Dear Rona, Rona Barrett’s Hollywood, June 1972
During the week between Christmas and New Year’s, my family and I took a trip to Los Angeles. On Dec. 30th, we took the Universal Studios tour. They were filming Alias Smith and Jones. The enclosed picture of Peter Duel was taken at 3 p.m. on that same day, when he was walking back to his dressing room. My Mom said to him, “Gee, Pete, you really are a doll.” And with that, he gave us a great big smile.
Can you imagine the shock we felt the next morning hearing the terrible news over the radio? To think we had seen him just a few hours before. I feel that perhaps ours was the very last picture taken of him. It certainly doesn’t look like a picture of someone who would take his own life in just a few hours. What a shame! What a waste of talent!
San Francisco, Calif.
Something you recently handled disturbed me. This is the matter of Pete Duel’s death. Your first article (RBH April) came off sounding like a classic example of “yellow journalism.” Death is sad, and I think you could have handled it better. For example, the newspaper accounts (which just might be more truthful than a movie magazine) never mentioned Pete’s body being nude: Another example: your last sentence in the article “a bullet through his brain.” All other accounts simply mentioned a shot in his head.
The point is, where do you get your information and why was this included, if not for the sake of sheer sensationalism?
Santa Ana, Calif.
I couldn’t agree with you more that death is sad. That this was particularly so in Pete’s case was borne out by our last interview with him (RBH May). However, the facts of death are sometimes brutal and horrifying. Perhaps your local newspaper left out or did not know the fact that Pete was unclothed at the time of his death, but it was printed in Los Angeles papers and checked out by me (I don’t believe everything that I read, either) with authorities. As for where he shot himself, I was only trying to be specific since, when facts are suppressed, it only lends ammunition to the rumor mills. And as for why we felt it important to include these facts in our report: so many of you had written asking for the information, we felt it our job to provide it.