Day TV. August, 1976
By Brenda Marshall
Richard Dean Anderson has been everywhere and done everything -
but never a soap opera - until now!
Tall, dark-eyed Richard Dean Anderson had long hair and a moustache when he auditioned for the role of Dr. Jeff Webber in ABC-TV's "General Hospital," and didn't even know it was a soap opera.
Afterwards, he traveled up the coast and was working on a farm when his agent called to tell him he had the role.
A night person, and a transient at heart, Rick admits he's "26, going on 19," and decided to become an actor so he could "be a cowboy or a spy, all kinds of fantasies."
As a teenager, he planned to become a professional ice-hockey player, until he broke both arms. He hitchhiked around the country, and spent his summers in Haight Ashbury during the height of its fame.
Being a regular now on "General Hospital" has affected the handsome young bachelor's social life, yet he doesn't mind getting up at 5 a.m. and spending every day at the studios.
"There have been stretches in my life when I haven't done a thing," he explained, when we talked one lunch time in a restaurant close to where the series is filmed.
"I was lazy, I guess, and not really aggressive enough to get something generated. So I like the discipline of my work now, and the energy I have to come up with to do it. I go crazy if I'm not working.
"Also, I was having second thoughts about Hollywood and the whole scene, and was going to give it one more chance to discover me - when this happened," he grinned.
"DAY TV" was the first magazine to interview the shy, softly-spoken actor, who still can't believe he's recognized by TV viewers. "That's an aspect of this whole thing I have to get used to, because I've no idea what it's all about."
The oldest of four brothers, Rick was born in the small suburb of Roseville in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His father taught humanities, speech and English in high school by day, while performing as a jazz musician at night.
"We all grew up with jazz around us; I mean, there was music playing constantly. Only one of my brothers, Jeff, really pursued it with any serious intent, and now has his own band in Minneapolis. I just dabble - play the guitar a little bit - simple stuff," he added, modestly.
He likes the role of Dr. Jeff
Webber on "General Hospital"
but when he auditioned he
didn't even know it was a
daytime drama. His pal, Mike
McNeilly thinks Rick's a good
actor and this is a great job.
Asked about his home life as a child, Rick joked: "I don't know. I kept leaving. Around 14, I started traveling all around the country."
At 15, he had visions of becoming a professional hockey player. "But I broke my arm, played with my left arm in a cast and broke my right arm. They put me in hospital for two months.
"I didn't go back on skates. But, you see, I was a jock all my life - an athletic freak. So, after that, when I found my body going to pieces, I took up swimming at school the next year. They didn't have a diver, so I told them I'd try. I landed on the diving board and had to have stitches in my head."
Acting had always appealed to him, and he began thinking about it as a career. "I was wondering what I was going to do, and figured acting would allow me to do everything."
At 17, he undertook one of the happiest adventures of his life when he and two friends traveled for three months on 10-speed bicycles, covering around 6,000 miles.
"Camping out, being out in the wilds, just being quiet constantly, had a pacifying effect on my life," he recalled. "It was kind of a re-birth for me. Until then, I'd get into fights, and stuff like that. This experience just made me easier to get along with."
The following summer, he "hopped a freight to California," ending up in San Francisco. "I guess this was at the high point of the Haight Ashbury era, so I was wide-eyed, running around, and sleeping on the beaches.
"But I didn't get really involved at that time. I was just too young and na´ve to know what was really going on, with the drugs and all that. So I just kind of backed off a little bit, wired home for some money, and flew back to Minneapolis.
"But the following summer, I returned to San Francisco. I was more affluent this time, flew out there, stayed the whole summer and got into the whole scene - not intricately involved, just kind of fringed it."
When he got back to Minneapolis, Rick began caretaking a mansion house. "But I started going stir crazy. I'm basically a transient. So I had to get out of there. Also it was winter, and winter in Minnesota can be devastating.
"So I called some friends who, at that time, were at Ohio University, and they said to come down and look at the school to see if I liked it. So I flew there the next morning."
Rick spent the next three-and-a-half years at Ohio University, majoring in theatre arts. "The second year I auditioned and was accepted in The Professional Actor and Training Studio - a two year program. Only 15 are chosen, and luckily I was one of them.
"Then, one quarter away from graduating from Ohio in acting, I came out to California on Christmas vacation and auditioned for 'Superman in the Bones' at the Mark Taper Forum. I got cast in it at the Pilgrimage Theatre, which is like the Forum's experimental theatre. It was my first professional job, and I stayed out here. That was five years ago."
Motorcycling is his favorite
sport but he's been an athletic
freak all his life... likes them all.
Actually, Rick sort of wanted
to play a cowboy or a spy but
he's enjoying his new role!
Can you imagine how many
cups that pot makes?
His dad's a jazz musician but
Rick says he just dabbles a
little with the guitar.
The house has an acre of land
and is in the country.
His first home in Los Angeles was with a distant uncle. "I stayed in their backyard, in a little shack, which was supposed to be a guest room.
"Then a friend I had met in Ohio, who was out here as well, called me and we got an apartment together in Studio City: a shoebox was what it was, in one of those complex things - very ugly.
"We were there about a year - a year too long, and now live in South Pasadena."
Between acting jobs, Rick sold curtains at the Broadway department store. "But I did move up very quickly to men's shoes, however," he grinned.
After that he worked in a restaurant. "Then I didn't do anything for about a year - just traveled up and down the coast, hitchhiked, went to the beach a lot, and drew unemployment."
For six months, he worked as stage manager for a theatre company. "I played the drums for them, too, drove the band, set up the set, and all that."
His next job was at Marineland. "Twentieth Century Fox was in the process of buying it, and were integrating some actors into the animal shows. I was the announcer for the Great American High Diving Team for a while. I also wrote some scripts, which they liked. I was down there just last week, and they were still using them."
After nine months at Marineland, Rich took a vacation and, during this period, auditioned for "General Hospital."
"I had long hair and a moustache, then. After the producer told me the story line, I said - 'Gee, this sounds like a soap opera' - and he did one of the most incredible double-takes I've ever seen. But anyway, he called me back and screen-tested me.
"Then I left. I split. I cut off all my hair and went up the coast, hitchhiked, worked on a farm, and then my agent called to tell me to get right back because I had the job. And I said - 'What job?' But I came back."
Rick recalled: "The first day on the set was just disaster. I was shaking and so nervous I had everybody else nervous, too. But, after that first day, it started getting easier, as they said it would."
As for he character of Dr. Jeff Webber: "He's an honest guy: not as shy right now, as I'm making him. That's because I'm still nervous."
But Rick has signed a three-year contract, and he's grateful to "General Hospital" for the opportunity.
All of Rick's family, aside from one brother, are now on the west coast. His parents divorced three years ago. His father retired from teaching, and is now playing jazz in San Diego. His mother works for a travel agency and lives in Huntington Beach.
"Yes," he admitted, "The divorce was upsetting for me. But it was the best thing that could have happened to my father. I gave him the freedom to do things he really wanted to do - like concentrate on his music.
"My mother suffered a little bit because of it. She's more gregarious than my father, and loves to socialize. I get postcards from her from all over the world, because she gets discount tickets from the travel agency.
"I'm a night person and I think I get that from my father. When he played at night, his hours were ridiculous. He'd get back at two or three in the morning, and if anyone's up at night, I'm up in a flash. I get more done at night. I don't know why that is.
"Now I have to get up at 5 a.m., and I go to the studio about half-an-hour early so I can play some pool. We start work at seven."
Although he's a night person,
he likes working even if it
means getting up at 5 a.m.
His nervousness is wearing off
now, he says with relief.
He's always active, into some-
thing. He says he doesn't see
himself marrying yet. He's just
learning to take care of himself.
The house overlooks snow
capped mountains and there
are avocado trees and lemon
trees and room for horses,
if they had any.
The reason he uses his full name is because there's already a Richard Anderson listed with Screen Actors Guild. "Some of my friends know me as Rick, some as Dean, so I use both names. I prefer Rick."
His career ambitions? "I'd like to do a bunch of movies - good movies. I want to be a cowboy someday. I want to be a spy, I want to get beat-up and shot at and stuff like that."
Rick is 6'2", with light brown hair, and weighs 176 lbs. "I used to weigh 155 lbs., and was skinny as a rail," he recalled. "But my acting coach at Ohio University said I should try and gain some weight to get some mass on stage - some presence.
"So that summer, while in summer stock, I'd eat half a dozen donuts and a loaf of bread for lunch. But that just gave me a big stomach and left the rest of me skinny all over." Now he doesn't worry about his weight, and eats more sensibly.
With his room-mate, actor Mike McNeilly, Rick lives in a house in South Pasadena, overlooking the San Gabriel Valley and with a view of the snow-tipped mountains.
"It's an old house, like an old wood shack, but the nice thing about it is the acre of land, with avocado trees, lemon trees and so on, and a corral for horses - if we had any. But we're going to have to move soon, because the property's been sold."
There's no special girlfriend in his life right now. "There have been, but they've all gone their ways and I'm continuing on mine," he smiled.
What kind of girls does he prefer? "Intelligent, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, reverent - any or all of the above," he joked. Then, more seriously, he admitted his tastes vary. "Older women are attractive to me because of their maturity, younger women for their innocence."
If they participate in the same sports, he's pleased. "But I don't hold it against them if they can't. It just limits what we can do together, because I like doing many things.
"I enjoy quiet dates in restaurants, or creating dinners at my house. I'm not one for night life, dancing, or anything like that. I prefer quiet, intimate evenings."
But the bachelor isn't looking for a wife. "I don't foresee it. I kind of have a hard enough time taking care of myself, much less someone else. I couldn't do that. My father says I should keep them all happy," he grinned.
Marshall, Brenda. "This Bachelor Likes Girls... But Not For Keeps." Day TV. August, 1976: p. 24-25 +60.