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Sunday, June 27, 2010

Linda Rader Overman: How Everyone I Knew Has Died Too Soon

Recently at the memorial for a dear friend, and former boyfriend of old, I sat and pondered how was it that so any of my old friends from teenage-hood either did not live to see 40 or have not made it to 60?

Tony Peluso and I met when he was 16 and I was 15. He was in a band a bunch of us girls had hired to play at a party we were giving for our friends from Hollywood High School. It was 1966 or thereabouts. It was in the spring and for some of us, our junior year was coming to an end. I had skipped first grade and was a year younger than most of my friends. This would plague me for most of my secondary school life as I was always too immature to fit in. I crashed and burned when I failed my entire freshman year of college, dropped out, and then did not complete my undergrad year until I was almost 40. But that's another story.

Tony was also not a particularly good student. In fact, he had left Loyola High School and was attending the dreaded Hollywood High Continuation school. That way he could focus on his passion: playing and composing music. He was actually quite the prodigy. Upon meeting Tony and his band mates in The Abstracts, filled with kids who had all met and attended various catholic schools together, Blessed Sacrament, Loyola, Notre Dame, St. John Vianney (before it became Daniel Murphy)--I met a large group of guys and girls who were all trying to fit in. That is what the high school years are partially about belonging...doesn't necessarily matter what, just belonging.

We all shared a love of Tony's band and the various clubs on the Sunset Strip in Hollywood, CA that his band was paid to perform at. Later, I introduced some of my girlfriends to some of these cute young men and relationships and even a marriage or two resulted. My first roommate out of high school and I enjoyed socializing with the band members and its group of band groupies. We all did what a lot of people did in the swinging sixties....participate in those free loving rituals Dr. Timothy Leary opined. Tune in, turn on, and drop out aka sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll. We were invincible. We were against Vietnam. We enjoyed the rituals of smoking marijuana and experimenting with hallucinogenics. We protested "The Man" and what he stood for especially what the man did to blacks in those days.

Many of us went on to college and did very well, many of us did not go to college and still did well. Many of us were enmired in drug addiction and struggled out the abyss it threw us into, some of us did not, and succumbed. In our late twenties and early thirties some of this crowd I had hung with started dying off for a variety of reasons. Illness--physical and mental, drug addiction, AIDs, heart problems, Cancer, and the list goes on.

It all came to a head for me one afternoon, when I was visiting the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio with family members around 1996. We were simply tourists and I stumbled into the screening of a documentary of the Sixties and The Who were being interviewed. Pete Townsend was very upset at the grim reality that so many of his friends in some of the most famous rock 'n roll bands in the world were all dead. He was in tears as I heard him say, "All my fucking friends are dead!" And that phrase exploded in my head because so many of my fucking friends were also. I had to run out of the museum immediately. I rushed out of there balling my eyes out at the loss of over a dozen of the old crowd I had so long ago become friends with, partied with, cried with, smoked weed with, done other drugs with, regretted it with, and then laughed about it all with. I was in a rage at the stupid naivete we all showed by our cavalier approach to living. We inhaled life in that devil-may-care way that so many young people do, even today, except when I was growing up AIDs was not an acronym.

Tony was charismatic, diligent in his goal to be a rock n roller. He was a genius at his ability to play the guitar, arrange and produce records, as later evidenced by his long list of Grammy awards and other amazing musical accomplishments. See below from the Hollywood Reporter obit page:

Tony Peluso, who played lead guitar with the Carpenters before becoming a successful producer, died on Saturday, June 5 in Los Angeles of heart disease, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Peluso, 60, was a four-time Grammy winner who made an impressive mark on the world of pop music, performing and producing on records that, in total, sold in excess of 150 million copies.

Peluso got his start working with teen idol Bobby Sherman in the late '60s and played guitar with Paul Revere and the Raiders before joining the Carpenters in 1971 at the age of 21. Following the death of Karen Carpenter in 1983, Peluso signed on with Motown Records, where he was an A&R executive. He produced records by Smokey Robinson, Michael Jackson, the Temptations and the Four Tops in his 10 years with the label. He most recently worked on the Oscar-winning soundtrack to 'Brokeback Mountain.'

In 1992, he and Latin artist Santaolalla helped define the Roc en Espanol genre. Through this affiliation, Peluso was later tapped to produce the 'Brokeback Mountain' theme song 'The Wings.' Peluso is also credited for producing and engineering records by Kenny Loggins, Seals and Crofts, Apollonia, Animotion, Stephanie Mills, the Fixx, Ricky Martin, Café Tacuba and Boyz II Men with Selena, among others.

Peluso is survived by his sons, Joe and Andrew. Funeral services will be held on Saturday, June 26 at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Northridge, Calif.


Sitting and listening to Tony being eulogized and afterwards talking with so many faces (that at times I didn't always recognize), I realized how old I am and that I feel much older. I realized that some four to five decades ago, how many mistakes I had made as young girl who was narcissistic, concerned with how much of an impact I made entering a room, and totally unaware of life's dangers. I, of course, would never have any problems, that was only other people, not me. I realized, too, how much I had eaten my life in one large gulp instead of one bite at a time, and yet I had relished doing so.

Many of my friends who I had not seen since the last memorial service we attended, in the fall of last year, also ate life on those terms in their youth. Yet here we were still surviving: our hair was whiter, our physiques showed how good a life we were still living, we had wrinkles, we wore glasses, we embraced and bemoaned how we had to stop meeting like this. And we all mourned a friend, a father, a musician, a former altar boy, a husband, a boyfriend, a band mate, a colleague, and in my case one of the first men I actually fell madly in love with, when I was a college freshman. His insatiable appetite for music and for me frightened me so that it took all my power to run from him. His intensity for those things terrified, mystified, inspired, intrigued, attracted and repelled me. He did not let go without a fight. But to survive, I had to turn my back on him and that life.

I can't believe how much I miss that me, that him, those friends who stood in a semi circle that day at the church for a group photo. And what makes me even sadder is that when I see them again, another one of us will have died. Another one of us will remind us all what we were, what we did and should not have done, what we loved, embraced and lived.

Our lives were better because of and in spite of each other. And to one who had a compelling impact on my early life I say:

Dear Tony,

Goodnight sweet prince. And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.