Bruce Dern in Long Distance Log.


Forum devoted to track & field items of an historical nature.

Bruce Dern in Long Distance Log.

Postby Conor Dary » Sun Oct 21, 2012 11:21 am

While reading the old Long Distance Log in the Feb. 1957 issue I came upon a humorous story about Bruce Dern getting kicked off the Penn track team by Ken Doherty because he wouldn't cut his hair.

'Coach Doherty said Dern's Elvis Presley-like haircut was distracting. Bruce had the bobby-soxers rollin' and screaming "Go, Elvis, Go" in his two indoor races as a member of the Red and Blue's two-mile relay team. But his appearance rocked the sedate Dr. Doherty, and he lowered the boom!....'

A rebel and a star even then.

http://www.rrcahistory.org/longdistance ... 1950s.html
Conor Dary
 
Posts: 6297
Joined: Sat Oct 08, 2005 4:32 am
Location: कनोर दारी in Ronald MacDonald's Home Town, and once a Duck always a Duck.

Re: Bruce Dern in Long Distance Log.

Postby Halfmiler2 » Tue Oct 23, 2012 6:47 am

Having run for Penn a generation after Bruce Dern, we were aware of his being a former Penn athlete but not this anecdote. I'd guess that the suspension was short-lived and he returned to the team. Perhaps, it gave him the impetus to later do "On The Edge."
Halfmiler2
 
Posts: 1638
Joined: Sat Oct 08, 2005 4:32 am

Re: Bruce Dern in Long Distance Log.

Postby Conor Dary » Tue Oct 23, 2012 7:37 am

Yes, thinking about the movie again, with this anecdote in mind, you can imagine he was just aching to do it.
Conor Dary
 
Posts: 6297
Joined: Sat Oct 08, 2005 4:32 am
Location: कनोर दारी in Ronald MacDonald's Home Town, and once a Duck always a Duck.

Re: Bruce Dern in Long Distance Log.

Postby dj » Tue Oct 23, 2012 9:00 am

The suspension turned permanent, but it was much more complex than the NY Times made it out to be in early February of 1957, Dern's junior year. Doherty mentioned the sideburns (hair length wasn't an issue) as one thing of about 30. But the key was that Dern was split in his extra-curricular commitments between track and acting.

At the same time he was going to school, Dern was also attending classes at Philadelphia's American Foundation of Dramatic Art and had already appeared off-Broadway in "East of Eden." Within the year, he dropped out of Penn to study acting full time at the Actors' Studio in New York, and in 1958 was receiving strong reviews on Broadway.

It's important to spell out what may appear to be a minor distinction; Dern wasn't really kicked off, he resigned after being given an ultimatum. Minor, yes, but still important for the fuller view of what happened.

My sense from talking with Doherty about this was he was trying to get Dern to make some real choices and thought a hard-assed approach would help him see options with greater clarity. To some degree that may have been revisionist history on Ken's part as this was a conversation from about 20 years later. On the other hand, by the time I knew Doherty well I had longer hair and sideburns (that touched!) than Dern ever had, and I never sensed that this had any effect on our friendship.

Doherty was very much a cold warrior, set in his views of the world, particularly his thoughts on the glory of amateurism. At the same time that he thought track at its best was an amateur sport, he meant that in the sense of it being a recreation and pastime. But he maintained a love of dedication to a goal and a passion for the effort required to achieve that goal. In that sense, he was all for that aspect of professionalism as much as anyone.

I think what Doherty was trying to get out of Dern was a full commitment to something. Regardless of whether it was track or acting, Doherty was trying to get Dern to commit to making one of them a passion instead of being half-hearted about both.
dj
 
Posts: 6199
Joined: Sat Oct 08, 2005 4:31 am

Re: Bruce Dern in Long Distance Log.

Postby Conor Dary » Tue Oct 23, 2012 3:57 pm

Obviously made the right decision. And he kept up his running, even doing a 50 miler in 1969.
Conor Dary
 
Posts: 6297
Joined: Sat Oct 08, 2005 4:32 am
Location: कनोर दारी in Ronald MacDonald's Home Town, and once a Duck always a Duck.

Re: Bruce Dern in Long Distance Log.

Postby PDJ551 » Wed Oct 24, 2012 5:40 am

I heard this story in the early 1970s soon after Dern started appearing in movies. One of his former teammates at Univ. of Pennsylvania asked me if I had seen a recent movie which starred Dern. He then related that after Dern grew sideburns he was running a relay race in Madison Square Garden. The crowd not used to seeing athletes so groomed started to call him "Elvis" as he rounded the track. His coach did not like that attention and gave Dern an ultimatum. Dern remarked to his teammates that he was giving up the sport and would become an actor and that the next time that his coach saw him he would have to buy a ticket.

I was in college in the mid to late 60s when styles began to change, although a little bit later in the Midwest. One of the best jav throwers in our league was a senior engineering student who refused to remove his facial hair. The coach threw him off. With our coach, a young man,we debated this issue. Our coach thought that the coach had made the right decision, but then he thought for a moment and turned to me and said, "I don't know what I would do if you grew a mustache. You work hard in practice and have shown your seriousness so I don't know if I could throw someone off the team for that reason." A year later I was running AAU track in NYC. I noticed that the runners from urban areas and the Ivy League teams had longer hair than the other athletes. A year later the styles of athletes didn't seem to be different from their classmates. The only athletes that seemed to have short hair came from the military academies. I knew things had really shifted when I saw a distance runner in the Garden who had been a graduate of Notre Dame and a Marine Corp officer sporting long locks.
PDJ551
 
Posts: 101
Joined: Sat Oct 08, 2005 4:32 am


Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 3 guests