A particularly famous photograph by Peter Beard (characteristically individualized) shows Beard writing in his journal from inside the jaws (of a freshly deceased) crocodile. Apparently, there was a price for the photo. The croc went into rigor mortis, its jaws tightened and the camp servants had a lot of difficulty getting the suffering Beard out from between the now painfully clamped jaws.
From the lack of comments on the previous postings about Peter Beard, I take it that many readers are unacquainted with the works and colorful career of that illustrious writer, photographer, adventurer, and womanizer. I figured I ought to do something about that.
When I was an undergraduate at Yale, in my residential college (Berkeley), there was a strikingly handsome upperclassman who had a considerable physical resemblance to Peter Beard (Silliman ’61). This fellow had parked outside the college on Elm Street a new bright red Alfa Romeo Duetto Spider, which he had received as a gift from a female admirer. While most of us worked summers on Construction or other disagreeable jobs, this particular escapee from Valhalla raised his annual Yale tuition by working as a gigolo on the French Riviera. He was always happy to tell the rest of us all about it, and he always suggested firmly that we really ought to go and do likewise. Of course, just ask yourself: how many undergraduate males look like Peter Beard?
In Outside, Roger Pinckney XI, gave Peter Beard a proper send-off.
Peter Beard was a hard man to peg. A photographer of wildlife and beautiful women, a writer, an ethnologist, explorer, hunter, naturalist, conservationist, ladies man, married man, wise man. Good work if you can get it. But if youâ€™ve ever seen the video of him being trampled by an elephant, you might want to add â€œfoolâ€ to that considerable list. But however you cut it, youâ€™ll run dry of adjectives long before you ever had Peter Beard nailed down.
A 1996 article in Vanity Fair by Leslie Bennetts may be the fullest collection of “Half Tarzan, Half Byron” stories.
Last summer, he and his Danish girlfriend were out in Montauk, where Beard owns the last house on Montauk Point. “Peter’s girlfriend started ragging him about all his bad habits,” Tunney recalls. “She’s this strong Danish chick with a spandex suit on, and she said, ‘Peter, you smoke, you drink, you drug, you stay up all nightâ€”and you’re almost 60 years old! You need to start taking care of yourself. You should go running, like meâ€”five miles a day!’ ”
So Beard, wearing his usual dusty African sandals, obligingly accompanied her on a run. Tunney expected him to last about five minutes. “An hour later, the girlfriend comes back, dripping,” Tunney reports. “I said, ‘Where’s Peter?’ ”
“He loved it,” she gasped. “He said he just wanted to keep going.”