by Funky Duke Lewis; Tiger Beat, April 1972
He was a tall, dark and handsome actor on the verge of superstardom, and he had money, security, fame, physical health, professional respect, he loved and was loved by his family and devoted fiance, Dianne Ray, yet he killed himself with his own gun in his own home.
Peter Duel had everything, didn’t he? — or did he? No, he certainly didn’t have emotional balance, peace of mind, and mental health. Pete told a recent interviewer:
“I’ve suffered personal tragedy, unhappiness, depression and frustrations that beat me down into the mud of despair because I don’t know how to handle them. I brood about myself so often that I forgot other human beings have problems as important to them as mine are to me. The difference is: they can overcome.”
“Pete had many problems that he magnified out of all proportion until he couldn’t cope with them,” agreed his sister Pamela.
He was very close to Pam, to his brother Geoffrey, and to Dianne whom he described as “compassionate, generous, intelligent, wise and beautiful with a crazy sense of humor and the patience and understanding to put up with my moods.
“I want a home in the country, and lots of children. I want out of the TV series, into movies. I need time to pursue my poetry writing and sketching, and to learn and grow.” But Pete didn’t give himself the time for his dreams to come true before he “went down the tongueless silence to the dreamless dust.”
“Working on Alias Smith & Jones was no worse than other outdoor saga series,” he often said, but all weekly shows are “a dreadful bore,” “big fat drag”, “frustrating” and “fatiguing,” “putting actors into pressure cookers.”
People who can’t take the heat are apt to freak for drugs or alcohol. Pete didn’t dabble in dope, a no-no for working actors, but he did get loaded regularly on whiskey, which is socially acceptable in his crowd.
The other half of the Smith-Jones team, Ben Murphy, is a “fun guy” with no self-inflicted hangups or apparent frustrations. Ben and all TV regulars, however, agree that doing a weekly series is a grind.
Usual schedule: Morning reveille at 5:30 or 6 a.m., into make-up at 7:30 a.m., on the set from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m., if all goes well. If not, work until 8 or 9 p.m., or until the day’s shooting is finished. Overtime is double or triple pay. Weekends are off and shooting involves only six months out of the year. Pay ranges from $5,000 per segment (for Mitch Vogel) to $30,000 per segment (for Lorne Greene, for example).