Gidget’s Brotherly Brother-in-Law
by Brenda Marshall; TV Radio Mirror, May 1966
Pete Deuel is very different from the serious image he projects as the stuffy, psychology-spouting brother-in-law on ABC-TV’s Gidget. He’s tall, dark, and handsome. He has enchanting dimples when he smiles. He’s a carefree, very eligible bachelor who enjoys sports, discotheque dancing, beer, exploring the rough countryside in his land cruiser—and going around barefoot!
Pete was barefoot, wearing jeans and a sweatshirt, when he greeted me on the flight of wooden stairs leading to his modest garage apartment in Hollywood. “Going barefoot isn’t just a gimmick,” he explained. “I’ve been going barefoot since I was a kid. Even as a student in New York City, I used to go barefoot.
“When I came to California, I started wearing a suit and a tie. So what happens? I’m told, ‘You’re overdressed. You’ve gotta be more casual.’ So I began going everywhere in sweaters, slacks and loafers… and started going barefoot again.” As he talked, Pete walked around his small bachelor quarters, showing me his records (mostly modern jazz and classical), and his prized possession—a collection of miniature automobiles.
“I could go out and buy ten or fifteen of them at a time,” he said, “but that would take the fun out of it. So I wait three or four months—then buy another miniature car.”
In his free time, Pete enjoys dating. “Not just to be dating, though, but with someone who turns me on.” The type of girl he dates, he says, must be natural and unaffected and enjoy the things he does, “like going to a good movie, a concert, a baseball or hockey game—or, most of all, dancing.
“I love discotheque-type dancing. I was top dog at it in high school. In fact, dancing and drinking beer with a pretty girl is my type of a relaxing evening.” Pete often visits the go-go clubs on Sunset Strip, but finds the atmosphere in some of them “a bit too much.” He objects, for instance, to girls in cages. “It annoys me to be able to look, but not touch.” He grinned mischievously—but he meant it.
On weekends and holidays, Pete takes trips with friends through the countryside, driving his four-wheel Toyota Land Cruiser. “Sometimes we take along fishing gear and sleeping bags,” he said, “and head for the High Sierras. Other times we really use the Toyota the way it was meant to be used. We drive up and down hills just for the thrill of it.”
Pete’s pre-acting years had all the good things anybody could have. He, younger brother Geoffrey and younger sister Pamela, grew up in the small town of Penfield, New York. “We lived in a big, old house with lots of lawns around it and chestnut, maple, and elm trees,” he recalls. “Behind the house were woods where we used to spend most of our spare time, playing cowboys and Indians. We had a wonderful childhood.”
Kid brother Geoffrey is now in Los Angeles, studying drama, and he and Pete spend much of their spare time together. Sister Pamela is married, “has a gorgeous child,” and lives in Berea, Ohio.
Pete himself wasn’t always sure he wanted to be an actor. His father, grandfather, greatgrandfather, two cousins, and two great uncles were all doctors, so there was a strong pull in that direction. At one time, he hoped to become a pilot, but discovered his eyesight wasn’t good enough.
He finally decided on show business while attending St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York. He became involved in college productions and invited his father to see him play the lead in The Rose Tattoo. Next morning, Deuel Senior told him: “Pete, stop wasting my money and your time. Go to New York and start studying drama.”
So Pete did. His first big break came when he was signed for a role in the film, Wounded In Action. This led to a co-starring role in the national company of the play, Take Her, She’s Mine, and this, in turn, led to TV shows like Combat, 12 O’Clock High, Gomer Pyle, The Fugitive, and, of course, Gidget. Now that Gidget is definitely off next season’s schedule, Pete’s new project is the TV comedy series, Love On A Rooftop.
He and Gidget‘s Sally Field date, but Pete says there’s no romance. “Sally’s delightful,” he enthused. “She’s a natural and charming as the character she portrays. In fact, she is Gidget.”
If Sally is the kind of girl he likes, what kind doesn’t he like? “Girls with high, extreme hairdos, girls who are overly made up. I’d rather a girl not wear make-up at all.”
Does it matter whether a girl wears shoes or not? Pete smiled. “No—just as long as she wouldn’t object to my going around barefoot.”