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November 13, 2023 23 mins

How do you mourn someone who was so very alive? It’s a question Peter’s friends asked over and over. Today, we look into how Peter’s community grieved the loss of their friend.

This episode features information and audio from the following sources:

The Peter Principle, John Leone

In Heaven, Everything is Fine by Josh Frank

'An Einstein among Neanderthals': the tragic prince of LA counterculture

Over the edge: The incredible life and mysterious death of Peter Ivers

See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

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Transcript

Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:00):
Before we get started, you should know this show has
some explicit content not for the faint to thought, so
don't say you haven't been warned.

Speaker 2 (00:14):
It's a spring day in nineteen eighty three. A car
joins the crash of traffic on the one oh one
heading west. The passengers sit silent. They have a solemn
job ahead of them. In the passenger seat is Anne Ramis,
clutching a small plastic bag. In the back seat is

(00:35):
Anne's young daughter Violet. Behind the wheel is screenwriter Rod Falconer.

Speaker 3 (00:42):
So all the way out to Malibu, we went out.
We're driving out the one on one, and Violet, who
didn't know what was going on. Of course she knew
Peter was dead, possibly, but she didn't really know we
were carrying ashes or anything like that.

Speaker 2 (00:58):
The plastic bag contains some of Peter's ashes. Lucy Fisher
has some too, as does Peter's mother, Merle. The silence
in the car is deafening. Violet Raymons is seven years
old at this point, in that way that kids sometimes do,
she senses the heaviness of the moment.

Speaker 3 (01:20):
She starts singing, just really spontaneously and very with a
beautiful tonality, and she sang the Streets of Laredo as.

Speaker 4 (01:29):
Ah walked down on the streets of Laredo.

Speaker 5 (01:35):
The Streets of Laredo was a song that I had
learned at school, which is a very depressing song about
a cowboy that dies aspared.

Speaker 4 (01:43):
A young cowboy, wrapped all and wad.

Speaker 2 (01:49):
The song feels right to violate. She knows something bad
has happened, even if she doesn't know exactly what it is.
To her. The song is about Peter.

Speaker 5 (02:00):
He was our cowboy, you know, like we all loved
our cowboy, so brave, young and handsome. That was the lyric.
And he was that like he was everybody's hero.

Speaker 3 (02:09):
And I had never really listened to the words the
Streets of Laredo. You know, I spied a young cowboy
dressed in white linen, dressed in white linen, and cold
is the clay.

Speaker 4 (02:21):
Being the drum slowly and play the fire slowly, and
play the death of March as you carry me along,
take me to the valley and lay the sod or
Ah a young cowboy and.

Speaker 3 (02:43):
No anyway, it was it was perfectly chosen songs like
it was this intuitive insight.

Speaker 5 (02:52):
So we went up to the mountains somewhere I don't
exactly remember where with Peter ashes, and it was a
very solemn group of people and somebody was saying some words.

Speaker 6 (03:09):
And then the bag fell into the river.

Speaker 2 (03:12):
That's Anne Ramis.

Speaker 5 (03:14):
The idea was to scatter the ashes into the river,
but my mom just sort of tossed her baggy into
the water.

Speaker 1 (03:22):
And I felt terrible, you know, because there was ghosts
floating this plastic bag which filled with his ashes down
the river, and.

Speaker 5 (03:29):
There was the zip black bag floating down the river.
And maybe that baggy is still somewhere.

Speaker 7 (03:37):
And Rod said Peter would have loved it.

Speaker 4 (03:40):
Ah, a young cowboy, no god.

Speaker 2 (03:51):
Looking back, Peter's death was one of the moments that
signaled the end of an era in LA. The culture
was ing.

Speaker 8 (04:01):
There were monumental changes that took place. The overall punk
scene moves from this very niche, underground sound to a
more kind of mainstream sound, especially through the sob genres
that come up.

Speaker 2 (04:16):
Here's journalist Stephanie Mendez.

Speaker 8 (04:18):
Now you have thousands of people showing up and selling
out these large venues to see big punk bands. So
by the time Peter Ivers dies in nineteen eighty three,
the punk scene is dramatically different from the scene of
nineteen seventy seven because punk becomes bigger in LA, there
are bigger shows, there is a bigger scene.

Speaker 2 (04:39):
It's a familiar story. The underground gets cool, then goes
super nova, and a new underground forms in its wake,
a never ending cycle. And it wasn't just happening in
the punk scene. Film was changing too, becoming more about
blockbusters than art. The hip, edgy comedy of Saturday Night
Live was going mainstream. The artsy culture of LA was

(05:03):
becoming more and more about money che change. I remember
driving on the Sunset Strip and I looked up at
the Whiskey Marquee and it said the NAC and I said, oh,
he god, we're screwed. That meant new wave was getting
a foothold and probably going to push punk right out

(05:24):
the window. It was all a little less cool and
a lot less interesting, to be honest. But it wasn't
just the music that was changing. Peter's death cast an
ominous shadow over the scene for those of us who
knew him or who gives a shit party. Days were over.

Speaker 9 (05:43):
My best friend was dead. I had no one to
count on.

Speaker 1 (05:46):
After that, it felt like a black cloud had shuttled down.

Speaker 2 (05:52):
The impact of Peter's death rippled through the scene in
numerous ways. The final episode of New Wave Theater was
left unfinished. Friends, lovers, and collaborators confronted a huge void
in their lives, and worst of all, we carried with

(06:12):
us the unsettling suspicion that the person responsible for his
death might be someone we knew and trusted. I'm Penelope
Spherus and this is Peter and the Acid King. Peter

(06:40):
had a tendency to draw people into his orbit. Maybe
that's why so many of his friends went to his
loft the day he died. They were following Peter's gravitational pull.

Speaker 7 (06:51):
There are many legitimately considered Peter their best friend and
found felt bound to him forever.

Speaker 2 (06:58):
John Leone was one of Peter's oldest friends. He's the
guy who stumbled on Peter playing harmonica in the tunnels
under Harvard. He's also a writer, so when La Weekly
asked John to write a tribute to Peter, he was honored.
We asked John to read some of that tribute for us.

Speaker 7 (07:18):
The early symptoms of group shock have set in the
world is more intense, colors, brighter objects, loom and pass.
There were many golden hours with me and dozens of
others passed contentedly in Peter's presence in Cambridge and Berkeley,
in New York or Boston. In the seventeen years I

(07:40):
knew him. We sang at the piano, smoked dope, worked
on songs, lyrics, music. We philosophized, exchange, show business, cord gossip,
framed our problems as jokes, encouraged and laughed at each other.
Peter said he hung out for a living. From these
good hours came music for fourteen plays at Harvard, a

(08:03):
degree in classics, virtuosity on the harmonica, three albums, several
hundred songs, soundtracks for a television show, in two movies,
an underground television celebrity, and modern pop icon status.

Speaker 2 (08:20):
Pop icon might be a stretch, but we love Peter
so much that we'll give it to him. In the
moments after Peter's death, shock rolled through everyone in his circle,
one by one, and.

Speaker 7 (08:34):
Then the fact swoops by. Chills pass down the spine,
the body moves, the head rises, the tears swell. Frims,
touched blindly by telephone, go to bars, silent before the unspeakable.

Speaker 2 (08:54):
I had to say Dame lastnight. Peter's memorial was held
the Sunday after he died at the Leo Beck Temple
in West LA. Three hundred people attended. The La Times
ran an obituary titled a death of Innocence. It read quote,

(09:17):
Los Angeles lost one of the few links between its
underground art community and the above ground entertainment establishment. It
also lost one of its most colorful characters. End quote.
All kinds of people showed up to pay their respects.
Here's Stuart Cornfield, a film producer and a mutual friend
of ours.

Speaker 10 (09:37):
I was an usher at the memorial supervis in LA
and I'll just tell you I'm like in back with
the other ushers and Mark Canton, who was like head
of production at Warner Brothers. And Mark is like telling everybody, Okay,
you do this, and you take that door and you
walk into the display and Harold Ramis's who died and

(09:57):
left you in charge.

Speaker 2 (10:00):
Filmmaker Malcolm Leo must not have heard Ramus's joke because
he thought the whole thing was too somber, not light
and sweet like Peter was.

Speaker 7 (10:09):
It was almost a bit too religious.

Speaker 2 (10:13):
And John Leone could have done without the Hollywood types,
which I can definitely relate to.

Speaker 7 (10:18):
I went too, only for a few minutes, because what
I really resented what happened for Peter's memorial. It was
a bunch of people who didn't know very well. It
was mostly holling with people.

Speaker 2 (10:33):
What brought these people together was their love for Peter,
and each of them paid tribute in their own way.
Franny Guldi, Peter's songwriting partner, played music at the service.

Speaker 11 (10:46):
We put together a band like a band, and I
played keyboards and everybody participated.

Speaker 2 (10:53):
They performed Writing on the Wings of Love, a song
that she and Peter wrote together.

Speaker 11 (10:59):
I think it spoke to the moment, but it was
writing on the wings of love, writing on the wings
of desire, writing on the wings of love, writing on
the wings of fire. Sweet mystery came into me. Yeah,
it was a really good lyric and I think it

(11:19):
spoke to the moment.

Speaker 2 (11:22):
Johannah Went attended the memorial as well.

Speaker 12 (11:25):
I mean, when I think about it now, I could
almost cry, you know. I went with Shirley Clark, and
Shirley didn't know Peter really well, but she had met
him and talked to him about new way theater because
I'd been working with Shirley, and Peter was interested in Shirley.

Speaker 2 (11:43):
Frannie's band starts to play, and.

Speaker 12 (11:47):
When they played that song, she just wept, just could
not stop weeping. She really wept out loud, you know,
and people looked at her and she just said, you know,
people they don't know how to show their grief. She said,

(12:10):
what's wrong with these people? How can they just sit there?
That's what she said to me. Afterwards, she goes, how
can they just sit there?

Speaker 2 (12:19):
Some people were there that day to grieve. Others were
seeking solace, but those feelings were tangled up with something else, suspicion.
Here's Stuart Cornfeld again.

Speaker 10 (12:33):
Everybody was looking for answers, and what was weird was
everybody was pointing fingers in the other direction. The movie
people thought the punks did it. The punk thought that
the movie people did it.

Speaker 2 (12:45):
You know.

Speaker 10 (12:45):
It was just fucking crazy.

Speaker 9 (12:47):
The way it turns out is you're sitting there going like,
who killed my best friend?

Speaker 2 (12:52):
Yeah?

Speaker 9 (12:52):
And you're doing that like for years.

Speaker 2 (12:56):
That's tequila Mockingbird Punk scenes to extraordinary.

Speaker 9 (13:00):
Thirty years of me going was it this person or
could it be that person? Or you never knew, you
didn't know who your friends really were.

Speaker 2 (13:09):
Point is, the whole scene was on high alert. Fear
was running rampant. Everyone was a suspect.

Speaker 6 (13:18):
It's very hard to describe how it put a cloud
of negativity and paranoia and distrust.

Speaker 13 (13:25):
People started suddenly looking around over their shoulder a lot more,
and it kind of brought the party to an end.

Speaker 1 (13:33):
I didn't want to see any of these people.

Speaker 14 (13:45):
I think one other person at that point who had
been actually murdered in the punk scene, and it was Jane,
who was Rick Wilder's girlfriend that had been killed by
the Hillsides Jengler.

Speaker 2 (14:01):
That's pleasant gayman. She knew Peter from the punk scene.

Speaker 14 (14:05):
I mean, people had died in car accidents or there
was a few od's, but I think the only other
murder was that. But that was also by a known
serial killer. So this was just kind of different, you know,
because it was just like who who would murder him?
He was so sort of innocuous.

Speaker 2 (14:26):
We had lost people close to us before, Belushi, Doug, Kenny, Darby, Crash,
drugs destroyed some of the best minds of my generation.
But a murder was way different. It was violence on
top of tragedy. Here's musician Russell Buddy Helm talking about it.
He's playing the drums while he talks.

Speaker 15 (14:47):
I've gone through a lot of deaths, a lot of
violent deaths and music and film business. You know, when
Dwayne died, that was rough.

Speaker 2 (14:54):
He's referring to Dwayne Almond from the Almond Brothers. He
died in a motorcycle accident in nineteen seventy one.

Speaker 15 (15:02):
And then when Tim Buckley was murdered that was also
very rough. When Peter died just as bad, just as bad,
because it was like, what am I doing? You know,
all these people that I've worked with intensely creatively, you know,
violent deaths, So I was like I couldn't figure out

(15:24):
where I belonged, you know, because basically people were getting
shot out from underneath me.

Speaker 2 (15:31):
Peter's death was like turning on the lights at the zero.
Suddenly you saw everything you could ignore in the dark,
including yourself.

Speaker 6 (15:40):
There was already a great idea of nihilism and a
sense of everything's ending, and this is like the last party,
feeling like this is like the celebration of the end
of the world. Was the mood of that whole scene.

Speaker 2 (15:54):
That's Nicholas Shrek. You heard him talk about the occult
a few episodes ago.

Speaker 6 (16:00):
It was about darkness, like tomorrow there'll be some catastrophe
or inferno coming and live it up now. That was
the sense of it, and the murder just made that
not fun anymore. It made it very real and made
it like somebody here is the killer.

Speaker 2 (16:17):
Bob Forrest agrees, it just was.

Speaker 16 (16:20):
Like a light and all of a sudden, and we'd
already had a couple of people die of drugs, but
to be murdered, it was like, holy fuck, there had
to be somebody we know, somebody we know murdered. Peter Ivers.

Speaker 13 (16:33):
The one thing that I can attest to with complete
a surety is what his murder did to the downtown
arts scene, and that was cause it to come to
a screeching halt. And realized that the innocence was over,
that all of this fun that we were having and
this I can live forever, and well, let's can go

(16:55):
right through me and we can do anything. That stopped
was a very sobering event.

Speaker 2 (17:02):
That last voice is Steven Semeyer. He's an artist.

Speaker 13 (17:07):
I mean, none of us had been murdered, none of
us had had foul play like that. We'd had our
cars broken into, our studios broken into, we might have
been you know, harassed downtown by you know, various people,
but nothing on the level of murder had happened. So
it for a while there it was like everyone felt
like he suddenly grew up and it kind of changed everything.

(17:31):
It was kind of like a milestone.

Speaker 6 (17:33):
That was it.

Speaker 2 (17:38):
For Alan Sachs. Peter's death was a turning point.

Speaker 1 (17:43):
Peter's death was the signal for me to leave this scene.

Speaker 2 (17:48):
By day I was I was where.

Speaker 1 (17:50):
I was producing TV movies. By night, I was, you know,
sitting in David Jove's cave.

Speaker 2 (17:56):
He went to the cave a few more times, but
he found himself going there less and less. Eventually he
stopped altogether.

Speaker 1 (18:05):
I stopped drinking, I stopped using any sort of drugs.
That was a big change. I didn't want to be
part of it anymore. And yet there was, you know,
drugs and alcohol was very prevalent in there. That kind
of signaled me that I had to go somewhere else.

Speaker 2 (18:21):
For him, that somewhere else was AA.

Speaker 1 (18:25):
The reason that the Alcoholics Anonymous program works is because
they say, you got to go to a meeting a
day the first year, and if you surround yourself with
other recovered alcoholics, then it's safe. But if they're still drinking,
it's not.

Speaker 2 (18:46):
Simple as that.

Speaker 1 (18:47):
There was a meeting in AA on Rodeo Drive in
Beverly Hills, and you would go there on a Friday
night and there were like two hundred people sitting around,
and several of them part of the cave scene. A
lot of people went in that direction.

Speaker 2 (19:10):
Bob Forrest went even further. He went from playing in
bands like Felonious Monster and enjoying the drugs and parties
that entailed to becoming a world renowned addiction counselor. And
for that I take my hat off to him. One

(19:48):
person who did not attend Peter's service was David Jove. Instead,
Jove hosted his own thing for Peter. Ken Yaz was there.

Speaker 1 (19:58):
David threw a memorial service for him in a room
next to the whiskey on sunset.

Speaker 3 (20:03):
David was appropriately upset, but there was clearly something going on.

Speaker 12 (20:08):
There was something amiss about the whole thing.

Speaker 2 (20:11):
Funerals are for the living. They're supposed to give us closure.
But after the memorial, after Peter's ashes went floating down
the river, and after we all went back to our
everyday lives, there was still no closure. One person who
wasn't willing to stand for that was Lucy Fisher. Although
she and Peter were separated, they were still deeply connected,

(20:34):
and so she decided to take things into her own hands.

Speaker 3 (20:39):
Lucy and Mark Canton and I all put up It
sounds like a small amount now, but we just put
up ten thousand dollars reward at that time.

Speaker 2 (20:48):
That's Rod Falconer again, Peter's screenwriting partner. By the way,
ten thousand dollars back then is thirty thousand dollars in
today's money.

Speaker 3 (20:58):
And Lucy hired private detective. The cops never really I
don't know, they never really came up with anything.

Speaker 2 (21:09):
In the absence of any clear answers, people in the
scenes start speculating, and it's not long before theories begin
to emerge. Peter owed twenty five thousand to a Samoan
drug gang based in Redwood City and that they were

(21:31):
likely would have killed them for the debt.

Speaker 1 (21:34):
Peter was messing around with many, many women in the
Beverly Hills area.

Speaker 9 (21:38):
I got a phone call saying, you're next, and I said,
come on over. I'm waiting for.

Speaker 2 (21:42):
You, but that's for the next episode. See you then.
Peter and the Acid Case is based on interviews recorded
and researched by Alan Sachs. It's produced by Imagine Audio,

(22:07):
Alan Sachs Productions and Awfully Nice for iHeartMedia. I'm your
Host Penelope Speerris. The series is written by Caitlin Fontana.
Peter and the Acid King is produced by Amber von Schassen.
The senior producer is Caitlin Fontana and the supervising producer

(22:27):
is John Assanti. Our project manager is Katie Hodges. Our
executive producers are Ron Howard, Brian Grazer, Caarra Welker, Nathan Kloke,
Alan Sachs, Jesse Burton, and Katie Hodges. The associate producers
are Laura Schwartz, Dylan Cainrich and Chris Statue. Co producer

(22:52):
on behalf of Shout Studios Bob Emmer, Sound design and
mix by Evan Arnette, fact checking by Katherine Barner. Original
music composed by Alloy Tracks, Music clearances by Barbara Hall,
voiceover recording by Voicetracks, West, Show artwork by Michael Dare.

(23:15):
Special thanks to Annette van Durin, thank you for listening.
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