by Terry Harris; Screen Parade, August 1967
The blackest days of Peter’s life were the ones when he thought he’d take his own life. Here’s the starting story of why he wanted to — and why he finally decided not to! It was a hard temptation to resist.
It’s hard to believe that Peter Deuel, who seems to contain built-in sunshine, has ever had a bad day in his life. But listening to the handsome, six-foot co-star of Love On a Rooftop lets you find out that life was not always beer and skittles. In fact, Peter is not at all reluctant to admit that his life got so bad at one time that he really wanted to — and almost did — commit suicide!
At first glance, it seems incredible that he could have ever felt such despair. Peter’s got the kind of cute-tough good looks that makes girls want to mother him — and then kiss him madly. He’s got a bubbly sense of humor, a sharp, incisive mind (that always put him at the top of his class in school), and the kind of solid family background that poets, sociologists, and campaigning politicians always praise as containing the best of American values.
He grew up in a small town near Rochester, N.Y., the eldest of three children. He had a dog for company, fields to play in, church on Sundays, and a close knit family of impeccable standing in the community. Peter’s father was a doctor, and that’s where the trouble began, for Peter’s father also wanted Peter to become a doctor.
And why not? His grandfather was a doctor, so was his great grandfather, so were two cousins and two great uncles. What could be more natural than Peter following in all these footsteps?
Unfortunately, Peter didn’t want to. He didn’t know what he really wanted to do, but he did know most emphatically that he didn’t want to be a doctor. But his father, with the best of intentions, went on planning for that day when his son would enter college as the first step on his way to medical school.
Peter rebelled. “I knew that if I went to college I’d be educated like every other guy who ever went to college,” he said. “I’d be given little chance to become Peter Deuel.
“That’s when I decided to commit suicide. I thought about it for a long time. I felt useless. I was ambitious for nothing. I kept feeling I was on the wrong track and would never get off. I didn’t know what was going to happen to me if I died, but it seemed the only sensible thing to do. Then I discovered there was one thing I didn’t have — the guts to take my own life.”
Peter eventually did wind up in college — although not on his way to medical school, much to the disappointment of his father. In between his studies, he started dabbling in theatrical productions, and invited his family to come to see him play the lead in The Rose Tattoo. He was very, very good in the part.
So good, in fact, that the next day his father took him aside and advised him to go to New York immediately to start studying drama. It must have been a blow for the kindly Dr. Deuel, but it was evidence of his good sense and understanding of his son.
Pete took his advice, climbed on a train and headed for New York where he spent two years at the American Wing. From there he went on the road to learn his craft, serving as assistant stage manager, playing before school children and PTA groups, building sets, and cleaning up the stage.
His first movie break — a war picture made in the Philippines — led to a co-starring role in the national road company production of Take Her, She’s Mine, and it was onwards and upwards after that. Hollywood and television beckoned, and after playing top roles in various shows, he landed the male lead in Gidget. When that show folded, he was signed for the role of the newlywed Dave in Love on a Rooftop.
For Peter, one of Hollywood’s most eligible bachelors, everything is coming up roses these days. Even though his show is in danger of being cancelled next season, he got such good reviews that he’ll undoubtedly get more offers than he can handle if he’s “at liberty.”
Peter’s come a long way since he felt that he was “useless.” He may be a lot of things, but useless isn’t one of them. Many kids may feel the same way at times, and feel the same sort of despair that plunged him to the brink of doing away with himself. But Peter can tell them all that it wouldn’t have been worth it.
Today his outlook is happy and positive. And when a million TV fans adore you, who wants to die?