JUST THE FACTS: Birthdate: October 23, 1970 Addictions: "None. Except for smoking crack out of an empty beer can - ha, ha." Sexiest MELROSE PLACE Co-Star: "Josie [Bissett, Jane], of course." Sexiest DAYS OF OUR LIVES Co-Star: "I was always pretty enamored of Krista [Allen-Moritt, Billie]." Pal David Beecroft's Reaction To Wilder's New Role: "I can't believe it! You get the best-looking girl and I got the guy." (On MP, Beecroft played Matt's boyfriend.) On New Boss Aaron Spelling: "He's a very sweet and and genuine human being. He personally shook my hand to welcome me to his TV family."
Waiting for a sidewalk table to free up at Bravo Cucina on Santa Monica's trendy Third Street Promenade is just another ego-stroker for MELROSE PLACE's shockingly humble Steve Wilder, new this season as Alex Bastian. Because Wilder is so darn good looking, you can never be quite sure if the wide-eyed does who "just can't help gawking" at the strapping blonde recognize him from his eight-month stint as DAYS OF OUR LIVES's Jack or if they're simply captivated by his bred-to-be-famous beauty.
One particularly pushy young woman, shielded behind a clipboard, scurries up and identifies herself as a talent scout for THE NEW DATING GAME. She begins making her sales pitch when Wilder cuts her short. Clearly, he's been through this drill one or two hundred times before. "Sorry, can't do it," he explains. "I'm contracted to a TV show."
This, of course, spurs on the mosquito lady even more. "Well, then you must do it!" she practically screams. "We have our celebrity week coming up and we've already signed Tyson."
"Mike Tyson?" blurts Wilder, appalled by the vision of being seated on a panel next to the ear-chomping boxing champ.
"No, no. Tyson the model," she explains, as she clicks her ball-point pen ready to sign up her find. "It'll be fun. C'mon, honey. How can I reach you?"
Wilder finds a kind way to let her down easy (another perfected skill), just in time to be seated by our equally smitten hostess and waiter. Ah, what a life this fellow has. Just weeks after being released from DAYS, the Spelling brass signed Wilder for a minimum of nine MP episodes as a contender for Jane's heart. Now required by contract to kiss Josie Bissett (Jane), the actor has learned to follow every food order (in this case, linguini) with a "no garlic" request. "It probably doesn't matter if I order garlic tonight," he smiles, flashing his Osmond-worthy pearlies. "I'm just getting punched by Tbomas [Calabro, Michael] tomorrow."
Wilder learned his garlic lesson the hard way. The evening before his first day at MP, the actor enjoyed a garlicky meal and stayed out until the wee morning hours. Since his call time was scheduled for 7 p.m., the night owl figured there would be ample time to sleep during the day and allow the odor to wear off before having to kiss Bissett. Unfortunately, when the actor stumbled home around 3 a.m., there was a message on his machine from the production office. Wilder's call time had been changed: He was due on the set at 9 a.m. Wilder remembers, "I apologized to Josie for having garlic breath, but she told me, 'You know what? I just had garlic, too. Rob [Estes, her real-life hubby and MP's Kyle] was complaining about it, but we should be just fine.'"
The native of upstate New York praises his sexy co-star's terrific sense of humor - a necessity when puckering up with a complete stranger. "It was the same thing with Stephanie Cameron [ex-Jennifer, DAYS]," the actor smiles. "The first time I met these beautiful women, I got to kiss them."
Wilder claims he kisses his leading ladies the same way he would any woman during his off-hours - with a few slight modifications. "Some actors talk about it ahead of time. 'What are we going to do? Tongue/no tongue?' But I prefer, as in real life, to gauge my behavior by what my partner gives back to me. Stephanie was a bit more reserved, and when I kissed her, I could sense that. When they yelled, 'Cut,' that was it - over and done. Josie is a little more relaxed about it - very sure about who she is and what she wants." Still, Wilder's grateful that so far, Estes hasn't been watching from the wings during his and Bissett's cozy scenes. "It might be a little awkward," he confesses.
Flirting with danger should become a familiar feeling for Wilder as he preps for this adversarial role by exploring the darker corners of his own psyche. "I'm not a particularly violent person, but I've got a door back at my place with a couple of holes [punched] in it," confesses the macho 27-year-old. "I leave it there as a reminder that even though I'm up now, I'll be down again."
On hand for every high and low is Wilder's beloved mom, Sylvia, whose maiden name he adopted. "Wilder is my middle name - and my mother's maiden name," he explains. "It's the name I've always used - long before I was acting. It's not that I didn't want my father's name, it's just that the side of his family I knew didn't really fit with who I was as a person."
On the few occasions Wilder visited his father in Florida, he was shocked by the man's excessive smoking and drinking - a lifestyle which eventually led to his demise when Wilder was only 16. "It all happened rather quickly," the actor recalls. "I didn't even know he was sick."
Stepping in as a father-type figure for young Wilder was the caretaker of his childhood estate - a kindly man he affectionately still calls "Pop." "He rode me around on the mower and taught me how to fix things," the actor recalls.
Lest you assume from the aforementioned references that Wilder was raised as Little Lord Fauntleroy, the avid sportsman explains that his unique upbringing was far more complex. Though he spent his early years in a 15-bedroom/nine-bath stone mansion on an estate (complete with pet pony, Pinecone) in Springfield Center, NY, Wilder claims he and his mom scraped to make ends meet: "I come from a family that was old money - society folks from long, long ago, but none of that money trickled down to me."
As he reached his teens, Wilder and his mother downscaled, relocating to a six-bedroom manor house. During the summer, Wilder, an only child, enjoyed the company of visiting cousins. "But in the wintertime, it was just my mother and me alone - like a mile from the nearest neighbor," recalls Wilder of his Pyscho-meets-The Shining setting. "You wonder where I get my dark character from?" he laughs, demonstrating a touch of the sinister. Because of those early years of solitude, Wilder functions well on his own. To that end, it's been several years since he's dated one woman exclusively.
"As a working actor, it's just not fair to them," he says. "It's a sacrifice I must be willing to make. But I'm enjoying my life as a bachelor." Unlike many TV stars, Wilder's single life does not include cruising the Sunset Strip clubs. "That's never been my scene. I'd rather go hiking and find a deep pool to swim in."
Though he goes home to an empty bed, it's impossible to feel sorry for a man who spends his working hours making out with the likes of Bissett. "At the end of our first day, Josie and I went back to my trailer and burst into laughter," Wilder remembers with a smile. "It hit us what a good morning it had been - getting paid to kiss beautiful strangers."
Steve Wilder is just the latest in a string of DAYS OF OUR LIVES actors who've taken up residence in MELROSE PLACE.
Everyone who comprised DAY's original Reed clan has gone head-to-head with Heather Locklear's Amanda on MP, beginning with Deborah Adair (ex-Kate, DAYS), who played Amanda's boss, Lucy Cabot, from 1992-93. Patrick Muldoon (ex-Austin, DAYS) was on MP from 1995-96 as designer Richard Hart, who went psycho and raped Jane. And, of course, Lisa Rinna (ex-Billie, DAYS) just concluded a two-year run as Taylor, the vixen who lost Kyle to Amanda.
Other Salemites who've moved to MP include Kristian Alfonso (Hope, DAYS), who played Lauren Etheridge (1993-94) and Rob Estes. Did you know that prior to portraying Kyle, Estes was Jennifer's boyfriend, Glenn Gallagher, from 1986-87?