Thursday, December 31, 2015

Hey Pete Duel - how's that afterlife going?

One of my most popular blog posts is from ten years ago The Eventful Afterlife of Pete Duel, about the TV actor who committed suicide in 1971 - forty-four years ago today. He would be seventy-five years old if he had lived. Even though the blog post is over a decade old I still regularly get hits on it - this past month had ten visits, primarily from the British Isles. I'm not sure why Duel-mania is so big there, but it is.

Since that blog post Duel's afterlife career has expanded to Facebook. There is the Pete Duel Memorial Club and the Tribute to Pete Duel and the Pete Duel-Amazing Heyes Tribute Page and plain old Pete Duel. You can get a pretty good idea from the photo the latter used for the page background image exactly why Pete Duel continues to be remembered so long after his death - he was an exceptionally beautiful and charismatic man.

Youtube was around in 2005 but not nearly what it is now, and of course there are lots of videos dedicated to Pete Duel there, including clips from home movies, fan tribute videos, and episodes of the various TV series he was cast in. Plus a channel devoted to him by "Hannibal Heyes."

This E! show from 1999 has lots of interesting bits, including lots of comments from his sister and Smith & Jones costar Ben Murphy.

The writing on Alias Smith and Jones is often quite good and very funny. In the episode "Something to Get Hung About"  (I strongly suspect this is a reference to Strawberry Fields Forever) Hannibal Heyes is reading a copy of "Life on the Mississippi" and Kid Curry says:
Mark Twain? (laughs) Mark Twain. Now there's an alias if I ever heard one. I wonder what he's wanted for.
Later in the episode there is an unbelievably poignant moment. Pete Duel struggled with alcoholism and he was very drunk when he shot himself. In this episode a woman tells Hannibal Heyes about her husband:

My husband is a very loving man except when he drinks. Which unfortunately he does a great deal. Then he becomes hateful. Do you think a man like that can change? 

Any man can want to change. I know that from a personal fact.

The character was referring to being a reformed bank robber. But Duel was attending Alcoholics Anonymous during the show.

Life on the Mississippi is referenced again - Heyes learns about fingerprints from the book and they use it to find the murderer.

It's really quite a snappy TV show, with good story lines, snappy video editing, and of course two seriously handsome leading men. It is very much inspired by the 1969 movie starring two seriously handsome men, Paul Newman and Robert Redford, in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

You can watch the first episode on Youtube here - the original was in color but this is in black and white - which is how I would have seen it when it first aired - I don't think my family had a color TV until the 1980s. All the other episodes are available on Hulu.