- The Washington Times - Monday, March 20, 2000

MALIBU, Calif.
In the shady chill of a Malibu morning, Rick Springfield shivers and sips chocolate-flavored soy milk in anonymity on the deck of the local Starbucks, with a Pacific Ocean vista.
The singer-actor is treated with casual indifference in this coastal town, where he lives with his wife of 18 years and their two young sons.
The serene scene is a far cry from the heady days of teen-idol fame in the 1980s, when the shaggy-haired Mr. Springfield couldn't go anywhere without being accosted by eager fans or just plain stared at.
"That was fun at first, but then it got to be really kind of stressful," he says. "You'd meet somebody and you'd go, 'What am I not being that they're projecting onto me?' It was great to get away and not have to deal with that."
Now he's back, an older (yikes, he's 50) and wiser soul than the Australian cutie who captivated "General Hospital" viewers as sexy Dr. Noah Drake.
His teen-age son, he says, "calls me, very jokingly, the babe magnet."
After years out of the spotlight, Mr. Springfield resurfaced last year in a popular "Behind the Music" episode that ran repeatedly on VH1.
"It got people going, 'All right, he's not dead,' " he cracks.
Mr. Springfield is on a nationwide tour with "Karma," his first album in 11 years. He'll play everywhere from county fairs to casinos through the end of the year.
The screaming of young girls has given way to an audience that includes the offspring of his original fans. Mr. Springfield doesn't disappoint in concert, performing all the old hits such as "Jessie's Girl," "Don't Talk to Strangers" and "I've Done Everything for You."
"There's almost like a camaraderie now because we've been through the years together and they're still connected to those songs," he says. "It's almost like a club."
Mr. Springfield draws attention on a smaller scale now, but he enjoys it much more.
"I have a better relationship with the audience live. I know the people who hear the music hear what I'm saying now," he says. "There's more life experience in the audience now, so I enjoy that because I love to relate to the people."
It wasn't always that way.
His father died in 1981, but Mr. Springfield was too busy keeping the teen-idol machinery rolling to grieve. "I kind of stuffed it down and went on," he says.
Disillusioned when he lost his place in the changing musical landscape of the late 1980s, Mr. Springfield became a recluse. He sought therapy for a depression that he says didn't involve drugs. A serious motorcycle accident in 1988 put him in another downward spiral.
Through it all, however, his marriage to a former recording studio secretary stayed strong.
"I've always been a pretty dark guy. As a kid, we called it moody," he says. "I kind of halfheartedly tried to off myself at one point. It did get pretty intense."
When his music fell off the charts, Mr. Springfield returned to acting in such low-profile gigs as the syndicated TV series "High Tide."
"Unless you were an insomniac or a late-night watchman at Sears, you didn't really see it," he says.
When the show wasn't renewed after three years, Mr. Springfield took it as a sign to return to the recording studio. While working on "Karma" last year, he landed a recurring role on the NBC comedy "Suddenly Susan."
Even at the height of his popularity, Mr. Springfield couldn't avoid the sting of critics who rebuked his music as bubble gum. But unlike many teen idols, he actually wrote his own material.
"To be viewed as this staggeringly one-dimensional figure was really painful to me. It was hard for me because I was so super self-critical," he says. "I was comforted just by the fact that I loved to write and when a song would be successful, I could look at that."
Mr. Springfield has his own Web site (rickspringfield.com), which he visits to find out where his next gig is. His current band went on line to learn the words to his old songs. But he doesn't snoop in chat rooms.
"I don't want to see people saying bad things about me," he says.
No longer does he worry that fans are only drawn to him for his looks.
"I'm not so cute anymore, so I kind of proved my point that maybe it was the music," he says.

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