Wednesday, October 20, 1982

Written by Alan Greenberg


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

vs. 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

his dedication?

"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)