Take a look at aging around the world in 'A New Age,' a special report by AARP and Magnum Photos.
by Liz Balmaseda, AARP VIVA, October 2006
Lorenzo Lamas, quintessential Latin lover, born-to-be-wild biker, 1980s heartthrob, and star since 2004 of The Bold and the Beautiful (Belleza y Poder), has a new role: more mature dad.
In his 20-plus years as an actor, Lamas has had many an incarnation as an action hero, playing larger-than-life roles that called for swift moves, chiseled muscles, and power personified. But now for the first time, he is embodying a role on camera that speaks directly to his heart—as firefighter and devoted single father Hector Ramirez. In his first Latino role, he draws inspiration from his own experiences as dad to a lively crew: Isabella, 5; Victoria, 7; Alexandra, 8; Peyton, 18; Shayne, 20; and Alvaro Joshua (“A.J.”) age 22.
Heading home from the set of The Bold and the Beautiful—the most-watched daytime drama worldwide, the only U.S. soap opera simulcast in Spanish, and a tool for teaching English and Spanish—Lamas, 48, pauses to talk about his evolution as a father.
“My children now are much more in the forefront of my life. I guess that happens sometimes with people who grow up late in life,” he says. “In my late 20s, I was really focused on my career, and my kids suffered for it. They didn’t get to see their dad much. But in my 40s, I came to realize that my kids need to be the most important thing in my life. I’ve become a lot less self-centered and a little more cognizant of the needs and emotions of my kids.”
Putting his children front and center means making disciplined career choices. One is working as close to home as possible—staying in the same time zone when he has to travel to keep in touch more easily. The rewards from these relationships, he says, are priceless: “What I’ve learned the most from them is how to discover things. Children live from one minute to the next. It really is refreshing to see the passion they display in the experiences they have. They have the most positive outlook on life. And it’s contagious.”
This insight connects him to the “real-life” side of his character. Although Hector Ramirez the firefighter saves lives, he is no superhero. “Hector has a strict moral compass. He struggles to make the right decisions regarding his teenage daughter,” says Lamas, who rocketed to superstardom in the ’80s, when he played a strikingly different role: playboy Lance Cumson on Falcon Crest.
Lamas himself is a former race car driver who holds a black belt in tae kwon do and played a little too hard in his early 20s, zooming around racetracks in single-seat, open-cockpit race cars. He was the darkly handsome prince of the day.
In the years following Falcon Crest, Lamas landed action-hero TV roles in Renegade and Air America—and a few hot and bare-chested magazine covers. And then there were the underwear ads with the tagline, “I’ve become a TV heartthrob in my BVDs.”
Nevertheless, he finds himself drawn to a more gracious bygone era—the classy golden age of his parents’ generation. He says his father, the late Argentine screen star Fernando Lamas, was his favorite storyteller and greatest teacher, the person who taught him how to be an actor, a father, a man.
“My father was a living example of what it means to be a man, in all the right senses of the word,” says Lamas, whose parents divorced when he was a young boy. He grew up close to both of them, jetting between California, where his father lived, and the New York home of his mother, actress Arlene Dahl.
Long after his father’s death in 1982, Lamas still receives guidance by way of cherished memories. “My dad’s voice is an echo that resounds in me on a daily basis,” he says. “I have never stopped missing him. One of the most important things I learned from my dad was how important it is to treat people with respect, and to give without expecting anything in return.”
The memories are so vivid that Lamas is writing a book, a tribute to a relationship he describes as “short but sweet.”
“I have these stories about running around with my dad when I was a kid. We’d go to the auto shop. Or we’d shop for the best-tailored suit in town,” Lamas recalls.
“He would bring me along wherever he went, but he never treated me as a child. He would introduce me to people as if I was an adult. He gave me importance. He had a way of making everyone feel important. He had incredible flair and a great sense of humor.”
Lamas credits his father for instilling in him joie de vivre and an unsinkable sense of adventure. But it took a racing accident at age 25 to temper his daredevil streak. He lost control of his car, spun around, and smashed his shoulder and collarbone. The accident slowed him down and slapped some sense into him. The trained pilot and motorcycle buff realized the difference between being adventurous and being careless.
Now when he wants to escape, he cranks up a “big, loud motorcycle,” preferably a Harley-Davidson. And he rides not only for fun but also for charity, raising money and awareness for muscular dystrophy, organ donation, and children’s causes.
Pulling into the driveway after a day on the set, Lamas looks forward to a new adventure. His three youngest girls—Isabella, “the gutsy one,” Alexandra, “the sensitive and sweet one,” and Victoria, “the artist”—wait for him to blow through the front door and plop himself on the rug.
Then they spring on him, tickle him, pepper him with questions about his day. That’s when they get to listen to his stories…and make their own memories.
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