by Hamilton B. Allen; Rochester Times Union, June 20, 1970
This is the fourth in a series of in-person reports on Rochesterians in Hollywood by The Times-Union‘s theater editor. Peter and Geoffrey Deuel, two actors from Penfield, brothers making the Hollywood scene, are playing the toughest game of their craft — the waiting game.
But they’re doing it in easy style, each in his own way, and separately, while the wheel of movie fortune spins out its winners.
Peter, older of the two sons of Dr. and Mrs. E.S. Deuel, is “between assignments,” waiting for his agent to come up with the right script. He’s far enough up in the Hollywood pecking order that he can and even has to be choosy about his roles. His latest film, Generation, is making the rounds and he’s completed a new television drama, pilot of a series titled The Psychiatrist due in the fall.
He plays a young drug addict, a role that won him second billing among the three stars, ahead of veteran actor Luther Adler who plays the doctor. Which means much to a young actor building a career. Pete will appear in another two or three segments of the series yet to be taped.
Geoffrey, a recent arrival in Hollywood and already counting one film credit has been “put in escrow” by his agent. Geoff played Billy the Kid in John Wayne’s new picture, Chisum, and his performance has his agent “all worked up” about his chances.
“But he won’t let me do anything until the picture is released this summer,” Geoff explained. “He wants the right people to see me at work and he thinks maybe the waiting will pay off.”
Agents are the dealmakers in Hollywood and an actor has to “trust his 10 percenter implicitly or find a new one,” the 27-year-old Penfielder agrees.
Geoff lives in a rented cottage on the Pacific coast in the Venice district of Los Angeles. Between tending a meager front yard garden of tomatoes, corn, and flowers, he and girlfriend Nikki Char, Los Angeles-born actress, ride bikes, swim, and take feeble stabs at learning to surf.
They favor recordings by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, which keep the stereo in constant action.
Geoff wishes he could shut it off and go to work, though he does confess that “it’s a pretty nice existence while it lasts.”
Pete (his professional billing is Pete Duel, dropping the first E of the family name) is the only real Hollywood resident of the Rochester ex-patriots. He continues to live in the over-the-garage apartment in West Hollywood which he rented when he first arrived in the film capital six years ago. It’s on a street of middle-class pink and white and blue stucco homes that had seen better days before being converted into flats and apartments.
Old men sat in the sun in the mini park across the street, a couple of young long-haired types were tinkering under the hoods of much-abused sportscars. One elderly, bleached woman, clad in tight shorts, puttered in the tiny front yard flower garden. The streets are as clean as all L.A. streets are, but the yards suggest casual absent-landlord care.
“It’s a nice neighborhood, a good atmosphere for easy living,” Pete said. “There’s flavor here. Retired first-generation European Jews, some Italian families, Mexican-Americans, some blacks, an assortment of ‘arty’ types, mostly couples with kids.”
He introduced me in a ground-to-porch holler-up to his neighbor, a tall blonde man occupying the second floor of the house in-front. “He’s president of the Gay Liberation Front,” Pete explained as the fellow bowed without halting his no-mirror lathered shave.
Pete’s style is casual, “bohemian,” complete with girlfriend Dianne, a secretary at Universal Pictures.
The only suggestion I could see of his Penfield background in the cluttered, crowded quarters are several attractive oil paintings of hometown scenes by artist J. Erwin Porter, including one of his home and the church next door. They share wall space with some of Pete’s own line drawings and graffiti “from my drunk period.” Which long is past, he said.
The actor, four years his brother’s senior, is using his waiting time to extend his artistic accomplishments, taking piano lessons, writing (some of his free-verse bewailing man’s destruction of his environment is coarse with obscenities) and drawing and painting. There’s a guitar propped in the corner which he plays passably, a baby grand which he picks at haltingly (“my real prize”), filling one end of a converted sun porch-room and a stack of stereo records topped by the “Hair” album.
“The waiting is tough because it’s difficult to get your acting muscles going after a lay-off,” he said as he conjured a couple mugs of strong quick coffee. “You can fall into this take-it-easy routine and then have a hell of a time getting started again when you get in front of a camera. That’s why so many film actors do stage work between pictures. It helps keep you loose and sustains the enthusiasm. Maybe that’s the most difficult of all, keeping up enthusiasm when you’re not working.”
A current visitor in the menage is six-year-old niece Jennifer (“my real name’s Bobby like the boys’ Bobby,” she protests in a miniature dudgeon at being a girl), daughter of Pete’s sister, Pam, who is filling club singing engagements in the San Francisco area and north. Jennifer and Pete’s dog, Shoshone, have formed a romping relationship of their own and were chasing the ice cream man down the street when I left.
“That’s what I mean by enthusiasm,” the actor said as we parted. “Maybe this is what we all need — each of us go chase our own ice cream wagon. We should take lessons from the kids.”
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