Meeting Peter Green, Great-Nephew of Peter the Hermit

August 13, 2012 § 5 Comments

Peter Green (l) and his son-in-law, Jeff Smith/Hope Anderson Productions

One of the pleasant ancillaries of my documentary research into Beachwood Canyon’s history was meeting Peg Entwistle’s brother Milt and niece Lauretta Slike. Together they filled in the many gaps in her biography, separating fact from fiction through family photographs, memorabilia and–most of all–Milt’s memories. Because of her family, the mythical Peg Entwistle fell away, leaving a real person who seemed strikingly contemporary in her ambitions and struggles.

Last Saturday I had another such experience in meeting Peter Green, a St. Louis-based writer and architect whose great-uncle was Peter Howard, a.k.a. Peter the Hermit. (More on PTH can be found by searching under his name on this blog.) Although Peter Green met Peter the Hermit only once–an experience he recounts in a response to one of my pieces–he remembered the location of his great-uncle’s last home. The rented rooms where the Hermit lived his impoverished final years were in a house that still stands at 2151 Ivar Avenue, in the Hollywood Dell.

One thing I had missed about Peter the Hermit–until Peter Green began imitating his accent–was that, though a Chicago native, he was born in County Limerick, Ireland. His decision to imitate a Biblical character no doubt owed much to an Irish Catholic religiosity which, according to Peter the Hermit’s obituary, dominated his later years. As his landlady, a Mrs. Pippins, recalled, “All he did, all day long, was talk religion, pray and read the Bible aloud to himself.”

Peter the Hermit died a few months before his 91st birthday, having outlived the Silents and Talkies that provided much of his income during his early decades in Hollywood, as well as his 50-year impersonator’s gig. If there was an upside to his no longer being able to ply the Hollywood tourist trade, it was that Peter’s last years took place in the late 1960’s, a particularly seedy time on Hollywood Boulevard. The summer after his death brought the Tate-LaBianca murders, the murders of two UCLA students in a Black Panther power struggle, and a growing atmosphere of fear and distrust across Los Angeles. By then, one imagines, Peter the Hermit was wandering the boulevards of a far better place.

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§ 5 Responses to Meeting Peter Green, Great-Nephew of Peter the Hermit

  • Just read through your posts on Peter the Hermit – fascinating – thank you!

  • Eric James says:

    It would not be surprising if a Peter the Hermit impersonator turned up on Hollywood Blvd. today.

  • Peter Green says:

    Hope, it was wonderful to meet you in person as well, and to share my impressions of Great Uncle Peter, as much a character in a personal meeting as in public. As to his religious fervor, you should re-read my uncle’s comments on the Catholic church at . His landlady was either trying to burnish the image of the class of people she rented to or else Peter had conned her, as he did his Hollywood friends, movie starlet disciples and me. He was quite vocal to me (in 1963) about his dislike of organized religion. I was fascinated to see the Vedanta Temple just down his street, and I wonder how much he discoursed with the monks there and the group’s famous adherents. Despite his show-off tendencies, as a descendant with many of his promotional genes, I love him all the more for it. Best, Peter

  • Peter, I don’t dispute his dislike of organized religion, the Catholic Church in particular, but I think it’s quite possible that he still read the Bible and practiced Christianity on his own terms. (That would be especially in keeping with Matthew 6:6-“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”)

    I’m sure he interacted with the monks at the Vendanta Temple, since he was so close and because it attracted a lot of Hollywood types.

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