Daytime Stars. July, 1979
Why He's Climbing Into Fans' Hearts
There is a magnetism about Richard Dean Anderson that goes beyond his good looks.
After all, there are a lot of foxy-looking men in Hollywood, but there's something dynamic about General Hospital's Jeff Webber. Superficially, it's hard to pinpoint just what has led to his climb into fans' hearts.
Granted, there's something special about the way he saunters across a room and the way he brushes his hand through his thick wavy hair. The way his upper lip tends to curl when he grins is also a turn-on to his many feminine admirers.
Yet, in the three years since he joined the serial, there's been more to his growing popularity than just his physical appeal. He's the kind of dude who draws a glimpse from women who have never seen the soap opera when he visits the corner market or the neighborhood dry cleaners.
Visiting with the actor in the privacy of his dressing room, this extra ingredient surfaces ever so slowly. It comes in the comments he offers and the attitudes he projects about himself and his life, and while both may be tinted with complexities, they characterize what has made him one of daytime TV's sexiest stars.
Typically, it's a busy day for Rick. Predictably, as his popularity has climbed, so has his importance in each week's scripts, not to mention his own attitude towards his career.
"Things have changed a little bit," he offers. "I guess it was inevitable even though I wasn't ready to admit to it or go with the natural learning process of the business. I was kind of withdrawn from any kind of grandiose social exposure, a little more laid back and reclusive than your normal everyday Hollywood actor, and I've never wanted to be touted as that and I'm still kind of rebelling.
"I don't live in Hollywood and I don't want to live in Hollywood. I want my country seclusion and the new contract is affording me to do that so I am a little more at peace in my head now that that aspect has been taken care of.
"But I'm not about to become a part of the Hollywood scene because of that security," he adds. "I've seen it and I don't like a lot of the aspects of it. I could survive in it easily. I know how to, but I'm not comfortable with it, so I haven't -- and I won't. I do what is most comfortable for me."
Such an approach has landed him a reputation as the kind of guy who'll show up for a TV talk show in jeans and boots, if he agrees to do it at all. That aloofness is definitely a part of his charm, even though it's not something he's worked to attain.
"That has always been a little ambiguous and elusive to me because I never consciously went out to create an image," he offers honestly. "It has been hard for people to peg me and that hasn't been a conscious effort on my part. It's the way I act and react.
"I fluctuate a lot," he continues. "I have ebbs and flows. I am very moody. The difference with me is that I am conscious of it and I choose not to change it, to go with what is inside. That gets in the way sometimes when someone wants a certain something out of you, but basically, I live off the wall -- my personality comes off the wall a lot.
"Now if I feel that I am entering a low, becoming cynical, or if I feel the potential to hurt somebody in what I say or how I react, I'll quell that impulse.
"That is one thing that I have learned through the years. Even though I am very spontaneous with what I do and say, I now have the insight to know that people can be hurt. I am not afraid of hurting people but I know what it feels like to be offended so I will pull back verbally.
"But at the same time, being one who lives off his impulses, maybe that's why I like living as I do, alone. I mean, last November I bought this little cabin-like house in the Topanga Canyon section of Los Angeles. That's just above Malibu in the mountains, and that's where my life is happiest.
"I have two Australian Shepherds and when I leave here I get home, climb out of my truck and my dogs are in my lap and I'm inundated with love. I've always strived to be away from any kind of a mass that does not afford intelligent exchanges and ideas.
"Now I can get drunk with the best of groups and blow it out," he exclaims with a laugh, "but I have always had my reserve and I've liked to be a little away from the whole thing, knowing full well that when I am going to leave a group, I'm going to be definitely alone.
"But see, I'm my best entertainer. I take care of myself psychologically. I get a little screwy once in a while, hold intelligent conversations with Whisky and Zuma -- my dogs -- but for the most part, there has been a lot of profound silence up in Topanga Canyon."
Rick grins, yet his expression exemplifies just how much he enjoys his secluded lifestyle, for while he spends a great deal of time alone, he is not lonely.
"It's hard to sustain a relationship with a lady because few women are willing to accept how I prefer to live," he confides. "I haven't had a relationship with a lady that's sustained itself for more than eight months. Now that has a lot to do with my own emotional insecurities, but it also has a lot to do with the fact that I like to be alone more than I like being with people.
"If a lady does not understand that, well, it's not a personal thing I direct towards her, it's just me. Obviously, it comes off as a selfish attitude on my part and if I have a vice or a great fault, it is that.
"I am not into one-night stands, but my life has never been one filled with a lot of compromising either. I mean, we all do compromise, but I covet how I live too much to drastically alter my lifestyle for the sake of a relationship.
"Now that has gotten very strange and hard for me to deal with at times because I am a very sexual animal. I love it -- the activity and what happens emotionally -- it is all very exciting to me. But if things start rolling with any consistency, the emotional involvement that I keep getting into through sex starts to make me think that maybe I'm getting a little too comfortable.
"If I get too close to being happy, I know something is wrong because I get uncomfortable," he offers. "It is something that I am conscious of, so that compounds the problem, and intellectually I can look at it and be somewhat objective about it, and yet I am the one who is involved.
"I always feel that if I initiate something like that, and say I spend more time with one girl than anyone else, I can almost project and see what my pattern has been in the past and know that I'm going to be very unfair to the lady because eventually I'm going to leave."
It's an honest admittance and it shows clearly Rick's life-long characteristic of restlessness.
"I'm constantly restless. I get to be my own psychiatrist. I can usually give myself good advice, but it's the following up on it that I have a hard time doing. Again, it's perhaps because of my moodiness.
"I've never really been able to define happiness, but it varies so much in my life. It goes on a bell curve, it constantly ebbs and flows, depending on how I react to any particular situation or set of circumstances. Perhaps I'd be happier if I wasn't so restless, or perhaps I'd not be restless if I was happier. I don't know.
"I do know that I don't try to think about it too much because it can really make me screwy. And for the most part, I'm happy. I don't have to justify my life to myself because I know it's me; it's how I prefer to live."
It's a big part of what makes Rick attractive to his admirers. Maybe he does step to the beat of a different drummer, and as he says, live his life as it comes -- off the wall -- but that difference sets him apart and makes him desirable. That detachment has found its way into his role and into the hearts of a lot of fans.
"Sex Symbol Richard Anderson." Daytime Stars. July, 1979: p. 10-.