The People Who Warn Him to Stop Risking His Life
by Philip Aimes
Starland, November 1971

Peter is a rebel. But a nice one.

"I think certain things need changing in society," he said recently, "but the route taken by so many of my contemporaries is definitely not the right way to achieve this change. What they propose is chaos; what I think is needed most is new order!"

Peter's methods are often intellectual. And in this respect he draws a sharp contrast with such protesters as Jane Fonda and others who do a lot of ranting and raving but succeed mostly in getting a lot of people angry--but at her, not necessarily the injustices she claims to be dead-set against.

Photo Caption: After retrieving a valuable piece of sculpture, a bust of Caesar, Jed "Kid" Curry (Ben Murphy, left) and Hannibal Heyes (Pete Duel, c) lose their pay to Pat "Big Mac" McCreedy (Burl Ives, right) in a rigged poker game on "Alias Smith and Jones".

Perhaps Peter's more level-headed and--in the end--beneficial stance can be best understood by perceiving a bit of his background.

"I come from a very methodical, systematic family," he said. "Medicine had been my heritage before I entered the acting profession. My father, grandfather, great-grandfather, two cousins and two great-uncles were doctors. My family kind of assumed that I, too, would follow medicine as my vocation in life. But a few years ago, I came to a point where I had to decide between that and the pursuit of acting. Not everyone, to this day, can say that they feel I made the right decision."

But, at least, it was his decision. A mistake--if indeed he had made one--would be his and his only.

"I can understand the quest for independence engaged in by the hippies," he said. "After all, I'm a contemporary of theirs. But that's just not my scene. They retreat, really, from solutions. I prefer to go after something in which I believe strongly."

Acting was one thing that qualified. He knew how he felt inside, how acting was the only answer for him.

"I wouldn't, really, have been that happy as a doctor," he remarked. "It isn't creative enough for me. For others in my family, it was the ideal profession. But we are different as human beings from one person to another--and I just couldn't see myself as a doctor for the rest of my life. I made my choice calmly and objectively, and I've never had any cause for regrets on that score or any other, for that matter."

Sure, there have been lean periods. Sure, there were times when he hardly had enough food to eat and disappointments piled higher and higher until he could barely stand it any longer.

"But it would have been rough as an intern but even more so, before that, as a medical student," Peter added. "Hunger and disappointment and hard work aren't peculiar just to the actor. The young man who wants to be a doctor must put up with ample doses of each, too."

After two years at the American Theatre Wing, Peter joined the Shakespeare Wrights Repertory Company as assistant stage manager and actor.

"It was at about this time that he became interested in sports cars," we were told by a very reliable source. "He attended as many road races as he could and it was clear that he was fascinated by speed."

In any event, Peter later landed a part in the Family Service Group touring show which produced public service shows for schools, service clubs and P.T.A. groups.

"This gave me invaluable experience in many different types of roles," he told us.

His first real break in show business came when he was signed for the motion picture, Wounded in Action, which was filmed in the Philippines.

"I followed this with the co-starring role in the national company of Take Here, She's Mine, starring Tom Ewell," He said. "Then I made the move to Hollywood where I got featured roles in The Man Nobody Liked and Target Espionage-- You.

"I guest acted on Channing, Combat, 12 O'Clock High, The Fugitive and Mickey. And then, of course, came Gidget, Love on a Rooftop and now, Alias Smith and Jones, all of which I am very, very grateful for. Some wonderful people have helped me along the way and I shall never forget them nor what they did for me when times weren't so promising."

Some of those very same people are worried about Peter. He is too thoroughly a car buff--sports cars mostly. He likes to speed, and speeding is more dangerous than he seems to realize.

"He has such a wonderful future ahead of him," said a friend. "All the breaks are falling into place one right after another, he has so much to lose and practically nothing to gain. If he would only take stock of the situation, as objectively as he does with everything else in his life, he would realize what the truth is--namely, that he could die anytime just because he likes to taste the thrill of racing!"

If indeed Peter's interest in cars has reached the proportions of a passion, there is cause for worry. The big question, however, is: Has it really gotten out of hand? Or have his friends and his associates simply misstated the situation and become unduly alarmed?

As you look at Peter's personality, you wonder if he can be even remotely guilty of such a bad misjudgment as racing obsession. Everything in his life up to the present would seem to indicate otherwise.

"He is one of the most orderly, sensible individuals I know," said someone who knows him well. "I really can't imagine Peter's letting anything get hold of him to such an extent unless, that is, it is in some way connected with his career."

"Nor is career an obsession in itself," commented Sally Field. "Peter's a remarkable guy. Those who know him think a lot of him. For him, career is a goal but he has kept it in the proper perspective and hasn't let it overwhelm him, as is the case with so many other actors I've known. Peter's almost too good to be true but true he is--and I value our friendship more than I can ever say. But then it is not difficult to become friendly with him. He's just that sort of person."

... that sort of person.

Furthermore, another facet of his personality seems, on the surface, to belie his intense passion for speed, or shall we say his alleged passion, to be absolutely accurate.


"It's my main hobby," Peter remarked. "I just love it. I spend much of my free time exploring the back country of California's High Sierras and sometimes spend weeks at a time driving through this–to me--wonderfully uncharted country.''

His predeliction for camping is based upon two motivations.

"I love adventure, the thrill of discovery," he admitted. "I think I always have."

That's motivation number one.

"I also utilize those moments to contemplate," Peter added. "I think it is very important for each of us that we have time away from the demands of everyday life. Such can make us terribly neurotic if we aren't careful, and that's a trap that I want very much to avoid."

This doesn't sound at all like a speed fiend, does it? Motivation number two is thus the need for less commotion, less speed, less fast-living, not more as would be the case with sports car racing.

So, those reports that fix upon a speed passion must be slightly off-center, or are they?

There exists the distinct possibility that Peter finds racing a release. Support for this theory can be obtained from the realization that his supposed obsession has apparently intensified with each new success because the latter invariably bring new pressures, potential new anxieties.

"It's fortunate in one way that he never went to drugs or wild sex or any of those extremes," commented one source. "But what he's involved in now can be just as dangerous."

...just as dangerous.

This concern isn't limited to a select handful. It seems to be pretty widespread in fact. But even the concern itself is little illuminating, to be sure.

People care...

To put it somewhat tritely, Peter has winning ways.

"He's very kind and sensitive," seems to be the general opinion held about him by those close to him. "He's the best sort of friend to have. There isn't anything he wouldn't do for you, nothing at all. The old 'shirt-off-the-back' bit applies to him rather snugly."

Yes, people care. That's why they are worrying. And that's why Peter shouldn't let them down.

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