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September 25, 2023 25 mins

On March 3rd, 1983, Peter Ivers—the eccentric and beloved host of New Wave Theater—was found bludgeoned to death in his apartment. Forty years later, his friends are still searching for answers about what happened to him. 

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Speaker 1 (00:00):
Hey, kids, this is Alan Sachs. If your parents are
letting you listen to this show, tell him they shouldn't listener.
Discretion is advised.

Speaker 2 (00:20):
It's late at night in nineteen eighty two. You're home
in Los Angeles flipping channels, and you come across I
guess you could call it like a variety show.

Speaker 3 (00:31):
Hi, welcome a new wave theater. Well you've arrived on
time tonight. But that doesn't mean it's going to be easy.
Slapping the back of an ox never was, especially one
that's stuck in the mire of history that was never recorded.

Speaker 2 (00:41):
The host of the show slides into frame. He's wearing
a pink sequin jacket, and as he starts to speak,
he pulls out sunglasses and puts them on.

Speaker 3 (00:52):
If you want to be a sphinx, you must first
be a sphinx.

Speaker 2 (00:55):
He's giving a strange monologue. It doesn't make a lot
of sense.

Speaker 3 (01:00):
History shows us that if you've got the budget, you
can sell a camera, toothbrush, or even make yourself the
hero of your own version of the history of the world.

Speaker 2 (01:07):
The host screeches and vamps, then throws to the band
over clips of a rat being stroked with a Barbie
Doll's hand. This thing you're watching is a public access
show called new Wave Theater. Imagine early MTV meets experimental

(01:27):
film with a cocaine fuel director pulling the strings. It's
hosted by a friend of mine, Peter Ivers.

Speaker 3 (01:39):
We're forcing new life into music and new wave music
into life. New Wave Theater is fast becoming the ultimate
underground alternative, and we thank you for your healthy response.
Shows real health for.

Speaker 2 (01:50):
This genre of TV doesn't really exist anymore. Public access
was like primitive YouTube. Almost anyone could get a thirty
minute slot, usually late at night on local channels. The
quality varied quite a bit, but every once in a
while you could find something great. Public access gave us Alvira,

(02:13):
Tom Green and even if you think about it, Wayne's
World Gaily Reminder, Thursday purchased feeble public access cables.

Speaker 1 (02:24):
Show and exploit it. WHOA, I feel sorry for whoever
that is.

Speaker 2 (02:30):
Let's look over here. Wayne's World is a film that
I directed, but we'll come back to me later anyway.
New Wave Theater was a public access show that showcased
la punk bands in all their grungey glory.

Speaker 4 (02:45):
The Unknowns, the Street Cycle Jerks, one of the Five
Blast Tribes of Punk Levi textor in the Tribe Cable party,
Eat your Neighbor for Phoenix Arizona Chill her.

Speaker 2 (02:59):
Budday, which is why it was surprising to see Peter
Ivers as the host in a spiffy pink sequin jacket
and showing his three chest hairs. But he's adorable and
very very sweet and kind of goofy. Definitely not a punk.

(03:22):
Didn't have that each shit attitude. He was a cool dude. Yeah,
that was Peter Ivers.

Speaker 3 (03:29):
Elbarra and I make such a perfect couple. We may
get married at a red wedding, so we make history.

Speaker 2 (03:37):
This story is about him, It's about the show he
hosted New Wave Theater, but it's also about LA's underground
music scene in the early eighties. It had punks and
artists and comedians and TV celebrities all circling around this
strange singular cultural moment. You'd walk into a scuzzy club

(03:58):
and see John Belushi in a black flag, or David
Lee roth yucking it up with me, or even Bruce
Springsteen over there watching the band on stage. And there
were some shady characters too, people you prefer not to
meet unless of course you were looking to get high
or get robbed, are both. It was a weird mix

(04:22):
of people in a weird city at a weird time,
and I was there. So was Peter. He was right
in the middle of it all until he was murdered
in March of nineteen eighty three.

Speaker 5 (04:36):
And I just remember falling to the floor, blood curdling scream.
I just I couldn't stop.

Speaker 1 (04:44):
Peter Rivers is dead.

Speaker 2 (04:45):
It was like getting hit with him.

Speaker 6 (04:47):
It's not possible, all of that, Wow, We're going to
live forever, anything can happen. All that youthful optimism suddenly
went when Peter Rivers was murdered.

Speaker 2 (04:58):
For the punk scene and for Hollywood, his death was
a sobering moment, and it raised a question that forty
years later, we still don't know the answer to who
killed Peter Ivers. I'm Penelope Spheris, and this is Peter

(05:19):
and the Acid King. Peter Ivers is a hard guy

(05:39):
to sum up. He was the host of New Wave Theater,
but also a film composer and a Harvard graduate. He
practiced yoga and mindfulness years before it became Hollywood bullshit.
He had a black belt in karate. Believe it or not.
Peter was also a fixture on the la night life scene,

(06:01):
flitting from a punk show to a party in Laurel
Canyon to an after hour's joint in Hollywood and everywhere
in between. But maybe most importantly, people loved Peter. He
was attractive in all senses of that word.

Speaker 5 (06:19):
I don't know if I was like physically attracted, but
just I found him his mind and his spirit and
his depth. He had a lot going on.

Speaker 1 (06:34):
Peter was the fulfillment of one of the ideals of
that period, which was the Renaissance man. Peter was mister
Kundalini yoga sex god.

Speaker 4 (06:44):
So he had all.

Speaker 2 (06:45):
These women losing their minds over him.

Speaker 7 (06:49):
He was very comfortable in his own skin and seemed
like he really had a vision for things which could
be kind of intense. Also, was just so playful and
silly and sort of game to try anything, just you know,
sort of boundary pushing and fun.

Speaker 2 (07:10):
That last voice you heard was Violet Ramis. She's the
daughter of Anne and Harold Ramis. He directed movies like
Caddie Shack and Groundhog Day. Harold and Peter were friends,
and Harold introduced Anne to Peter.

Speaker 8 (07:26):
He came over to our house.

Speaker 2 (07:28):
We were going to do yoga together.

Speaker 7 (07:29):
All of a sudden, you know, here's this new character
teaching me yoga and some karate moves and then asking
me if I wanted to sing in his show at
the club Lingerie. Okay, yeah, I'm five years old. I'd
love that.

Speaker 2 (07:44):
Even though Peter was in his thirties, he had this
Peter Pan quality to him.

Speaker 8 (07:50):
He was such a mischievous kind of fellow. And I
remember his mother used to always send bigger shirts than
he was. She just thought it was bigger than he was.

Speaker 7 (08:00):
When he came into the room, everyone looked. Everyone wanted
him to notice what they were doing. He was small,
but he took up a lot of space.

Speaker 2 (08:11):
Peter's relationship with the Raymonds family shows how unique he was.
Harold liked Peter's counter culture cred and liked Peter's softer
spiritual side. And Violet like having a friend who treated
her like a person, not just a little kid.

Speaker 8 (08:29):
He played the harmonica for violent and she was spellbounbed,
you know, because it was something that she could do.
We got a little harmonica for her that she would
wear on a chain and she would play it all
the time.

Speaker 2 (08:45):
So I liked that.

Speaker 8 (08:46):
I thought it would be a good way for her
to be able to express herself.

Speaker 2 (08:50):
The point is, Peter met you where you were. He
came to your window and whisked you away to a
land of fun and excitement of being in the world.
Attracted many people, and I was one of those people.
So you may ask yourself, who is this bitch?

Speaker 7 (09:15):
Ron?

Speaker 8 (09:16):
Please?

Speaker 7 (09:18):
You mean like specifically, like where I sleep?

Speaker 2 (09:20):
Yeah, I'm Penelope Spears and I'm a filmmaker. That clip
is of me forty some years ago interviewing Black Flag
out of vacant church they lived in.

Speaker 7 (09:34):
It's not exactly when you were calling penthouse or anything
like that.

Speaker 8 (09:38):
This is why this is where all the action.

Speaker 2 (09:41):
Goes, all right, it's definitely not a penthouse. Ron Ron
lifts a curtain in front of a tiny hole in
the wall, like where Harry Potter sleeps, but with graffiti,
empty forties and some girls raggedy fishnets.

Speaker 8 (10:00):
Let's say a bad.

Speaker 2 (10:02):
How much is it got?

Speaker 7 (10:04):
Uh, sixteen dollars a month?

Speaker 8 (10:06):
How much do you make per month when you when
you as a performer?

Speaker 9 (10:10):
Oh?

Speaker 6 (10:10):
Pretty much.

Speaker 2 (10:11):
Nothing That clips from my documentary about La Punk the
Decline of Western Civilization. I shot The Decline back in
nineteen seventy nine and eighty, before New Wave theater even existed,
and later I sold out and directed some Hollywood movies
like Wayne's World.

Speaker 9 (10:31):
It's like people only do things because they get paid,
and that's just really sad.

Speaker 2 (10:36):
But the reality is I'm a punk at heart. There
was a specific moment in my music video career because
I had a music video company in Los Angeles called
Rock and Reel and I was putting some equipment back
in the equipment house and standing at the counter and

(10:58):
this dude next to me says, have you ever heard
of the sex Pistols? And I said no, and he goes,
listen to the sex Pistols? So I did, and it
was really a life changing moment for me. I think
what made me fall in love with punk rock, if
you can do that, is I totally related to the

(11:22):
people that were in the scene because they were a
bunch of rejects. I always felt like I was a
reject too. You know, I had a really difficult upbringing,
and you know, four kids living in a trailer with
a drunk mom and dad, and everybody's bloody every week.
That's why being in a mosh pit didn't bother me,

(11:43):
you know, because I mean I was like mashion every
week in my family home, you know, And that's what
made me get on the on the pulk rock trail.
These stray dogs banded together and loved each other in
a way that they didn't have that kind of love

(12:04):
in their own families, and so they formed new families.
These people are very honest and giving. They're good people.
But not the posers, you know. The posers can kiss
my ass. Peter Ivers wasn't a punk, and he wasn't
a poser either. He was something else. As for new

(12:26):
wave theater, it always rubbed me the wrong way. Yeah,
it showcased punk bands, but at his core I thought
it was total jive. Part of the problem was right
there in its name new wave. I don't know if
it's legit or cool to quote my own movie, but
Claude Bessie gave the best definition of new wave and

(12:52):
how it fit into the scene.

Speaker 1 (12:53):
There's no such thing as new wave. It does not exist.
There's new music, there's new underground sound, there's noise, there's punk,
there's power pub This god is Rocketbillye. But new wave
doesn't mean shit.

Speaker 2 (13:06):
The tension between punk and so called new wave made
new wave theater an uncomfortable thing to watch. Why are
people so afraid today?

Speaker 3 (13:15):
What do you think is the ultimate reason? Watched the
film You don't want to give me clear answers to
a question about how to change things haven't flipped yet.

Speaker 2 (13:28):
Still, the show attracted attention, so much so that it
got picked up by a real TV company, the USA Network.
By nineteen eighty three, it was becoming Peter ivers claim
to fame, and then it all went to hell.

Speaker 1 (13:52):
The first time I met Peter, he was wearing a towel.
Was he was? He was in the baths. I was there,
I was wearing a towel. Were both wearing towels.

Speaker 2 (14:02):
That's Alan Sachs. He may be best known for co
creating the show Welcome bat Cotter, and he discovered John
Travolta back in the eighties. He was a big deal
TV executive by day and by night. Alan was a punk.
In another place, in another time, someone like Alan Sachs

(14:24):
would never have known someone like Peter Ivers. But this
was LA in the early nineteen eighties. So here they
are sitting in a sauna together, and.

Speaker 1 (14:34):
I was happy to meet Peter. I always wanted to
meet Peter. He was a center of a lot of
people around hearing his stories, and he always had great stories.
I liked the yet a certain sarcasm about him, and
I liked his sense of humor. I liked his intelligence.

Speaker 2 (14:53):
Alan and Peter would go to dinner talk about meditation
and the TV business. Sometimes they would part together. Cut
to the morning of March third, nineteen eighty three. Alan
had stayed up all night partying before flying to New York.
By the time he arrives, he's hungover and bleary eyed.

Speaker 1 (15:14):
I had stayed up all night, flew to New York.
The next day, I was at my friend Ratso was
working with John Cale from the Velvets. Brought me over
to Cale's place. He was going to play me some
music that Cale and Ratso were working on. And answering
machines were a new phenomenon then people are always checking it.

Speaker 2 (15:38):
Back then, an answering machine was this thing on the
desk and you would call yourself and press a button
and listen to your messages. So Alan calls to check
his messages. Even though he's a party monster, he's still
a TV producer. Maybe something important's going on.

Speaker 1 (15:56):
And I had a message and it said Peter Ravis
is dead.

Speaker 2 (16:01):
Peter Ivers was dead, not just dead, murdered, which was
crazy because Alan Alan had just seen Peter alive at
the spot. Alan had been partying at the spot they
all partied at.

Speaker 1 (16:20):
I had literally just seen Peter before I got on
the plane. We had been hanging out at the cave.
And he got into his little sports car, which I
believe was a Fiat, a little beaten up, and he
drove off and I never saw him again. That was
Mark Second, nineteen eighty three, forty years ago, forty years wow.

(16:41):
The next morning, Mark Third, he was found by his neighbor,
Jim Tucker. He walked into Peter's room and Peter was
lying there in bed, covered with a bloody blanket. And
when Jim got closer, he could see that Peter's head
had been bashed in.

Speaker 2 (16:59):
And this news is shocking, and said O, of course,
but it's also frightening because now there's a murderer among us.

Speaker 1 (17:08):
And that was really scary because I was going to
be going back. I didn't want to come back to
La I don't want to be back back in that scene.
If there's a murderer of walking around.

Speaker 2 (17:18):
The News of Peter's death spread fast. The punks, the artists,
the film people, everyone was talking. I honestly don't remember
how I heard it.

Speaker 1 (17:29):
I mean, but word.

Speaker 2 (17:30):
Went around really super fast. Everybody knew, like right away.

Speaker 6 (17:34):
We were at Elle's bar, we were in the little
coffee shops at the Atomic Cafe, and suddenly.

Speaker 2 (17:40):
It was like, did you hear Peter Rivers got murdered?
He told me that Peter died, said murdered.

Speaker 4 (17:46):
This isn't some kind of joke, right, I'll never forget it.

Speaker 2 (17:48):
We had already had a couple of people die of drugs,
but to be murdered, it's like, holy fuck.

Speaker 1 (17:54):
People started showing up and Peter's loft to see if
the roomors were true, to see if he was really
This was before the cops even got there. I don't
know if they had been called and just were slow
getting to the scene or what. But by the time
the cops did actually arrive, the loft was full of
people looked like a cocktail body, Peter's friends, some people,

(18:16):
maybe even just random people who wanted to see what
all the excitement was about. I mean, people like Harold Ramis,
the guy who wrote Animal House. He ended up there.
It was a total madhouse. People walking everywhere, running off
with Peter's stuff, which is not great if you were
a detective and were trying to preserve.

Speaker 2 (18:34):
Evidence outside the scene. Not many people knew this unique,
charismatic guy, but for those around him, like Anne Ramis,
Peter's death changed everything.

Speaker 8 (18:51):
I can't remember how unreal it all seemed. I mean,
later on it became more unreal. I wasn't even sure
that it was true.

Speaker 1 (18:58):
You know.

Speaker 8 (18:58):
I would be riding my bike and think, well, I
what if I'm on the AFTRA level and I'm you know,
passed over. I mean, this can this does? It just
didn't feel real. You know.

Speaker 2 (19:26):
I have this concept that maybe certain people are just
too good to be on the face of this earth.
And my brother was like that. My brother was killed
by a drunk driver in nineteen eighty four, and he
was just too good to be here.

Speaker 1 (19:46):
You know.

Speaker 2 (19:47):
My daughter's father died of a heroin overdose when she
was four years old. He was too good to be here.
And that's the way I think about Peter. So I'm
not going to talk graphically about Peter's murder. I'm gonna
let other people handle that part. I almost didn't take
this gig because of the whole idea of turning murder

(20:09):
into entertainment. It's just it's not my thing anyway. After
Peter's death, the police started an investigation, but forty years later,
no one's been charged or even arrested. For all of
us who loved Peter, the lack of answers really hurts.

Speaker 1 (20:30):
I just couldn't understand why anyone who wanted to kill
someone like Peter rives. Everybody loved Peter.

Speaker 2 (20:38):
One guy who never forgot Peter was Alan Sachs. A
few years back, Alan decided to start his own investigation
to try and make sense of this terrible thing. He
started talking to people, pulling theories together, and so it's
mostly his interviews you'll hear in the episode to come.

Speaker 1 (21:00):
And so I just started looking into it, and fuck,
I almost wish I hadn't, because I became obsessed with it.
For forty years, I've been obsessed with it and still,
although maybe it was cathotic, and maybe this is cathotic
that I did this and I'm talking about it, it
became a release because people you walked around this world

(21:24):
and suddenly one of the more innocent people in the
world is dead in a gruesome, gruesome way.

Speaker 2 (21:34):
The more Alan learned, the wilder this story got.

Speaker 1 (21:36):
I learned that everybody wanted to talk about Peter Rivers.
People were lining up to come and talk to me.

Speaker 2 (21:42):
Over the rest of this series, we're going to talk
about what he found and more. We're going to talk
about the punk scene and the nightclub scene. We'll talk
about David Lynch and Colts and the Occault and guns
and drug gangs and record deals and Saturday Night Live
and the National Lampoon and how they're all intertwined around

(22:06):
Peter Ivers. And we're going to do it to celebrate
Peter's life, to try and shed some light on what
happened to him and hopefully bring him some peace. Oh
and one last thing, we're going to at least try
to find that shithead that did it.

Speaker 9 (22:27):
I used to manage OJ Simpson, and I didn't think
he did it until I did think he did it,
And it's a little bit how I feel about I
think that possibility is strong that he went over the
top oto.

Speaker 1 (22:42):
I was terrified that if had killed Peter and thought
that I was suspicious of him, that it could be
bad for me. He liked to fool around with other
people's wives, which was very dangerous.

Speaker 2 (22:58):
He was having an affair with the people shouldn't be
messing with. I'm sure it was questioned a lot.

Speaker 1 (23:04):
Sounded to me like he owed people money.

Speaker 2 (23:06):
I mean literally, since a week it happened. I thought
we did it.

Speaker 1 (23:10):
They didn't interview and they didn't. He was never suspect what.

Speaker 2 (23:15):
He was never of suspicion. That is even more faith
in cops, doesn't it. Hey look at that a little mystery.
This should keep all of you deviate oddballs satisfied for
a bit until the next episode anyway, later days in
better lays. All right? Can I go now?

Speaker 3 (23:36):
In the silence you can hear your thoughts, choose among
them and design of future worth living for on behalf
of our producer all World stage. This is your bell,
Captain b Boy Ivers, wishing you a fitful sleep in
the arms of Morpheus till next week.

Speaker 2 (24:00):
Peter and the Acid King is based on interviews recorded
and researched by Alan Sachs. It's produced by Imagine Audio,
Alan Sachs Productions and Awfully Nice for iHeartMedia. I'm Your
Host Penelope Speerris. The series is written by Caitlin Fontana

(24:20):
Peter and the Acid King is produced by Amber von Shassen.
The senior producer is Caitlin Fontana and the supervising producer
is John Asanti. Our project manager is Katie Hodges. Our
executive producers are Ron Howard, Brian Grazier, Alan Sachs, Kara Welker,

(24:42):
Nathan Kloke, Jesse Burton and Katie Hodges. The associate producers
are Laura Schwartz, Dylan Cainrich and Chris Statue. Co producer
on behalf of Shout Factory is Bob Emmer. Sound design
and mis by Evan Arnette. Fact checking by Katherine Barner.

(25:05):
Original music composed by Alloy Tracks, Music clearances by Barbara Hall.
Voiceover recording by Voice Tracks West. Special thanks to Annette
van Durin. Thank you for listening.
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