Pete Williams, a.k.a. Peter Will
Slim used to joke that one day he might just die on stage. That didn’t happen, except in the sense that he was always dying, just a bit at a time. The first clue about that was Slim’s suicide attempt around 93 or 94. Pete and Rex were really upset about it; I’m sure it was one of the contributing moments to Pete’s song Herrington Park. To listen to Pete and Rex, it was as if Slim had personally wounded them instead of himself.
I was really surprised to find out (via google) that Pete Williams died in August 2005. Pete was much younger than Slim, and when I knew him, much healthier. I don’t know what killed him, but unlike N.L. Belardes I don’t really think that it was the Bakersfield music scene. When I knew him, Pete had found a way out. He traded Bakersfield for San Luis Obispo. I didn’t know him well, and we only collaborated for a shoot or two, but the disillusionment of creative people is not geographically specific. Although Bakersfield is a more depressing place than some, I found myself as disillusioned in Arkansas as I ever was in Bakersfield. Pete and Slim changed venues, but almost always ended up back there. Not me.
I remember one shoot well. Pete paid me enough to be able to rent a car to drive from Bakersfield to SLO, and staged several distinctive things for the stage show at SLO Brew. There was a piñata filled with pornography, and a ceremonial acoustic guitar to smash. I could only locate this single photograph from the show; there were many more. It seems like no one besides N.L. Belardes said much about Pete when he died. That really makes me sad. He was a powerful talent, with a powerful taste for drugs and alcohol to match. That is probably what killed him (I couldn’t find any real cause of death listed anywhere.).
Slim told me a story once about Pete and a case of Schaeffer beer. They had both finished off the beer, and when Pete found the carton empty in the refrigerator he put it over his head and yelled “I am a Schaeffersaurus,” just before he stood up into the freezer door and knocked himself out cold on the floor. Pete was funny like that. The face that Belardes placed at the top of this entry is a familiar one (complete with a Slim-painted hat). I remember hanging out with him for a while in downtown Bakersfield one afternoon. He was uncomfortable with the fact that everywhere he went someone would recognize him at start chatting with him as if they were his friend. He told me “I don’t know these people and I wish they would leave me alone.” He was mildly rude to them until they would go away. I wouldn’t say that I really knew Pete, but I would say that I’m sorry that he’s gone.
In a sense, Pete got what he was wishing for that afternoon. No one seems to know him now, and the music he made seems to have disappeared without much of a trace. I wish I could have hung on to more. It’s harder to write about Slim. I hung onto much more of him. I can’t get over the fact that Pete died first.