by Tex Maddox; Movie Life, June 1967
“Does he dare enough? That’s the sure way to test any fellow! Add up all he tackles, how he proceeds, to discover what he is. Mere claims mean little compared to this measure of a man.
“In my case, the jury’s debating. But I’m not afraid of the verdict. Why shouldn’t I make my own decisions on how I want to live? Who knows better about where I’d rather wind up, or when I’ll be ready to marry?”
“Of course,” Peter Deuel confesses promptly, “I’ve often been accused of being too much of a rebel. But I’m not. The rewards I’ve reached so far have proved worth the risks. Teenagers are told that what adults say is law, automatically. You really believe this as long as you’re brainwashed. I remember what a tough time kids have because I wasn’t satisfied with anything from 15 on.
“I recognized the majority of grown-ups don’t have anything on the ball. When I looked around, I wasn’t fooled any longer by the stern faces of those who couldn’t get more out of life. I hated the hypocrisy I saw. Some people will never know how a person feels inwardly because they never wanted to understand in the first place.”
No wonder girls of all ages dig Deuel! Probe into Pete’s past and his private whirl at present, and it’s plain this good-looking six-footer [he was actually 5’10.5″) with such rare frankness knows plenty about human nature.
“I haven’t forgotten children take everything at surface value. Kids constantly try to keep their cool so they won’t be hurt by being laughed at. I tease them a little, rib them gently, so they’ll sense they don’t have to hide their feelings. If a child asks a question, he deserves the truth in terms he can comprehend. This goes double for teenagers. They deserve a valid explanation of whatever they’re curious about. Not half a one. When they’re ignored, that’s positively harmful.”
Today, Pete’s TV appeal is pushing him to the top fast. Naturally, he’s pleased.
“But you have to be realistic to be respected!” he explains. “To be quite personal, I’ve never been more intensely in love than I was at 15. I function from what I learn from my own experience. I’ll never say anyone’s too young to be obsessed by love, assume it’s unimportant. Forbidding you to feel what you know you do is confusing—cruel!”
He isn’t sorry he responded to the ecstasy of the love he felt most deeply when that young, but he wishes he’d suffered less from its agony.
“When I can, I’d like to aid teenagers by preparing them to handle what they’re bound to discover. As we get older, our outlook is changed by conditions we can’t foresee. Love must adapt to different circumstances, or fade. Nothing stays the same, because no one can. In my mid-teens in Penfield, New York, the small town near Rochester where I grew up, I had one teacher who never gave up on me. I wasn’t awed by the usual lectures. I was more concerned with finding another girl and fixing up a car. But, eventually, I appreciated that particular teacher’s efforts, for when I did want to go to college I had the grades to get it.”
“First,” Pete reveals, putting an innocent air on his extraordinarily expressive face, “I rebelled successfully against my parents’ plans for my future. My father, like one of my grandfathers and a great grandfather, was a doctor and supposed I was eager to uphold that tradition. Nobody believed me when I always countered with the news that I was going to become a flier. At 17, I tried to enlist in the Air Force. To my horror, I didn’t pass the eye requirements for pilot training. I’d never had any visual trouble, other than tired eyes from too many movies.”
He was happier about his plunge into school plays, because they were fun. But he dared show up unprepared at rehearsals, too lazy to learn his lines well. That, he concedes, was regrettable.
An education is valuable, he contends, but he sees it as an individual, instead of as a formal phase. Enrolling at nearby St. Lawrence University, he picked English, Psychology, and Drama as his majors and concentrated on the latter when it intrigued him. His courses in acting there began with the basic principles and a dance class in correct body movement. After two years of scoring in campus plays, he was so effective in a Tennessee Williams drama, his father threw in the towel. Dr. Deuel told his rebellious son it was time to try Manhattan and an acting career.
“For me, it was best to be a college drop-out then. I suspect your family roots for you if your progress is undeniable. After I raced through adolescence, my thirst for knowledge about acting didn’t seem silly to my folks. They saw results when I went at it diligently. I treasure their encouragement.”
Auditioning for a place in the classes conducted by The American Theatre Wing in New York, Pete was accepted and coached by five top teachers. Completing that course, he landed a job with a repertory troupe by becoming its assistant stage manager as well as a bit actor. Next he toured with a group presenting public service shows for various organizations and schools.
“I never sat around waiting for instant popularity,” he says. “Picture me practical and you get me in focus.”
Few knew Pete first scored professionally in a movie. He won a small part in a minor war epic, Wounded In Action. It brought him his first long trip, since it filmed in the Philippines.
On his return to Manhattan, his first role on a TV network show was another milestone. He hadn’t done anything spectacular, but he’d really made excellent progress because he was respected for his work as well as his character.
“While out of work, I dared suppose I was ready for marriage, so I proposed. I’d started dating my sister Pam’s girlfriend in our hometown when she was barely in her teens. She entered college in Manhattan when I was 22. I’m glad she was wise enough to hesitate. When I got a co-starring role in the national road company of Take Her, She’s Mine, it meant I’d be away half a year. She insisted we use that separation as a test of whether we were truly in love. She was right because we parted friends by mail.
“When the tour was nearly finished,” Pete continued after a pause, “the show played Los Angeles and I had my first look at Hollywood. I didn’t know anyone in the entire city that April four years ago, but I liked what I saw. It would have been simple to return to New York to seek more stage roles after we closed in Washington, D.C. I plan on alternating Broadway plays with movies. But to get the best breaks you need bargaining power. I wanted strong credits, so I locked up everything I had in my little Manhattan shack, spent the summer with my family, and shifted to California that fall.
“My first job in Hollywood was in a movie, a service film. Guess where they flew me to act in it? New York.
“After settling down in California, however, my climbing turned out to be in TV. I freelanced in as many series as I could crack. It took two years to get a regular role in Gidget, another year to get going with my chance in Love on a Rooftop.
“Yes,” he nods, “it was a big thing with Judy Carne at first. We didn’t turn off our affection when the camera stopped. She’s a great friend!” He can grin at the memory of a typical fan letter. Pete was told: “For God’s sake, marry the girl away from your work. You two are the cutest couple since the dawn of time!”
He’s grateful for the enthusiasm about their pairing, but two things switched them to just pals. Judy hadn’t recovered from her hang-up over her ex-husband, Burt Reynolds, and Pete had no desire to wed soon.
“There’s social pressure on a single guy. Subconsciously a fellow feels he ought to marry. But it’d be ridiculous for me until my work is more concrete and I figure out how to combine marriage and show business. I dare to be realistic, remember? By now I know it takes emotional security to make marriage last anywhere. I want career and financial security before I go that route. I date eagerly, but I don’t fall in love. I’m mighty cautious so I won’t fail when I commit myself.
“The antics Judy and I go through in our show are funny. But,” Pete points out, “I wouldn’t take the invasion of privacy in a marriage of my own.
“I’m an actor because this is the one form of endeavor that brings me happiness. Personal happiness means more to me than becoming famous or rich. If life gets too high pressure in show business, I don’t need the grief. There are a lot of other things I’ll have time for. At times I feel so much pressure it’s sheer hell in Hollywood. Every day there are choices that can make or mar your hopes. Mention a matter to someone before your decision and you generally get a casual ‘Why not?’ After you take a stand, you’re barraged with ‘you have to do this or that.’ When it gets me all up tight, it’s not worth it. Skip it!
“I stick to my simple ways because they’re relaxing. I dare to stay in the same apartment because it still suits me. Too many newcomers in Hollywood take a huge one and suddenly find it painful to come up with the rent. I still pay $65 a month for a place I furnished myself. It’s big enough because I’m the only person there. When I move, it’ll be to a house I can afford.
“Cars and motorcycles are a weakness I watch. I’m mechanical and revel in the quality of a fine car and cycle. When I was on tour with the play I fell for a British sports car. The payments on it were too high during my first year here so I learned not to do that again. I drive a jeep. It’s rugged, but not cheap, either. If a date thinks we should go somewhere in a nicer car, we transfer to hers. If it’s a premiere, I rent one for the evening. I sold my last motorcycle five months ago, when I was persuaded it was dangerous. I’m apt to buy a new one, though. I admit I once split my right leg open from my knee to my ankle when a nut turned in front of me abruptly and sent me careening down a canyon.
“I dare to dress as I prefer. I don’t believe any star has to always be ‘on.’ I refuse to dress up unless it’s actually appropriate. I attempt to fit into the general atmosphere, remain myself in jeans and a sweater or jacket over a sport shirt. Why be overly influenced by others? In warm weather, I arrive at the studio barefoot and remain so until I have to put on socks and shoes for a scene.”
Pete hasn’t been dating Sally Field as he had been. They’re still friends, but that isn’t surprising as they’re both pretty mature and discerning about these things.
“I’ve seen more of Jill Andre,” he says. She’s a woman he admires very much and her two small children adore Pete as wholeheartedly as he does them. The fact that she is five years older means as little to him as the fact that a 17-year-old isn’t too young for him now that he’s 27. [?]
“I’ve known Jill since my first year in Hollywood. I dated a girl who happened to be boarding with Jill and her husband. When I took her home, I met them and we became friends. We all took an acting class together.” After Jill decided a divorce was inevitable, Pete asked her out. “I like a person who is honest enough to say ‘I dig you!’ or whatever is on his or her mind. I dislike the negative type, the clown who imagines a ‘put down’ is a big deal.
“Where I fall down regarding other people is in letting a business relationship become too personal. Then it’s difficult to still be as effective as one should be.
“I learn something new every day and I like to go back to my hometown to visit. Everyone treats me great, makes no demands, so it’s restful. The last time I didn’t want to impose on my folks. I rented a car. A motel room, so I wouldn’t disturb Mom and Dad if I wanted to invite friends to talk after they’d gone to bed. I didn’t use it once because my parents, and my younger brother and sister, were such grand company.”
The girl he proposed to married someone else, got a divorce, and is back in Penfield. Pete dates her, also, when there, but they’re not in love again. They’ll always be good friends, though.
“I don’t believe in wasting breath on alibis! Nor in impulsively depending on dumb luck. To be daring is to admit how you actually feel. You must have the courage to choose goals you can reach if you demonstrate what’s really required. It takes preparation and persistence, but the pay-off,” Pete maintains firmly, “is your share of happiness. My reaction to a challenge is: ‘Don’t dare me–I may do it!’ What’s yours? Stop stalling!”
Photo Caption: Pete’s been a big hit opposite Judy Carne on Love On A Rooftop. He amits he’s had it bad for Judy off camera, too.
Photo Caption: Always expressive, Pete is most often out these days with Jill Andre (above). Rumor has it they’re engaged, but Pete also likes Sally Field.
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