Not long ago, actor John Forsythe was waiting in a lounge at the Atlanta airport when he thought he heard his name being hollered from across the room.
"Blake! Blake Carrington!" a rather stylish woman in her forties called out.
Forsythe looked around and shrugged. "Why, yes," he said. "I-I guess that's me."
"Blake!" the woman screeched. "What's the matter with you anyway? You treat Krystle so poorly. Why were you so mean to her last night? You are! You are! You are desperately nasty to her!"
She then began hitting the patriarch of the "Dynasty" clan with her purse.
"I thought she might start hitting me over the head," Forsythe says, relating the tale. "That must have been one episode where I was short-tempered with poor Krystle. Well, I started moving quickly toward my plane to get away from this woman. That's what I mean when I say audience involvement.
"I mean it's pretty damn silly, that kind of involvement. People take this whole thing so seriously and that's insane . . . "
It's a sunny Saturday morning, a few days before tonight's season-ending episode of "Dynasty," and here's Blake Carrington, primed: He's sporting a wonderfully tailored navy blazer, brass buttons glistening as bright as Alexis' diamonds, and a crisp blue button-down shirt. He wears no jewelry, and smells delicious: Charles of the Ritz's "Carrington" line.
"How's this?" he jokes to a photographer, mugging with a bottle of champagne. "Wouldn't this be an appropriate shot?"
What a gent -- he's been married to the same woman for 45 years, and wouldn't dream of entering a room before a lady. He's just about to have his breakfast at a Washington hotel and already one waitress has gasped.
The hair is not just gray, but a fine silver-blue silk. When he smiles there are dimples; his green eyes shine. When he talks, the voice could almost be British; it is definitely moneyed. And when he bites into his English muffin, this Cary Grant of television might as well be eating Beluga on toast.
"Oh, it's you!" the waitress gushes. "You're soooo wonderful . . . "
At 68, John Forsythe is enjoying the sunniest stage of his four-decade career. The benign and avuncular Bentley Gregg in that '50s favorite, "Bachelor Father," and the unseen voice on "Charlie's Angels" has now nailed down a seemingly permanent role as one of America's "10 sexiest men over 60."
McCall's magazine so anointed him last year. California's offbeat "Man Watchers" group recently dubbed him one of the world's most watchable men. And just a few weeks ago, TV Guide named him among the 10 most attractive men on television.
"At this advanced age, to be considered a sex symbol," he sighs. "I must say it amuses me. And it amuses my wife."
For the past five years, Forsythe has dazzled nighttime soap fans with his portrayal of the ruthless yet romantic Blake Carrington, energy tycoon. "Dynasty" suffered a major setback last fall when the writers sent the cast to darkest Moldavia for what seemed like an eternity. But though it dropped as far back as 17th in the ratings (after ending the previous season in first place), Forsythe is expecting it to be in sixth place as this television year ends.
"We had some very bad story lines," he says, "that I think have been corrected. Amanda married some prince from Moldavia and no one has been able to figure out where Moldavia is. We think somewhere east of Peoria. But we got back to what the audience expects and wants, which is stories about the family."
Indeed, it's been back to basics of late for the hairsplitting Carringtons, with plots centering on squabbles among Blake, his saintly wife Krystle (Linda Evans) and his nemesis and ex-wife Alexis (Joan Collins), who has turned into one of the most hated-but-adored villains in tube history.
Forsythe and Collins are at each other's throats on the series, and they're reportedly not too fond of each other off the set.
The tabloids have been having a field day with this. Recently one featured a cover of Forsythe strangling Collins -- one option on tonight's cliffhanger episode. The accompanying story said that Collins had asked for a personal bodyguard to be present during the shooting.
"Oh, baloney," he says. "She doesn't have bodyguards. We get along just fine."
Still, rumor has it that Collins and the biting, bitchy Alexis Carrington are indistinguishable.
"Sometimes with actors, they invest a lot of themselves in parts," Forsythe says tactfully. "She's absolutely right on the nose in the way she plays Alexis . . . She was always this kind of a lady. She has, I'm sure, a vision of herself as very stylish, very jet set."
At the wrap party celebrating the last show of the season, Forsythe told guests that Collins hadn't come because she was "vacationing in Tripoli."
"I don't know why I said it. It just came out. It wasn't meant to be anti-Joan Collins," he says. "We did have one small set-to, but that's all gone . . . When you work as closely as we do, sometimes things get to be irritating and grating. We see people on the set a hell of a lot more than we see our own families, and it's a grind."
Then there was the People's Choice Awards ceremony. Forsythe had been designated to accept the award on behalf of the show, but when it was announced, Collins got there first with her own thank-yous.
"It may have been that she was first onto the stage and maybe someone thrust the award in her hands and she didn't know what to do," he says. "She proceeded to thank the audience -- when everyone had been told that the producers wanted me to do it -- and after she got finished thanking, there was no point in my thanking them. I mean, how many thanks can you dream up?"
Who would have thought that the road for John Lincoln Freund, a one-time Dodgers announcer at Brooklyn's Ebbets Field, would bring him to the Carrington mansion?
Born and raised in New Jersey, he dropped out of the University of North Carolina in the late '30s to take up a career in sports broadcasting. After his stint in Brooklyn, he began radio acting and traveled throughout the country with various productions. In the early '40s, Forsythe took to the stage, eventually moving from film to television. In 1979, he underwent a triple-bypass operation; his recovery seemed to coincide with the latest surge in his career.
He has three grown children -- his wife Julie gave up her own acting career when they married -- and he's always been more the family man than the high-rolling star.
"Everything depends on the kind of parts you play," he says. "People keep saying to me when I'm down at the luggage claim trying to pick up my own bags, 'Why, Blake, where's your plane?' I'm not Blake Carrington . . .
"I think the villains are the ones people remember most. When I was playing what I call the Smilin' Jack parts, the kind of fan mail I used to get would say, 'I have hopes that someday you'll marry my daughter.' Then I get to play this and all of a sudden the mail changes. 'How would you like to go away to Acapulco for the weekend?' Well I'm the same guy. I have not changed one damn bit. That's what's so ridiculous about it."
Okay, but isn't there a teeny bit of the dashing, darling and thoroughly tough Blake in him? Let's see how he compares himself with his character.
On discipline: "I like to control. I like to control my destiny and I suppose I like to see my children grow up the way I want them to. I think in that sense Blake and I are alike. [But] I don't think I'm as rigid as he is about a lot of things, like his son's homosexuality. I think if I had a homosexual son I would not react in the same way." (One would hope not: Seeing his son and a lover embrace, Blake savagely attacked the lover, who fell, hit his head and died.)
On politics: "I'm a lifelong Democrat, much to the dismay of my father. I would not think Blake to be a Democrat." Forsythe supported Gary Hart for president in 1984, and says he doesn't know the Reagans that well. "They couldn't be nicer to me, knowing that I'm not a member of their coterie. I respect the office of the presidency. But I think this may be one of the most insensitive administrations that I can recall."
On business and finance: When Forsythe played in "Bachelor Father," he was paid in part with stock from the producing company, MCA. This has made him a wealthy man, giving him the luxury to breed horses and turn down parts. "I've been a lucky man," he says. "I believe in the theory that you try to keep control, but you also employ people who are experts: expert lawyer, expert CPA. I would think Blake to be more his own man. He's a self-made man, and there's a kind of ego involved there that I don't have."
On romance: "I think I'm a romantic," says Forsythe, who has been known to write love poems to his wife. (On one recent anniversary, she awoke to a see a floral arrangement over her bed, held aloft by helium balloons.) Asked if he finds Joan Collins as sexy and attractive as some men do, he politely demurs. But as for his good friend Linda Evans -- now that's a different story.
"She's an enormously attractive woman," he says of Evans. "Now Joan, she's very sensitive. She doesn't appear to be, but she is a very sensitive lady, very insecure. One sees her a tower of strength, but she's not. Linda looks fragile and she is strong and getting increasingly stronger."
Evans and Forsythe, who are close personal friends, first met when he gave her the acting break of her career on "Bachelor Father."
"There was this part and a very lovely 15-year-old girl came in -- knobby-kneed and skinny and awkward but very beautiful," he says. "She was to play a friend of my niece who had a crush on me. I thought this girl was wonderful for the part. Afterwards we lost track of each other. Then I was cast in this thing and saw she had grown up to be this magnificent and lovely lady, and I felt that I had a hand in it some way."
Forsythe dismisses the chatter about the cast's alleged distress over Evans' kissing Rock Hudson on the "Dynasty" set.
"A lot of us didn't know Rock very well," he says. "It was obvious he was painfully sick. He used to rest an awful lot between scenes. We thought it was related to drinking . . .
"Linda had kissed him a couple of times on the set and I subsequently had to kiss her, but there was never any concern about anything. His doctor was my doctor . . . I told her that he was the best doctor in L.A. for my money, and Rock being a responsible guy he must have talked to him. I told her there was no concern about [AIDS] being transmitted."
Breakfast is over and a steady stream of autograph seekers is approaching the table. Julie Forsythe is waiting upstairs and a long black limo is waiting outside.
"Yes, it's all very flattering," he says. "The key is realism -- not to start believing all these things about yourself."