"Don`t you know any Jewish doctors?" asked Heather Paige Kent - who was fed up with a short string of losers and near-misses about five years ago - of a good friend`s boyfriend, a transplant surgeon. The good doctor did indeed know a person with those qualifications: Dr. Terry Dubrow, a plastic surgeon he knew well from medical school.
Kent`s gentle nudge was, "Call him now!" A blind date was arranged - he fell in love with her at first sight.
"I fell in love with this guy about six weeks later, and I`m so glad I did," laughs the star of the drama series "That`s Life" (9 p.m. EDT, CBS) now shooting its second season. "He kept calling and we had a good time, but I just didn`t know if I should keep on dating him until he took me home one night after a movie and gave me a fabulous, fabulous kiss," says Kent, delighted to share her good fortune.
"On his way home, Terry called me on his cell phone and said, `Kissing you is like when you`re a kid waking up on a Saturday morning, realize that you don`t have to go to school and find that amazing spot in the pillow again.` He had me ... it was all over."
The marriage works on many levels, according to the slim, trim, 32-year-old brunette, including passion, friendship and a sense of humor. "We really enjoy our careers and share each day every night," Kent explains. "I`m, like, `Oh, God, the funniest thing happened on the set ...` He`s, like, `Can you believe this?` We support each other totally and (a relationship) doesn`t mean anything if you don`t have that.
"Working hard, we tend to stay close to our great home in Pacific Palisades during the week and watch movies on TV," she continues. "On weekends, we hike in the woods, run on the beach and rollerblade side-by-side. We have such a good time together and don`t really want to give that up yet, but children are definitely in our plans. I would think within a year or two."
Off the top of her head, the funny, sunny Kent can only think of one negative aspect to her husband`s profession. "When people press me about Terry`s job, I tell them he is a surgeon and try to leave it at that. But when they go, `What kind of surgery?` I say, `The plastic variety.` They go, `Oh,` and immediately look down on my chest. Then I have to say, `They`re real. We met on a blind date, not a consultation.`"
Kent, a fifth-generation Jewish-American whose ancestors hail from Russia, Austria and Poland, is perfectly happy on "That`s Life" portraying Lydia DeLucca, a thirtysomething working-class Italian-American Catholic somewhere in New Jersey who dumps her blue-collar fiance in favor of returning to college. Now majoring in sports medicine, she works part time and has full-time hots for Dr. Eric Hackett (Titus Welliver), a handsome surgeon treating lots of professional athletes.
Born in the Bronx and reared in tony Westchester County, N.Y., Kent`s own background couldn`t be further removed from her character`s. Her mother is a successful designer, her father is the chief executive officer of an international corporation based in the Netherlands, and her sister, Schuyler, makes a nice living as a television screenwriter.
"In the show, my father (Paul Sorvino) likes to kick back with a beer to watch a football game on TV," she explains. "My real dad is very much a white-collar guy into fine wine and traveling. They`re both fantastic."
Acting was something she always did and family finances allowed her to study at the prestigious HB Studios in New York City while a student at suburban Horace Greely High School. Dead set on a Broadway career, Kent enrolled as a musical theater major at Syracuse (N.Y.) University. "I wanted to sing, dance and act, but any love I had for the musical theater they beat right out of me, unfortunately," she recalls, a tad bitter.
Six months after graduation in 1990, she was in Los Angeles working with "some little, crappy agent" and singing and dancing for her supper at Disneyland for a year. In a big, blond wig and a can-can outfit, she portrayed Miss Lillian in The Golden Horseshoe Jamboree.
"I actually enjoyed it and it was fun backstage, where you`d see Pluto drinking a cup of coffee and Snow White smoking a cigarette," she says. "Nobody was allowed out of character in the park itself."
While kicking up her heels at Disneyland, she ran into the leader of a 14-piece band and performed for the next four years as the Kent and Miller Orchestra, "a kind of Steve (Lawrence) and Edie (Gorme) of the `90s thing." Though rarely headlining, they opened for such music and comedy acts as Manhattan Transfer, Mel Torme, Paula Poundstone and Dana Carvey. Between gigs, she worked hard with private acting coaches and eventually quit the band to star in "Funny Business," a workshop musical hopefully Broadway-bound.
The bubble burst at the Kennedy Center in Washington, but she gained invaluable practical experience in a major stage production. Now focused on film and television, she promptly made her way back to Los Angeles and hooked up with a team of new agents and managers.
"It was very scary to leave the band, my bread and butter for all those years," she says, "but it was something I had to do. And suddenly I started working all the time."
She started out with recurring roles and guest shots on a number of sitcoms, including "Married ... With Children," "Life With Roger" and "Men Behaving Badly," then became a regular on the short-lived "Jenny" (1997) and "Stark Raving Mad" (1999). Kent even managed to work with her sister once on "Nowhere Man" (1995-96), a very good action series starring Bruce Greenwood.
"Unfortunately, Schuyler - who is my best friend - and I haven`t worked together very much," she says, "because she`s into `The X-Files` stuff and I`m not into sci-fi."
"That`s Life" takes an extraordinary amount of time during the season, but Kent still found the energy this summer to carry on a family life (including a recent vacation in the Cayman Islands) and shooting an independent comedy feature titled "Now You Know." She portrays Marty, a former hardcore party girl who suddenly finds herself very single, totally unattached and extremely pregnant. It was a nice change of pace from "That`s Life`s" fairly sensible Lydia DeLucca.
"I`m extremely lucky because my husband can pretty much make his schedule fit into mine - plastic surgery is pretty much elective surgery," says Kent. "In the future, the good thing is that love is blind, so Terry will never do anything to me. Like a lift or tuck. The bad news is that all my friends will look fabulous while I`m falling apart."