Peter once yelled at me in front of my daughters. It was about my dog, who was still a rambunctious puppy.
My girls laughed at him under their breath. But I made it a point in my heart to get to know him, and for him to get to know me. If our dogs were going to play in the same space, they we better learn how to do it ourselves. Plus, everyone else seemed to like him. He didn't seem like a bad person.
I saw Peter the following week. We didn’t speak but he said hello and was always friendly with me. I suspect one of the other regulars said something. Or maybe he saw that I actually worked on my dog’s aggressive play style. Still, I wanted to meet him, get to know him, learn his story and understand him better. That time never really materialized until this afternoon.
While editing one particular episode – when Rose fears that a blood transfusion she had several years ago my have contained HIV infected blood – Peter was caught off guard when Blanche told Rose, “AIDS is not a bad persons disease.” In shock and relief Peter began to cry in the edit bay.
He and his partner had the disease. And feared all the stigma that went with it. Because one of America’s sweethearts had said that, Peter felt emboldened to come out of the closet. He was tired of the lies and shame that came with his southern upbringing. His plantation, slave-owning heritage was not very open minded to homosexuality. He believes that being the youngest of six children, his parents had been soften (or worn down). Peter was not a bad person.
His long-time partner at the time died from the disease the same year my last friend died. In 1995, just around the time the lifesaving drug “cocktail” made it possible to save the lives of millions, including Peter.
While Peter did many crazy things in his life, both good and really bad, he believes he has evolved through them. Grateful for the privilege and family he was given, Peter takes after his father, a philanthropist and taught him to always give back. Some of the ways Peter gives back is working as an animal rights advocate – something he learned while working with Jacque Cousteau.
Today, he and his partner have five dogs – each one a rescue. Rocket is their 29th one. When I asked him what is the most difficult thing about rescuing dogs, he said “weighing the financial costs of medical treatment. Is a $5,000 surgery necessary if it means I can rescue another dog.”
As we were talking more dogs show up and circle Peter to say hello. They seem to like him, like everyone else. So I think it’s safe to say he is not bad people.