Soap Opera Digest. July, 1977
By Debra Nencel
An interview with General Hospital's Richard Dean Anderson
Dust kicks up behind his motorcycle as he roars down the highway at the breakneck speed of 90 miles per hour. He arrives very quickly at his destination, the quiet shores of the Pacific, and after parking his cycle and donning his wet suit, he plunges into the ocean's tranquil, dark blue waters. He lets the solitude drift around and caress him as he swims downstream in the hunt for his dinner. He emerges victorious and returning to his motorcycle, heads home to prepare a gourmet meal from his catch. It's just another average (ho-hum) day in the off-camera life of Richard Dean Anderson - a man who knows what it's like to give his all to life. Whether on land, sea, or air Rick can often be found challenging the fates.
It's now probably very obvious that I think Richard is a very spirited individual... but what else can be said about this luscious hunk of manhood. Where is Rick coming from? Where is he going? What makes him the sort of person who doesn't just live life... but really live live it! - testing the fates time and time and time again, and each time emerging the winner? I questioned Rick about his many athletic pursuits and his answers revealed a lot about the man. Read on and let SOD take you traveling into the private thoughts and dreams of Richard Dean Anderson.
Rick admitted right from the start that acting has only recently become a career goal. He was a jock most of his life and what he really wanted to be was a professional hockey player... but severe injuries suffered on the ice quickly put an end to this dream.
"I was playing in a cast, having broken my left arm in a freak accident three weeks earlier, and then I found myself tripping again and I broke my right arm. It snapped off at the elbow... it was dangling backwards. It took a four hour operation to put me back together, and after that I stopped playing the game. Sometimes I regret it though. Hockey is my sport. I just love and miss it and I'm sure I could have been playing professionally right now."
A big break may have literally brought him to acting... but has he now forsaken all other sports activities? No Way! The "jock" is still very much alive and kicking (running, jumping) in Rick Anderson. He spends most of his off-camera hours involved in practically most every type of athletic endeavor. I quizzed Rick about one of his interests: motorcycles.
"I gained my respect very early for motorcycles. I first got on one when I was a kid. It was my brother's. I broke it in half one day while riding up a hill. It was after this crash that I really knew I loved motorcycles.
I bought my first bike when I was 17 and I didn't get another one until I came on General Hospital - and I bought that one partially because I just wanted a motorcycle again. I travel to and from the studio on a bike. I find it makes marvelous transportation."
Paul Newman races his cars professionally, does Rick do the same with his bikes? "Not professionally... nothing organized... just light amateur stuff. I'm not a racer."
I asked Rick to describe the feeling he gets from bike riding. He took a while to get his thoughts together and then responded, "It's very hard to describe. You can't imagine what it's like to go very fast across a desert... that exhilaration you get from having a throttle in your hand and 250 cc's of vibrating metal between your legs... you're in control of your life!"
I sensed that this added bit of danger was the extra something that made the sport exhilarating to him. I asked Rick if I was correct. "Oh yeah... I really get excited by it. Sometimes I get very bored when there's nothing happening... no action... I like things to happen... I then get very aggressive and try to make things happen, like making a race of freeway driving; accelerating to 90 and weaving in-and-out between the cars."
This constant testing of himself is a great driving force in Rick, but he wouldn't do it if he didn't have the confidence. "I'm so sure of myself when it comes to motorcycles and physical activities... I feel I am in total control... I feel I can get myself out of most any situation."
What kind of bikes does he have? "I have one street bike (a Honda 550) and three desert (dirt) bikes.
Well from land to sea, I next asked Rick about scuba diving. What first inspired him to take that plunge downward into the waters of the Pacific? "Food! I was working at Marine Land and all these guys who also worked there would be going out on boats and coming back with lobster and scallops. They'd then cook and eat their catch... and I'd just about go crazy. I figured I'd better get down under there... so I went out and got certified."
Rick's favorite time to scuba dive is at night. He can often be found diving off the rocks of a secluded bay on Catalina Island. "I go out on the ocean side in the caves and stuff. Night diving in the caves is spectacular! If you ever wanted to swallow your stomach many times; just do that!"
Have I left an element uncovered? You betcha: air. Has Rick any intention of going sky diving?
"I'm on the verge of doing it right now. They have a place here in California where you go down and they train you for the day. I'm anxious to get the basics over with so I can start doing free falls."
Being such a free and loose person, Rick had a hard time adapting to the rigorous demands of working on a daytime drama.
"It's kind of a high pressure job and I just wasn't used to that kind of steady concentration... discipline. It kind of resorts back to the demands I place on myself - of wanting to be able to accomplish things right away. It also put a bit of a crimp in my style. People didn't like it when I did things around the set like singing at the top of my lungs or shouting out my John Wayne impersonation."
But things do change. It's been a year and Rick is now finally beginning to enjoy working on a soap - and he says he owes it all to General Hospital's producer, Tom Donovan. "He's been almost like a father in helping me get through the first year. He's given me a couple of kicks in the pants and that has helped me out a lot... so now I'm starting to like - even enjoy - my job. I'm starting to have fun with it and I'm very happy about that."
What about his character? What does this outspoken actor really think about Jeff Webber? "He's really dumb... just an out-and-out a--!" Alluding to Jeff's love for Monica, Rick further stated, "Who could be that blind? I don't know if that kind of love exists in any one human being." Rick then commented, "It sometimes gets very frustrating playing such a blind sap. Since I'm so different from Jeff, I'm finding it very hard to get a grip on the character."
This being his first soap role, what really amazed Rick is the way viewers care about their soap stars. "It's wonderful... last week I received 105 letters... the only thing I regret is not being able to respond to each letter personally. I'd like to be able to do that."
Rick also enjoys meeting his fans in person. "I like that kind of contact... there's nothing heavy about it... the people are very friendly. It's a nice feeling to be recognized.
"The only time I think I would begin to dislike this sort of attention is if it got to a scale that I couldn't handle it - mob scenes and all that! But I don't expect that to happen. I don't think I'll get that big."
Well if that were to happen, I sense Rick would begin to consider his fame an annoyance. He greatly relishes his privacy, he wouldn't take too kindly to it being intruded upon. For though he loves people, he still considers himself his own best companion.
"I like to be alone a lot. I don't want to sound like Garbo, but I do live in a secluded area of South Pasadena. I have to have privacy when I need it - even in a relationship with a woman."
Do the women he dates understand this need? "It gets understood or else the relationship won't last. I have to have this freedom... I understand it in other people."
Well, speaking of women... is there a special one in his life?
Rick responded in the positive ("there is a lady I am seeing fairly steadily") but quickly pointed out it's not a permanent commitment ("I am still dating other women.")
It may sound like Rick is a bit of a lady killer, but he doesn't think of himself that way. "I'm very sensitive to people's needs. I hate hurting people. I don't get deeply involved if I'm not sure it's going to click.
During my lengthy conversation with Rick, I became aware of a certain innocence and Peter Pan charm to his nature. I found these traits quite appealing and I asked Rick how he managed to keep the child in him alive.
"I just resist growing up in the traditional sense. I'm just having too much fun to let things get to me. When I see people who have grown up chronologically... it doesn't look comfortable. I'd much rather be laid back... I just like to play."
Well, play he does! His zest for living infiltrates every corner of his life. It was a joy talking to such an outgoing - not to mention, outspoken - young man. I wish him all the best for the future - and it shouldn't be difficult for him to achieve all the beautiful things life has to offer. Once he gets himself totally together, I feel, the world will be no match for Richard Dean Anderson!
Nencel, Debra. "I Like Things To Happen!." Soap Opera Digest. July, 1977: p. 62-.