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.