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Body Watch | GUEST WORKOUT

No Mystery What Keeps Him in Shape

June 26, 1996|CANDACE A. WEDLAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Actor Robert Stack has loved sports since he was 13, when his grandfather took him to the Santa Monica Gun Club to learn a new game called skeet shooting.

"That's where I met all the sports characters in Hollywood, all of my friends. The first one was Clark Gable, who took me under his wing when he found out that I had lost my father," says the handsome 77-year-old host of "Unsolved Mysteries."

"My father had left me this wonderful duck lodge up beyond Sacramento, where Clark and I would go to shoot, never dreaming that I would ever be in the same racket he was in. There were so many actors in the old days who were into athletics, John Wayne. . . ."

Question: You did sports with John Wayne?

Answer: No. I drank with him.

Q: Well, bending elbows is an activity of sorts.

A: I'll tell you, he was a champion at that. Won every one of those.

Q: How did sports get you into acting?

A: I was playing polo with Spencer Tracy and between chukkers, I said, "You know, I've got a shot at becoming an actor playing opposite Deanna Durbin and I wished I could go learn the craft the way I learned to shoot."

Q: How do you keep in shape nowadays?

A: Before breakfast I do sit-ups the right way so that the last bit of pull gets to the stomach so you've got a stomach platform. Then I do about 30 push-ups on my fingers, and I think the Versiclimber is very good. I've got a rowing machine and a treadmill. And we've got a tennis court.

Q: You play tennis?

A: Yeah. You can call it that. I march around with a tennis racquet in my hand and that's about the extent of it. I don't play as much as I used to because I play golf at least once a week. Golf's fun, and you can swear in tandem and it's a shared experience. I got my wife into it now.

Q: Supposedly couples fare better health-wise than single people.

A: It's nifty to have somebody with you and I've got a nifty lady. We have a lot of fun together. Acting is a terribly, terribly lonely profession, you know, where you want to belong to this wonderful family and then all of a sudden they--I'm talking about the picture business--don't want you anymore and sell you to the lowest bidder or whatever.

Q: What else do you and Rosemarie do together?

A: We walk all the time and that's fun. It's great particularly if you can do it with your lady. Then you can at least talk to your girl instead of talking to a tree, which is also nice.

Q: Does Bravo, your 2-pound, 3-ounce teacup Yorkshire Terrier, tag along?

A: Oh, yes. His legs are a bit shorter than ours, so he kind of poops out but Mumsy is there to pick him up and say, "All right, dear, I'll get you up the hill."

Q: You sit down to breakfast after the morning exercise?

A: Yes, grain and nonfat milk and a lot of fruit--raspberries, bananas. Every once in a while I slip in a couple pieces of turkey bacon. I drink one cup of decaf coffee. And that's about it.

Q: That's a pretty modest fare.

A: The body is a machine. You look at it as just that and when the machine gets clogged and the fuel doesn't run through, you've got problems. The stroke is the thing that would frighten me the most, so I do the best I can.

Q: How much do you eat the rest of the day?

A: I don't pretend to eat much lunch. I usually have a salad or pasta. I like fish and chicken and I'm very fond of broccoli. And I have a beverage with lunch. I love skim milk. And I like water. I drink a lot of water.

Q: Do you have a big dinner?

A: I love dinner. Dinner is when you indulge, man. Luckily we've got a darn good cook. We may have a veal chop, and Odette makes wonderful soups without cream, without all the naughties in it. She cooks with a lot of olive oil and not much with butter.

Q: When did you quit smoking?

A: Oh, a long, long time ago when I was in a movie called "The High and the Mighty" [1954] and I got pneumonia. I remember every actor wanted my part. One guy kept saying, "You don't look good." He kept hoping I would fall dead on the set. After the last scene I went right to the hospital.

The only time I smoked after that was when I did "The Untouchables." They wanted desperately for me to smoke every two or three shows because Chesterfield sponsored the show. Somebody said you can't do this without going back to it and I said I can do anything. I'm a stubborn Irishman. Every couple of shows I smoked and it tasted lousy. I wasn't a very good smoker anyway. I did it because Bogey did it.

Q: You know, the business you're in is damned stressful.

A: It's tough. It's like being a member of a club, this profession. And you're kind of invited in and you hope that your invitation holds out for good. You let go, let God.

Guest Workout runs every other Wednesday in Life & Style.

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