MANY SIDED MAN

After a heart bypass, Kris Kristofferson is back writing, singing and making movies

I've been a lot of different people," Kris Kristofferson says offhandedly. Indeed, he's been a scholar, soldier, songwriter and actor. Now, more than anything, he's a contented family man living in Hawaii.

"I've got five kids still in school, so I get up and take them to school with my wife," says the 66-year-old father of eight, describing an average day. "Then we go run about four miles. And I've been writing."

Certainly, writing is what put Kris Kristofferson on the map. After time as a Rhodes Scholar and Army pilot, the native Texan arrived in Nashville in the late 1960s and found success composing hits like "Help Me Make It Through The Night," "For The Good Times" and "Sunday Morning Coming Down."

"When I went to Nashville, songwriters were known as 'bugs,' " he laughs. "They were the very bottom of the food chain."

Kris moved up that chain when he snared a record deal of his own, releasing a series of well-received albums beginning in 1970. He toured, sometimes relentlessly - and eventually made his way onto the silver screen, where he starred in such pictures as A Star Is Born, last year's Planet Of The Apes, the recent Blade II and Chelsea Walls.

"I've always liked movies," he says. "It also pays the bills - I don't think I would've broken even for the entire '80s if it weren't for film."

But Kris has endured - even after a May 1999 heart bypass. "I got, like, the Cadillac of bypass operations," he jokes. "Instead of using the veins in your legs, they use your arteries, and they're not supposed to break down as quick."

Kris is now more vigilant about his health than ever, especially making note of the loved ones who've died recently.

"It's not been a good year," he says. "[Beatle] George Harrison was a neighbor out here. My best friend of the last 30 years, Vernon White, died in October. And Waylon Jennings, of course. And it's only gonna get worse, because that's just life."

Maybe that's why Kris is making every moment count these days. Between movies and the occasional concert, he's experimenting with penning fiction and a possible autobiography - and though he hasn't released an album of new material since 1995, he continues to write songs.

"I just write when I have to," he says. "It's kind of the way my brain works. I'll be writing songs until they throw dirt on me, because that's the way I organize my experience."

-- Tom Roland

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