It's been almost a decade since Miles O'Keeffe swung loinclothed into international prominence as the hero of John Derek's critically lambasted "Tarzan, the Ape Man," which starred Bo Derek as Jane.
Today, O'Keeffe recalls the experience as one might an embarrassing high school yearbook photo. "When I look back on it, it all seems so silly," says the Tennessee native, now 36. "But it wasn't silly when I was a kid, it was a big deal."
Silenced by a contractual clause prior to the film's opening, O'Keeffe was excluded from MGM's "Tarzan" publicity campaign. "I was an idiot to have signed that (agreement)," says a disgruntled O'Keeffe. "Hell, even C.J. (his orangutan co-star) got to go on the publicity tour!"
O'Keeffe headed for Europe in 1982, flexing his muscles in a string of action films, including two gladiator movies, "Ator, the Fighting Eagle" and "Ator, the Invincible." A slew of forgettable titles ("Iron Warrior," "The Hard Way") followed.
There were some respectable notices for his brooding loan shark in "Campus Man," a 1987 comedy with Morgan Fairchild, his favorite role. In "Waxwork" (1988), he played a "suave Dracula--threatening but sexy," and in "The Drifter" (1988), a seemingly dangerous hitchhiker.
This year, he can be seen in two low-budget thrillers made overseas: "Liberty and Bash," with Lou Ferrigno, and "Cartel," both released theatrically abroad but moving straight to video shelves here. He's just signed to co-star with Christopher Atkins in "King's Ransom," as a gem smuggler.
O'Keeffe would like to work with such "heavy-duty stylists" as directors Michael Mann and George Miller ("Mad Max"). But he knows that his B-movie reputation continues to be an obstacle.
Still, O'Keeffe prides himself on enjoying steady employment. "I'm not making any $50 million movies," he says, "but I'm still in the game."