"When I first started filming Alias Smith And Jones, I cut up a lot--boozing and carrying on. I could go out all night, whooping it up, and crawl into the studio bleary-eyed next morning and do my job."
The series, though long finished shooting, is still running at great success the world over. For Ben's original co-star, Pete Duel, the whole thing was too much to cope with and he took his own life. But Ben's memories of his friend are still very fond: "When Pete was alive we would crawl into the studio each day half awake--we encouraged each other in this wild, crazy way of living, as if each day were the last. Luckily, the series was kind of loose and, because of the chemistry between us, we could get through the day in that state--and it worked for us. We had chicks of all types and sizes following us everywhere--we could do no wrong.
"But, now, at the ripe old age of thirty-three, I can no longer do those things. Now, when I'm filming, I cut everything else out of my life. I retire at 10 pm.--sounds boring, but you have to if you're up at 6 am. on a five-day schedule with a 12-hour day. It's a grind. I hibernate. If I see anyone, it's between eight and ten at night--chicks, too! It's a discipline I've just had to develop. In those four years I learnt the hard way.
"We were just two actors doing a job, Pete and I, but it was good chemistry--I've never found that again. But I don't want to get into that area of us two because of his death. This business does that to some people--the incredible success and idolatry after years of struggling--they can't handle it. I just don't want to talk about it. There's a lot of morbid curiosity and, quite frankly, it pains me to discuss it. We were so close. I didn't mean to open up that can of worms. I'm just sorry I can't shed any more light on the matter."
Ben lives in a small apartment with a swimming pool and friendly neighbours--most young and female. He's been in Toluka Lake for nearly seven years where he pays about £60 a month for his two rooms, kitchen and bathroom.
"I liked the idea that I could lock the door and go off on location and not bother about it--I didn't want the responsibility of a house before."
But now he's changed his mind and bought a small house on the beach at Malibu.
"I like Malibu because there's no smog, there's a good tennis club and a track at the nearby university where I can run. I found a pretty big place. I have a Girl Friday, who's on call to come whenever I need her to clean and tidy for me--or type letters, mend and iron for me. So she will come and live in the house at Malibu and look after it for me. I want her to have her own area, so we can be independent of each other."
This domesticated chatter sounded very different from the wild, playboy-image Ben Murphy, bachelor, has earned over the years. A very physical man, he keeps an eye on his weight, exercises and plays tennis regularly and sees to it that his body beautiful is permanently a deep, golden tan.
In the gossip columns, he is frequently linked with many beautiful models and actresses, but, "I won't talk about people I'm specifically involved with," he insists. "I like women, sure, and enjoy them wherever I go. But I prefer to be foot-loose and fancy-free. And, as it happens, just now I prefer to spend my time playing tennis.
"But I must admit I'm settling down--my goals have changed."
Ever since Alias Smith And Jones days, the reputation of being the world's greatest lover has haunted Ben Murphy.
"I used to love it--but it's hard work living up to it day and night when you're trying to make a name for yourself career-wise."
And now he's trying to live it down a bit: "I guess I was a rogue--but that's no skill to be proud of. I would be prouder of myself if I grew up to be a nice, good husband and father--and if I could say that I'd raised another human being to the best of my ability, of that I would be extremely proud.
"I don't even date much any more--two reasons: one is that I have a girlfriend in Honolulu, whom I rather like, and also because I'm tired of running around. I want to spend more time at home getting work done--investments--and I want to try writing, too. I've spent the last couple of years just wasting my time. So these two reasons combined keep me at home or playing tennis."
He grinned and patted his slim, tanned stomach proudly: "See how much weight I've lost? I've been fasting a lot--I fast in order to clean out my body, to put order back into my life--and to lose weight. I've spent most of my time eating junk, so I decided to change things--and the discipline is good for me."
Ben has been under contract to Universal Studios for seven years now and gets paid whether he's filming or not.
"I don't have to scrounge for a living. I don't have to work--and I turn down a lot of things that Universal offers me. I've been able to be choosy, but it also makes me a little cocky. I'm more secure than the directors I work with--I know I'm going to get paid for a long time to come. So the directors and I fight most of the time." He shrugged, not caring.
"I'm kind of getting out of the acting business, because there's a million other things I want to be doing. I'm not giving it up completely, but gone are the days of teenage hero or whatever--and the nude pin-ups. I had great fun doing that session--the girl was lovely. I wrote the story line and directed it."
He grinned, half to himself. "On the whole, I don't have a great deal of respect for women. Individuals, yes. But I think woman waste their potential--they're pampered. I'm talking, mainly, about American women, as I don't know too many Europeans. In some ways, I'm a chauvinist. I'm not your perfect liberated male. I do feel superior. I believe in women's freedom, but, as a male, I feel infinitely superior. I know there are women in this world who could teach me a million things. And I do welcome any freedom--because every freedom a woman gets is my freedom, too. And it's not that I'm just physically stronger. I'm just happy in my maleness.
"I hope to marry one day and I wouldn't expect my wife to stay in the kitchen all day. Heck, no. I would like to be in a financial position to free her of all that. Because, quite frankly, when I get married it's because I want to spend time with the girl. So I assume I would marry someone who likes the same things as me--plays tennis, skis--and will do all those things with me. I don't want her to have to take care of the kids, either--we would have a nanny for that, someone to take care of them and love them, and they'd respond in kind. That doesn't mean all the time--but kids and parents shouldn't always be together, you should each have your own domain.
"I can't imagine not getting married, eventually. I get very lonely--I need people around. I'm not domesticated--I don't cook at all. I eat out all the time. I don't care to cook--I like to be served. And, quite honestly, when I am married my woman will have to serve me. And if she doesn't want to--then, fine. I'll go out to restaurants to eat, as I do now. But I refuse to do anything in the kitchen--I don't have time for it.
"So you see," Ben grinned and showed those perfect white teeth that set off his beautiful sun-tanned face, "I'd need to have a very loving wife to cook and care of me in my old age. Besides, I like women too much to live without them. I love women--and I've enjoyed them the world over. It's one of the perks of my job, isn't it? What other career would pay me handsomely to lie around in the sun, play tennis and pursue girls, as I do?
"When I was a kid I wanted to be
a baseball player, then I wanted to travel and yet I needed the
security of a nice way of living. Then I thought, To hell with
it, I'll just be a bum. Well, now I make a nice living, wanting
for nothing--and I travel all over for location. I'm just a highly-paid
bum. I got just what I wanted..."
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