...And now for all the Gary details

 By Jason Bonderoff, Soap Opera Digest, 1992

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Everybody walks by Timothy Gibbs's dressing room at Another World and says, "Can't you do something about those bare walls ?" "I know, I know", mumbles Gibbs, but he doesn't do a darn thing. Since moving into NBC's Brooklyn, New York studio in April - and taking on the role of hard-bitten police instructor Gary Sinclair - Gibbs hasn't bothered to unpack mentally. By choice. He doesn't even keep a snapshot of his longtime steady, actress Kathy Shawber, on his makeup table - even though she lives in L.A. and he misses her like crazy.

"As much as I would love to throw a picture up on the wall or personalize things, I'd rather not get too attached (to this place)," he says. "I may have signed on for a certain number of years - but to me, I'm on the show for six months. If I'm on it beyond that, then I am blessed. I think it's dangerous to get too comfortable. So I leave my paintings and pictures at home."

The actor - who joined Another World just a few days shy of his 28th birthday - has good reason to be wary. His last soap experience wasn't exactly a joy ride. In August, 1990, Santa Barbara hired Gibbs to play Dash Nichols, a crusading environmentalist with a dark side. At first, the writers weren't sure how Dash would turn out. He might be a savior; he could be a snake. (That's how crazy things were at Santa Barbara.)

The plot heated up when legal eagle Julia Wainwright (Nancy Grahn) was date-raped, and Dash denied that the encounter had been violent. "I liked the fact that I didn't know if Dash was guilty or not," Gibbs says. "The show didn't know, and they didn't tell me. I had a feeling that I would ultimately be guilty of the crime, but I chose to play Dash as a man who honestly believed he could never rape Julia or anyone. The beauty of it was (watching him) finally realize his guilt."

Then came the not-so-beautiful part : Gibbs was let go after 18 months. Like many talented Santa Barbara actors, he simply fell into no-storyline limbo when NBC brought in a new regime (Executive Producer Paul Rauch and Head Writer Pam Long) as a last-ditch effort to save the low-rated soap. Gibbs calls Santa Barbara's cancellation "a tragedy", and blames it on front-office politics. Santa Barbara was like a huge, rudderless ship, he believes, filled with some of the top talent in the business, but constantly threatening to keel over. "I was there when Jill Farren Phelps was leaving (as executive producer)," he says. "John Conboy (her successor) brought me in, and then Paul Rauch was there. That is not the way to fix anything. There was never one consistent figure guiding the ship. It was always, "Who is going to be here next week ? Am I going to have my job ?""

Despite the political situation, leaving Santa Barbara was hard because Gibbs "had a great time working with everybody," especially Nancy Grahn and A Martinez (Cruz). Post- Santa Barbara, Gibbs reteamed with friend and producer John Conboy, who hired him to play Peggy Lipton's son in the Judith Krantz miniseries Secrets. "My character was an Interpol undercover officer with more problems than Dash and Gary put together," laughs Gibbs, who also played a cop opposite Amy Dolenz in the spooks-of-hazard fest, Witchboard II.

Aside from those projects, times were lean, and Gibbs was actually on an "extended visit" in Florida - working in brother Steve's landscaping business - when the Another World offer came through.

Gibbs has always been close to his family. Born in Burbank, California - the youngest child of airline pilot Ray Gibbs and his wife, Paula - Gibbs grew up right across the street from NBC. (He has four older siblings, none of whom are actors.) At age 11, he broke into TV commercials, thanks to his Pop Warner football coach - a local Knute Rockne with casting connections. (This was Burbank, after all.)

"I was terrible at football," Gibbs admits. "In fact, I spent a lot time on the bench. My coach knew that I was no good, but he thought that maybe I'd be good eating chocolate-chip cookies in a commercial. I thought I could be like Rodney Allen Rippy, the kid who became this West Coast superstar just for eating Jack In The Box hamburgers. I just fell into it. My parents had trepidations, but they let me do it."

At 13, Gibbs became a regular on Father Murphy, than played Chad Everett's son in The Rousters, Ted Danson's son in Just Between Friends and an orphan in Goldie and the Boxer Go to Hollywood. During his high-prole teen years, he spent more time learning scripts than algebra, and the setside tutors provided by the studios didn't help much. "One teacher who came in spent three weeks teaching us how to make a little figure of a priest from a washcloth, a coke bottle and framing wire," Gibbs laughs. No wonder his parents hired a private tutor to teach their son math and history on weekends.

But kid stardom did have one karmic fringe benefit : Gibbs actually met future girlfriend Kathy Shawber on the set of Father Murphy. "She was 11, and I was 14," he recalls. Shawber remembers it somewhat differently. "I was an extra, and he was a star," she says. "And I was a tomboy back then." Still, it was kismet. Years later, the duo ran into each other again at a club in the Valley - and this time they defied Murphy's law and connected. That was six-and-a-half years ago. At present, Shawber manages a restaurant in L.A. while pursuing acting roles, but the couple commute between coasts to see each other.

Meanwhile, Gibbs is busy scoping out Gary Sinclair - "a functioning alcoholic who's still in total denial" - and settling into his own New York rhythm. An Another World production assistant has already clued him into the three most important landmarks every actor needs : "a good market, a good gym and a great Chinese laundry." And who says you can't take the boy into Brooklyn ? In his spare time, Gibbs plans to check out the Botanical Gardens, historic Brooklyn Heights, maybe even the Russian enclave in Brighton Beach. Now, if he only had a camera, he might even start collecting a few snapshots for those walls.