TV-Movie Pin-Ups, December 1971
Whether he realizes it or not, Pete Duel is living the kind of life that would be considered ideal by most American bachelors. Though he might not see it as ideal himself, he’ll be the first to admit that he’s happy with what he’s doing and how he’s living — both professionally and privately.
What’s Pete’s secret to happiness? What’s the magic key to his way of life? Merely this: that he’s come to appreciate and fully enjoy the simple things.
Until recently, Pete — originally from the small, conservative, one-doctor town of Penfield, New York (his dad, Dr. Ellsworth Deuel, is that one doctor) — lived very austerely in a one and half room apartment over a garage in Los Angeles. Now he’s living in quarters a bit larger and a lot more rustic but just as simple.
“I had to move,” he explains, “because I just didn’t have enough space for all my books, paintings, sketches, and my fishing and camping gear. I needed more room for my three dogs to run around in, too.”
Pete’s list of personal belongings gives another clue as to the kind of person he is. He loves to read and his library includes everything from art books to the complete works of Shakespeare. He’s also high on Dylan Thomas’ poetry, political essays, and Thoreau’s writings on nature.
His paintings and sketches also reflect his simple yet varied feelings toward life. They’re all whimsical and colorful and speak out on the world very directly. This is especially true of the several that are his own creations.
When Pete isn’t home, he’s usually spending time camping and fishing outdoors.
“I grew up in a real country town,” he says, “and it was surrounded by fields and forests. Practically as soon as I could walk, my dad had me out hiking and camping with him. He really taught me a lot about the outdoors, too — especially respect for it.”
Given Pete’s great love and respect for nature and the outdoors, it’s easy to see why he’s quite interested in the ecology movement in this country.
“I am very interested in preserving the environment,” he continues. “But I always have been. Even when I was a small boy, I worried about people and factories moving in and taking over and eventually destroying my woods and fields. Nobody thought too much about the environment back then, and when it finally did happen it was considered progress.”
Though Pete’s work often keeps him city-bound, he loves the opportunities he gets to spend a weekend or a few days high in the mountains away from everything. He considers his frequent jaunts in his four-wheel-drive truck with camping unit attached a “welcome and much-needed change from city life.”
“Lately I’ve been heading up into the High Sierra Mountains,” he says. “I found an absolutely fantastic spot in the Mother Lode country, just above Sonora, California, and I’ve been thinking seriously about buying a piece of it. In a way it might seem wasteful, though. Because it’s so high up and gets so much snow, the property is accessible only six months a year. But it’s twenty wooded acres at an elevation of 8,500 feet and it’s almost surrounded by national forest land. The air and the view and the seclusion are just unbelievable.”
When Pete is forced to keep himself in town, he keeps himself busy with his books and artwork, spending time with his current and very mysterious girlfriend named Dianne, watching football games and old movies on TV and perfecting his craft as an actor.
“I’ve been interested in acting since I was a small boy,” admits Pete. “But the whole idea of my ever really becoming an actor was almost too weird to contemplate. Now that my childhood dream has become a reality, though, I don’t ever intend to let it get away.”
Pete really enjoys his privacy and confesses to sometimes being quite frightened as well as amused by the whole publicity angle of show business. But he realizes that there really isn’t very much he can do about it. He’s now a star of a popular TV series, he’s in the public eye, and he’s concluded that he might just as well give the public what it wants as long as it isn’t too much.
“As an actor, I’m more concerned with what I’m doing in front of the camera,” he says. “And I think the public today is more concerned about that, too. I’ve enjoyed all the work I’ve done so far and I think people have accepted most of it rather well.”
Though Pete enjoys his present role in Alias Smith and Jones because its’s light and fun (and, as he says, too much reality is too much), he feels the best thing he’s done so far in his career was his portrayal of a drug addict trying to kick the habit in The Psychiatrist.
“I wanted to show that addicts aren’t that different,” he explains. “And that they don’t like being hooked and want to get off the stuff, but they’re terrified that they might not be able to. It was quite a challenging role and I think I did my best.”
In his own life, the only thing that Pete’s “hooked” on is health food and that’s not very terrifying. But he is concerned with the drug problem facing the American society today and hopes that maybe his portrayal of an addict seeking redemption may have made some small contribution to a further understanding of the problem.
“I truly believe that people turn to drugs today because of a desire to escape daily boredom,” says Pete. “In a mechanized society like the one we’re living in now, man doesn’t really have too much to do to keep alive. Machines do everything. So man has to reach out for other things to keep him busy and keep him out of a rut.”
Pete has certainly followed his own advice. His whole life has been a reaching out for the simple things. He finds pleasure in home, his career, and in his world. It may even be true that he’s found his own kind of paradise.