Shut Up, Little Man!

Some Notes Toward a History of Shut Up, Little Man!

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“What Did You Do During the War?” — A drunken interview with Peter Haskett

hotel taylor
The Taylor Hotel, Peter's
Tenderloin residence (1993)

We never expected the CD to find an audience, much less to sell out a few pressings. But, when it did, we felt obligated to find Peter, to explain to him that he was quickly becoming an underground star, and to give him some money. The record company, therefore, cut us a check in Peter’s name; “royalties,” shall we say, for his vocal duet with Raymond. We had heard that Peter had moved from the Pepto-Bismol Palace to an even more run-down tenement in that seediest part of San Francisco, the Tenderloin. Mitchell did some sleuthing and found his new address. At the apartment building we were informed by the ferocious building-manager (a Patel, of the famous Bay Area slumlord family) that Peter Haskett did indeed live there, but that he was not home. Therefore, we sat out on the stoop to await Peter’s arrival.

We waited and waited for more than two hours. Just as we were about to give up, Mitchell slapped me, pointed down the street, and said: “Holy shit, here he comes!” Peter was wobbling slowly up the hill toward us. He had on a little windbreaker and a pair of sunglasses to shield his booze-saturated eyes. He also had a small plastic bag containing a quart of Gin, a big bottle of discount cream soda, and a baguette sheathed in its grocery wrapper.

As Peter arrived at the entrance of his tenement, Mitchell and I hastily introduced ourselves and explained that several years ago we were his next-door neighbors on Steiner Street. He looked at us as if he was in shock. We informed him that we wanted to talk with him awhile and that we would like to buy him a drink. He stared us up and down for a moment, his eyebrows arching over his shades, and agreed to join us. Just across the street was a little dive bar called The Owl Tree Tavern. We made our way inside and ordered some drinks [Peter: “Uh, Eddie, order me a Vodker”].

We had not seen him face-to-face since 1989, when we had moved out of the Pepto. Time and the tide of endless booze had not been good to Peter. The fueled manic voice on the “Shut Up Little Man” recordings, the voice that pierced so many low-down nights, was now long gone. Instead, his voice intoned in a long slow almost Western drawl. In fact, all and all, Peter was excessively sloppy and slow. There was something mushy about him, like an over-ripe melon. That evening in the Owl Tree Tavern I kept thinking that he would simply turn to ectoplasm before my eyes. It was really quite sad.

Mitchell and I attempted to explain to him what had happened — the entire saga of the Shut Up Little Man phenomenon — over and over. He would stop and interrupt us, repeatedly denying that he and Ray ever fought(!), denying the Raymond would ever threaten anyone(!), and in general just proving himself to be the asshole the recordings always revealed him to be. In fact, it took more than an hour to tell the simple story (six times in all), because he did not believe us. Or at least he pretended not to believe us. I mean, Peter was a very smart man, excuse me lady, and we couldn’ t tell if he was just being coy, if he was just drunk (“that is not called being drunk”), or if he had really lost his mind.

Of course, Mitchell and I taped the Owl Tree Tavern interview. After the first hour or so of his refusal to believe our story, he began to obsess on sex. Specifically, he wanted to have sex with Mitchell and I, to suck our cocks, to get a hotel room, to show us his pornographic “book of cocks.” He made advance after ceaseless advance. Finally, after three hours of drinking and boozy discourse with the man whose ranting gave “Shut Up Little Man” its name, we said farewell to Peter in front of the tavern. Silently, we watched him stumble across the street toward his tenement; automobiles hissed by in the rain.