discomfort interrupted by intermittent bursts of sharp pain.  It’s just  something I have to live with;  there’s nothing I can do about  it.”  Parker won’t even take aspirin, being suspicious of pills.  “There are certain things I cannot do.  I can’t  jog.  I can’t do stunts or jump off a wall.  That’s why I left  karate after either years of studying and took up boxing instead.”

An early acquaintance with physical injury coupled with a strong family history appreciative of things moral and intellectual are perhaps the chief  reasons behind Parker’s low regard for the way he looks. 

Five years ago,  when he landed his starring role on Simon & Simon, Parker needed to supply the producers with some childhood pictures to be used  during the opening credits.  He called his mother to tell her that a  messenger from the studio would be by her house to pick them up.  There was a long pause o n the other end of the line.  Then his  mother said, “Well, you know, dear, you were quite homely as a child.”

Jameson Parker agrees.

“There are a lot of guys out there waiting on tables who are better looking than I  am.  I’m luckier than they are.  With the values that my family instilled in me about having one ethic for all occasions – that being the  one constant – I never thought of myself as handsome.  My mother’s stock reaction when I asked her if I looked all right when I got dressed was: ‘Handsome is as handsome does.’ Which is shorthand for ‘No, not  really.’  So, I never thought of myself as good-looking.”

Jameson Parker was 18 when he first suspected my might be considered handsome.  “It was my freshman year in college.  I was coming back from soccer  practice all sweaty, slinging my cleats over my back.  I came to a quad that was in the middle of three girls’ dorms.  All of a sudden I heard girls giggling form up above and one of them said, ‘He’s  cute.’  I got a quick look at the girls vanishing behind the  window.  It was a completely innocent reaction.  I turned around, and there was no one else in the quad.  I was 18.  I walked back home, flying.  I went to look in the mirror.  I looked like Gregory Peck!”

The good thing about not believing you have good looks, he reasons, “is that I don’t tend to use it as a tool.  It was not something available to me to use while growing up.” 

On the subject of hunks, the actor turns philosophical, while his wife becomes  whimsical.  “I’m indifferent to it,” he begins.  “I don’t’ think  anybody is marketing me as a stud or a hunk.  There’s a great deal of  consciousness on the part of those who are being sold as such.  One notable exception is Tom Selleck, a man form whom I have infinite  respect.  He has such a casual way with it.  He doesn’t take it seriously.  His attitude is one of ‘OK, if you want my picture with  my shirt off, here.’  Gregory Harrison also has the attitude that ‘If that’s something I have and they want it, by God, I’ll go all the way out’.”

While pregnant with their second son, Christian Buchanan, now 2 ½, Bonnie chose a rather  unusual inspiration for her natural-childbirth breathing exercises.  “There was a picture of Gregory in a G-string [from his TV movie about male strippers, For Ladies Only], and Bonnie used it as a focal  point to concentrate on during her labor-breathing sessions.  The day she was going to have the baby, my partner Macky [Simon & Simon co-star Gerald McRaney] and I were in the prep room, and there’s this picture of Gregory in a G-string.  The nurses were having fits.  ‘How many of you fathered this kid?’”

Gregory  Harrison came up to Bonnie Parker at a party a month later and said: “I just wanted to tell you how flattered I am that, married to him, you chose  me to do what you did to have your baby.”  Bonnie remembers blushing  at the time.  But she also remembers the logic behind her choice.  “I said, I’ll huff and puff to Gregory Harrison in a  G-string.’  I mean, I didn’t have a G-string picture of you, honey,” she says, addressing her bemused husband with luring eyes.

“And you’re not  about to,” he snaps.

There was a  time when the writers and producers of his top-rated series would call  Bonnie and ask her if she thought Jameson would take his shirt off for  some scenes.  “What’s the scene?” she would ask.  “Well, we  don’t know yet,” would come the answer.  “They didn’t want to approach him,” she says.  “I think he intimidates people.”

“The very first  day of the first feature I ever did, The Bell Jar, I had to be in the nude,” says Jameson.  “I arrived on the set and director Larry Peerce said, ‘Take your clothes off.’  You want to know what that feels like?  I was once hired to take a boat from Massachusetts to a northern port in Maine.  After three or four days, I couldn’t stand  myself all dirty.  Well, the ocean in the early part of June  there…well, I knew it was going to hurt, but I plunged.  That’s what the nude scene was like: with 14 to 15 guys standing around, a script  girl, and a guy just feet away from the bed to made sure we stayed in the frame and under the sheets – and the leading lady’s boyfriend was is the  director.  It’s almost as romantic as a visit to the  proctologist.”

“Last night,”  Bonnie Parker says,” Jaime [who’s now 6] said, ‘Mommy, what’s sexy?’ I  told him it’s when somebody thinks you’re attractive, nice to look  at.”

Her husband  provides his own definition: “I know that there are people I’ve met who on  the initial meeting did not seem attractive to me.  But after knowing  them better, certain degrees of wit and charm and intelligence and sexiness reveal themselves, when you see them as who they are.”

The women who  attract him, he confesses, are strong, intelligent people.  “To see a frightfully attractive girl with no brains is not stimulating.  Being  shy, I’m attracted to someone who’s not.  Opposites attract, of  course.  When I get angry, I get quiet.  When she’s angry,  Bonnie will let you know it.”

Jameson  Parker's wife is being flippant again.

"Have you  lusted in your heart?" she asks.

He explodes  laughing.  “I have absolutely no intention of answering this  question,” he says.

“I can usually tell Jameson’s type of woman.  For play, he really likes blonds to look at.”  Now Jameson is blushing.  “But for real, which I don’t think he would ever do, he likes them sexy, gorgeous, dark, like me, with a sense of humor and great legs.”

**edited for length.  I know carpal tunnel’s in my future, but I’d prefer not to  get it in one sitting... :)  This issue pops in on eBay from time to time, so if you keep an  eye out, you can most likely get a copy.  Believe me, it’s worth it  for the quality of the first picture alone. (It's the head shot with the  blue background on this page.)  No, there are no nude pictures.   After reading excerpts from the article as printed here, you can probably  understand why.