[CJC's Note: Here's a quote from Ana in response to my query about the grape eating. "The last night of the year, Spanish's tradition is to eat 12 grapes hearing the sound of the clock in La Puerta del Sol (The Sun's Square) in Madrid . It's the most important square of Madrid and we can hear the sound of its bells by TV, radio, etc.The clock sound. One...!!!! (one grape) Two....!!!! (two grape)..... Three....(three grape). It's very funny and very often people choke with the grapes. We drink "champagne" at last to swallow the grapes."]
WHO KILLED PETE DUEL?
Although filed as an "accidental death" by the Los Angeles Police Department, it is certain that a strange mystery surrounds the circumstances of the "accident". In reality, the most likely and accepted hypothesis is that Pete Duel voluntarily put an end to his life. It would certainly not be the first suicide nor the last on that night: it is already well-known that on a date like Christmas Eve or New Year's Eve, and including Saturday evenings, suicides or intended suicides are very frequent. Marilyn Monroe, without going back very far, killed herself one Saturday night. It is on days like this one when the loneliness grows more clear and at the same time more dramatic. And all his life only thirty years Pete Duel was a "loner", a recluse...
A gunshot put an end to the life of Pete Duel, who some months before had moved to a new and relatively luxurious apartment in the city of Los Angeles. What killed Pete Duel was perhaps loneliness, doubt or anguish; perhaps the idea of at last having obtained success and that, at bottom, it served for nothing or very little: in order to have a powerful car and a nice apartment where he could put his books, his "posters" and where he could listen to his favorite records. It wasn't sufficient to continue forward one more year, in hope of true success.
A FIVE YEAR PLAN
In order to understand something about the death of Pete Duel, one must go back to the year 1965. At that moment Pete Duel was Peter Deuel and he was a young 24-year-old actor who had just arrived in Hollywood with a precise idea. To do five years of "apprenticeship" in film and television, and to return to Broadway converted into a true actor. Deuel was at St. Lawrence University, near Rochester (New York), his hometown. After two years studying medicine only to please his father, who was a doctor in a small town, Deuel devoted himself exclusively to the theater. Already a solitary and indecisive young man at this time, he only renounced medicine when his father told him: "If you want to continue at the university, why not go to drama school instead of wasting my money here?"
Two years in the drama school American Theater Wing, in New York, only served him, according to his own explanation, to "fall in love with the city of skyscrapers and desire the triumph of the Broadway stage." He was there when he outlined his extremely personal "five year plan," that would permit him to triumphantly return to the city of his dreams.
In fact, Deuel didn't learn much in his first time in Hollywood and his solitary and neurotic character was developed with more and more intensity. Deuel performed in a juvenile-romantic series entitled Gidget and later was the partner of Judy Carne in a series of slight importance: Love On A Rooftop, in which he played the role of an inexpert young man who was in love with a divorcee.
A MAN AND AN ACTOR
He then changed his name to Pete Duel, more commercial according to his agent Butch Clavell. He remembers how one time Deuel threw himself into the icy waters of the Hudson River in order to rescue... a rag doll which was missing both its legs. Roy Thinnes, the popular protagonist of The Invaders, worked with him on the series The Psychiatrist, and mentions that Pete Deuel lovingly watched over a bird with a broken leg that he took home; days afterwards, Duel showed up on the set pale and disconnected because the bird had died that morning. Duel said that it was the first time he saw someone die...
[CJC's Note: Our translators Jo and Ana, as well as a Spanish-English translation program, all agree that this says Pete rescued a rag doll from the Hudson River. This incident has also been reported in several English-language articles, but the item being rescued is a puppy.]
Very quickly, Pete Duel-actor separated himself from Peter Deuel-man. The actor continued making tasteless comedies and hoping for that opportunity that finally happened with Los Dos Mosqueteros. Deuel, the man, was impassioned by politics and worked on McCarthy's campaign in the 1968 presidential election; at the same time he was interested in Zen philosophy and he began to devour astrology books and practice transcendental meditation.
A HOUSE FOR SIXTY-FIVE DOLLARS A MONTH
Until the middle of 1971 Deuel lived in a duplex apartment, situated in the attic of a building that contains only an immense garage. Peter Deuel's home will perhaps help one to understand something about his personality. The books, for example: there one used to find the complete works of Shakespeare, full of annotations about the interpretive nuances of his principal heroes and characters; "The Psychology of Self Esteem," "House Made of Dawn," a book by a Native American writer about the colonization of the "Far West"; the poems of Dylan Thomas, all the gamut of titles about the American intervention in Vietnam. Or his paintings and "posters": McCarthy, the inscription "Keep faith in man", insignias and emblems of the Civil Rights Movement... almost everything, however, related with McCarthy's campaign whose defeat at the hands of the "management" of the Democratic Party definitively disillusioned him about politics. Or the names of his three dogs: "Shoshobe [sic]", an Australian Shepherd, named for a famous Indian leader who was assassinated by the WASPs, white Protestant Americans; "Champagne" and, finally, "Carroll", in honor of Lewis Carroll, the author of "Alice In Wonderland."
FACING THE LONELINESS
In May of 1971 Deuel was on the point of marriage with Diane, whom he had met while she was working as a production secretary on The Psychiatrist. But, in reality, very little is known of Pete Duel's private life, since he himself insisted on keeping totally remote from "social" activities of a frivolous type. When he returned from the Democratic Convention in Chicago in 1968, he said that that was most similar to a war, and he withdrew from the political scene. Unable to justify civic activity to himself, and living alone or in the company of his dogs, Deuel gave in, it seems, with excessive frequency to alcohol. In the cited episode of The Psychiatrist, Duel played the role of a young drug addict. Later he asserted that alcohol, like drugs, is not a way to escape from personal reality, but rather a form of evading the daily routine and contact with a hostile society.
It will already be known what occurred on 31 December 1971. Possibly that "hostile" society was more so than ever, in spite of the apparent success that was beginning to surround his professional life. Broadway, his goal, his dream, was becoming more and more distant: the five year time limit was more than completed. Peter Deuel solitary, introverted and terribly insecure of his own strength, and Pete Duel "Musketeer Jones [sic]", happy, fearless and full of resources, had nothing in common. On a night like New Year's Eve, when almost everyone makes wonderful plans for the future, Peter Deuel, always doubting himself, was unable to make another five year plan like he planned that day in 1965, on which he arrived in Los Angeles and at his $65 a month apartment.
one will know why Kid Curry and Hannibal Heyes were pardoned...
An indecipherable enigma Did Pete Duel kill himself or was he murdered? One time he threw himself into the Hudson in order to save a doll without legs.
Pete Duel, in a tuxedo and displaying
an incipient beard, in one of his last public appearances, a little
before showing up mysteriously dead.
[CJC's Note: Hardly the last, as this photo is from 1967
with his then-girlfriend Jill Andre.]