Peter (1927 -1998)

"Remembering Peter"
by Douglas

I met Peter on Fire Island in the summer of 1980 while visiting a silverfox couple that were good friends of mine. Having just moved back home to Arkansas from Denver, they knew I needed a break from "the sticks" and invited me up. I was a young 24 year old who had never been to New York except as a child. Fire Island was full of New York gay society and quite an eye opener for this young boy.
This was the last days of disco and that is where I first laid eyes on Peter. The Pines section of Fire Island had a new disco that had just opened called The Pavilion. Peter was the only silverfox there that night and what a fox he was. A big silverback gorilla on the outside but a teddy bear on the inside. Beautiful gray hair and mustache with killer blue eyes. Boy, did he play hard to get that night. I wouldn't give up and we talked all night until he finally gave in. Being a native New Yorker, he had seen it all and was a little leery of hustlers. When he realized that my intentions were only loving making and not monetary he relaxed. What a night of passion it was. Little did I know this would be the beginning of an 18 year long distance romance.
I began to travel to New York City to visit him 3 or 4 times a year. Those trips where my education in life. He had so much wisdom and knowledge to impart to me and I was a eager student. My parents taught me how to behave but it was men like Peter who taught me what fork to use and who Wagner was. He had been a drama critic, social editor and opera critic for a famous fashion trade paper so he knew all the press agents and many of the stars. Any time I came to town he could get tickets to any opera, Broadway play, recital or ballet that was playing at the time. He made me do my homework before going to see an opera. That afternoon he would get out the libretto and make me read the entire thing (this was before all the subtitles at the Met) so that I knew what was going on in the opera. I learned so much and was exposed to so many interesting and stimulating things in that environment which greatly enriched my life. Peter exposed me to such wonderful singers like Lee Wiley, Nellie Lutcher, Mae Barnes, Yma Sumac, Sylvia Syms and Cleo Laine.
He knew that I would never move to the wild jungle of New York City and I knew that he would never move to the boondocks of Arkansas so we agreed to visit each other as often as we could. We were a constant in each others lives, no matter what else happened to us. Aside from New York, we would meet in New Orleans each year for the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. Peter really loved the South with all it's wonderful food and history. Even though he was a sophisticated New Yorker, he loved the simple things in life like taking me to a Harvard (his alma mater) football game.
As my career grew my trips to NYC dwindled down to once a year, usually around Thanksgiving but they were special none the less. Tickets were purchased to the latest shows and reservation were made at the hot, new restaurants. The last time I visited NYC was Thanksgiving 1996 and our last Jazz Festival was spring of 1997.
Work prevented me from going to NYC in 1997 and his failing health kept him from coming down for Jazz Festival in New Orleans in the spring of 1998. His heart problems had him in and out of the hospital for the last couple of years. I talked to him in late September 1998 and we were planning a trip to NYC for me for November 1998. He was excited and talked about the shows he wanted to see. I wrote him a week later giving him dates that I could come up so he could start making plans. I told him to call but he never did. I began to worry that I hadn't heard from him. The call came Monday October 12, 1998 from a friend telling me that he had past away Thursday, October 8, 1998. Gone is a man that had the kindest and biggest heart of anyone I knew. He carried around stories of old New York that were so fascinating, I wished he would have written them down. He had talked about writing a book but that never happened.
It's seems like such a huge part of my past is gone. He is gone but not forgotten. Even though I had two great loves during that 18 year period he was always there for me when I needed him. He understood that I needed someone close to home if it was possible. I will never forget him or what he did for me.
I was so excited about sharing my new Lady of the Song, Cesaria Evora (a singer from the Cape Verde Islands off the coast of Africa in the morna style, Portuguese blues). He was a foreign correspondent in Morocco in the 1950s and would have loved her. It was to be one of his Christmas presents. Now when I hear her sing I will think of him.
Thanks for listening to my story. I just want to share my experiences and honor him in some way. He didn't have many true friends that will mourn him.

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