Wednesday, October 20, 1982
Written by Alan Greenberg
QUOTE: "DRYER IS KICKING HEADS AND HAVING FUN
In "Force Seven," an NBC pilot, he played a one-eyed martial-arts expert.
"We infiltrated subversives without using guns and stuff," he recalled.
"We kicked people's brains in, literally. It was kind of fun."
And doesn't it somehow gladden your heart to know that Fred Dryer is still
having fun? Still slipping through enemy lines and stomping the stuffing
out of the bad guys? Somehow, it wouldn't be right if Dryer had retired
from the Los Angeles Rams and got stuck selling real estate or stock options.
Too serious. As an actor, he can remain a blithe spirit, plunging himself
(and us, vicariously) into a world of make-believe.
Or can he? "I'm centered into something, without bringing any bull to it,"
Dryer said. "You can't be a dilettante. You realize it's a sunny day outside
and all your friends are at the beach, but you're in a class studying acting,
so get on with it."
Dryer's been working at his new craft since 1981. Studying under Nina Foch,
reading scripts, interviewing, auditioning at the networks, and anticipating
the phone messages left on his answering service like a kid does Christmas
"There could be a message for me for a job that could change my life," Dryer
said. Messages or no. Dryer, 36, already has gone through some pleasant changes.
One is that he says he can give more of himself in relationships now that he's
just Fred Dryer, instead of Fred Dryer, Rams defensive end. In short, he's
finding out that Father Murphy was right all along. "Merlin Olsen
always told me, You won't grow up until you're out of football,'" Dryer recalled.
"Football was a very emotional business. A lot of times, you were on the verge
of tears. The emotional roller coaster was so great... I didn't hide behind
playing football, but I lost myself in it... That's why I was good. I gave it
all my waking thoughts. But I needed something else in my life."
But when the Rams waived him at the start of last season - Dryer's suing the
team for $5 million for breach of contract - Dryer thought the something else
might be sports announcing. Until a guy at NBC asked him if he's ever considered
He had. In high school. "I wanted to take drama when I was in high school
but the athletic peer pressure was too great," Dryer said. "It was too feminine
to consider and too threatening to the people I ran with."
Now, it seemed a natural. And even though Dryer says, "I run into a lot of
people who don't know me from Adam's house cat," he admits his being an ex-Ram
has opened some sound stage doors.
But he doesn't want to walk through all of them. Some day. Dryer wants to be
big on the boulevard. He'll take the side streets for now, but he wants to
avoid short cuts, which, however lucrative, could lead to a career dead end.
"It's up to me to develop myself," Dryer said. "I've been very choosy.
I do that purposely. I don't want to be doing things just to be doing them.
I'm trying to shape a career." He's mostly done pilots and TV movies. In
"Starmaker," Dryer played "a sleazy jerk" who got beat up by Rock Hudson outside
a mansion. Hudson broke a knuckle when he accidentally punched the camera. Dryer
got $7500 for 10 days work.
Dryer plays a sportscaster in "Cheers," a fall replacement. But the role he's
proudest of airs Nov. 30 on CBS during Sweeps Week: "Something So Right." Dryer
plays a father on the lam from his wife (Patty Duke Astin) and troublemaking son
(Ricky Schroeder) who belatedly returns to vie for his son's affections after
another father figure (James Farentino) has come on the scene.
"It's so real life," Dryer says, briefly at a loss for words. "It's like Kramer
Is he a good actor?
"Yeah . . . But it's all very subjective. The question is: Do you believe that
guy? I think the things I've done are believable." Strait-laced football people
weren't always so sure. Recall Dryer living in his battered, white Volkswagen van.
Dryer showing up once in the Super Bowl dressing rooms dressed like a 1920s
reporter. Dryer entering the Rams mess hall carrying his own personal giant
dog dish, loading it up with natural foods, and leaving. In some ways, he was
ahead of his time. While Dryer admits that "when I was 21, 22, 23, I was on
Pluto," he is miffed that anyone might still consider him spacey. Are not his
hard, muscular body and successful careers in football and acting testimony to
"Physically, of course, it (acting) is not as demanding," Dryer said.
"But mentally, the preparation is just as keen, if not keener ... I got all
that Conan the Barbarian stuff out when I was playing. Football was such a catharsis.
I used my problems to motivate me. Now, I'm going into self-analysis. You use
your life experience acting.
"The interesting thing ... is you can be working with Clint Eastwood one week and
Paul Newman the next. In football, you might be playing against an O.J. Simpson
or a Walter Payton, but in sports, there's a constant influx of younger people.
As the years go by, you have less in common with them except that you're on the
same football team." As he spoke, Dryer ate cantaloupe at a local restaurant.
He's 6-6, 220 pounds, about 10 under his playing weight. He
wore a sweater and jeans, and on his left pinky, a beautiful 14-carat gold likeness
of a Rams head. It was never an official Rams ring or anything like that, just
something a lot of the veterans wore.
What does Dryer think of when he looks at it? "Sitting in front of my locker at
Blair Field, talking to my friends (teammates)," he says with a trace of sadness.
"Most of the old Rams had these rings. It was synonymous with a top-notch group of
people." Now, only a few of Dryer's "friends" remain. "I turn on the games, and I
see my friends, see who's doing what," Dryer said. "Then, I turn it off. I
appreciate the state of the art." But now the art is in abeyance because of
the strike. And Dryer, who has little respect for union leader Ed Garvey's savvy,
has even less for players who favor a pay scale primarily based on seniority.
"The athletes who can't bargain for themselves, unfortunately, are victims of
their own incompetence," Dryer said. "That's a terribly weak thing for them to
be doing. I'm not an assembler at Ford Motor Company who should get what all the
guys get after 12 years ... If a player can't bargain for himself, that's his problem."
Now that he's made the transition to acting, Dryer realizes how lucky he is.
"Very few people find one thing in life they really like to do," he said. "I did.
Now, to find something else ... is very fulfilling." And so's having time to reflect.
Dryer says he never really appreciated his football accomplishments, but time, and
kind words from fans, has sharpened his
"It was so flattering," Dryer said about a recent encounter with an effusive older
fan. "It made me feel so good. I guess I entertained people the same way
Sophisticated Ladies entertained me... It's a good feeling to impart part of you
into somebody and have it affect a life ... That's what life
is all about."
(End of quote)