By Kitty Kat
Bear, the Star of the NBC Comedy “Empty Nest,” Speaks Candidly for the First Time About Life on the Set of a Hit Series
For the past 28 years (that’s four human years), Bear has starred in the hit NBC series “Empty Nest,” from Witt-Thomas-Harris Productions in association with Touchstone Television, portraying “Dreyfuss,” the Weston family’s lovable yet inquisitive canine. Now, for the first time ever, Dreyfuss speaks candidly about life in front of and behind the cameras of “Empty Nest.”
“Somehow I always knew I would follow in my father, Boomer’s, paw prints,” muses Bear. Born into a family of performers, Bear was the pup of a struggling St. Bernard and Golden Retriever mix. Just last season, the Hollywood hound sported not one but two covers of TV Guide and has now performed in nearly 100 episodes, securing world-renowned veteran status among such well-known celebrity canines as Lassie, Benji and Rin Tin Tin.
To what does he owe his success? “Never let ‘em see you fetch,” says Bear. “The real secret of working with a trainer is to let him think he’s doing all the work. My trainer and I have an understanding. I reward him by following his commands.”
For four seasons, Bear lived and worked with trainer Joel Silverman. “Working with Joel was an incredibly rewarding experience. He was more than a master, he was a best friend and I miss him dearly.”
This season, Bear will be breaking in a new trainer, Mark Forbes, who, like Silverman, worked with the renowned animal trainer/handler Ray Berwick, trainer to numerous television stars, including Boomer.
“A typical day in my life is no so different from my human colleagues on the show. Our long day starts at 10:00 AM sharp. Sometimes, I get a chance to play between takes or retreat to my kennel area for a cat nap, no pun intended, Kitty.”
I asked Bear how his life has been altered by celebrity status. He replied, “To some, entertainment is a dog-eat-dog business, but I was fortunate enough to go straight from the dog house to the penthouse, rising to international fame almost over night. The only down side is that I am constantly besieged by fans for souvenir paw prints. I haven’t gotten the ink off my paws in two years.”
When called out of town for various acting forays, Bear travels in comfort, always flying first class and staying at some of the finest hotels in the world. “I love to travel but when we stay in big cities, I can never leave the hotel without some sort of disguise, usually dark sunglasses and a floppy hat. And that hotel food always tastes like it came out of a can!”
I asked Bear what he felt was the hardest thing about acting on a hit series. “I love the interaction with a live audience and when there’s time, I enjoy meeting some of my fans after the show. In comedy, however, there’s always a lot of pressure to be ‘on.’ Some days I feel ‘melon-collie.’ I just want to roll over and play dead.”
When asked to reveal something most people don’t know about him, Bear responded, “I’m a huge fan of country music and last season, I had the opportunity to howl with one of country’s living legends, Garth Brooks.” Make no bones about it, Bear has worked with some of the best in the business.
On the topic of romance, Bear remains evasive. “The press has really hounded me for the scoop on my personal life. I have received a few proposals and have a couple of litters of pups running round out there, but I’m hardly ready to settle down to a family life.”
So, the life of a celebrity canine proves to be just as busy as many humans and just a little more active than most canines. Bear let out a wistful growl as he reminisced about his puppyhood. “I’ve been really lucky, but sometimes I miss the old days when all I had to do was sit, roll over and fetch the occasional newspaper. Deep down, I’m just like any other dog. I still enjoy life’s simple pleasures.”
Part of the show’s fifth season press kit, released August 1992.