Parker Stevenson remembers waiting on line to see the treasures of King Tut and realizing everyone’s eyes were on him instead of the exhibit. “Through the glass, I see people on the other side looking at me,” Parker, who was then starring on The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries, recalls to Closer. “I’m like, ‘No, you should be looking at him!’” Parker, 71, continued to make fans swoon as lifeguard Craig Pomeroy on Baywatch, but he’s best known today as a photographer — although he still loves the sand and surf. “I’m at the beach every day in my real life, jogging, swimming,” he says. “For 20 years, I went surfing four or five times a week. Now it’s maybe once every two weeks.”How did you get started as an actor?
“Before I decided acting was what I wanted to do, I was in architecture school and then business school in New York. [Acting] was a way to get out of the house and make some money during the summers. My mother was an actress, which gave me a way into offices.”
Would we have seen your mom in anything?
“She did a lot of TV commercials for about 20 years. She had one for Kodak in the ’60s that aged her to all different times in her life. Younger, her age then, and all the way up. As a boy, to see her as all those different ages was really something.”
Could the commercial have influenced your passion for photography?
“That’s interesting. What definitely made an impression on me was when I was on the train going in and out of New York City when I was home from boarding school and going out on auditions. I would have this experience of sitting by a window on the 45-minute train ride from the suburbs. Everything’s going by really quickly, and you only see instances of people sitting out on a fire escape or a couple kissing. All of those flashes — frozen instances — exposed me to still images.”
Was The Hardy Boys your big break?
“Clearly. Suddenly I was a known face. We were on lunch boxes. The posters were out. Shaun [Cassidy] was singing. It was a very surreal experience.”
Did you and Shaun become close?
“I do consider Shaun a brother. We always got along great and laughed a lot. When the show ended, we went off in different directions. But he and his wife, Tracey, set it up for me and my wife, Lisa, to get married up near where they live in Santa Barbara.”
Burt Reynolds also became a friend. Tell us about him.
“I met Burt at a Directors Guild dinner and he said, ‘We’re going to work together someday. You’ll be hearing from me.’ I looked at him like, ‘Yeah, right.’ But I ended up going to work with Burt on Stroker Ace and had a blast. There was a scene where he was supposed to punch me, and he accidentally did. He was so apologetic for bopping me right in the nose!”
Is is true that Baywatch’s David Hasselhoff first asked you to direct?
“Yes. After the first season of Baywatch, I told David I was done running around the beach in a little Speedo. And then he called me and said, ‘Come direct the show.’ So I said yes and started directing, and then started acting in episodes again. I never should have left that show. We all make mistakes. My wife at the time [Kirstie Alley] wasn’t thrilled that I was going to work every day at the beach with Pamela Anderson, Yasmine Bleeth and Erika Eleniak.”
You and Kirstie played siblings in the miniseries North and South: Book II. How did that happen?
“Kirstie was in the first miniseries and had been away for six months. We had only been married a short time, so when the Billy part became available [in Book II], I didn’t want to be away from her for that long again, so I really went after that part. But I ended up going away to shoot for six months, and she only worked two weeks.”
When Kirstie won her Emmy for Cheers, she infamously thanked you for giving her ‘the big one.’ What was going through your mind?
“It’s an appropriate summation of Kirstie’s bawdiness and my discomfort with that. I remember in the limo ride afterward, I told her, ‘Before you say anything, let me just be clear: You don’t ever have to mention me ever again in a speech. I’m really just fine with that.’
We were so sorry about her passing in 2022. Even though you were long divorced, that must have been difficult.
“I think it’s a real tragedy that she wasn’t around longer. Especially for my children. My kids are doing fine, but we’re never really ready for our parents to be gone. It certainly accelerates the growing up process.”
Did your children inherit your love of art?
“Yeah, they are artistic. My son, True, plays guitar and drums and is captain of a charter fishing business down in Florida. My daughter, Lillie, and her husband make handmade custom furniture at ParkerBurkhart.com.”
How did you meet your wife, Lisa Schoen?
“I moved upstairs into a duplex at the beach, and she’d temporarily swapped her place in New York for the downstairs unit. She asked me if I had a big stock pot, and it turned out I did. She returned the favor two days later with the pot filled with the best chicken soup I’ve ever had.”
That must have been some soup, because she’s a professional chef!
“She was [former New York Yankee] Derek Jeter’s chef for seven years. Her signature dish was Jeter’s Chicken Parm. She cooks everything from her heart. She worked for 20 years for Food Network doing food styling and did all of Anthony Bourdain’s styling. She’s the real deal.”
What’s left on your bucket list?
“So much. I’d like to go for an extended period of time with Lisa to Spain or England, where she’d get to work with food of that region, and I’d shoot that experience with my camera.”