Monday, December 03, 2012

Homecoming of The Undoubted Queen

I just spent five days in Napier, New Zealand - home of art deco, a devastating 1931 earthquake, and my friend Peter Cross.
Peter was a performer and writer (he is an Executive Producer on my film Violet Tendencies, and his short Shopping is now hot on the festival circuit), who had often written of growing up in Napier on his blog. After Peter passed away this past july of cancer, his long-time partner Richard was tasked with bringing him home, and asked me last minute if I would join him on the trip. Not sure if I was asked to be company or comedy...but we had a very memorable journey together. 
Richard and Napier - a dapper pair
We spent lots of time getting to know Peter's relatives. These kids were great and we had fun ordering LOTS of bread and wondering about this fish in a bag:
Grant took us around to several of Peter's old haunts and places they frequented growing up. As Grant drove, Richard got emotional and apologized for being "such a mess". Grant said, "Do you have hay fever"? Ha!

Here is Peter's first family home. His was raised very modestly by his single mother, Marie. He never met his father, a traveling salesman, who took to the road and disappeared when Marie fell pregnant.

Everywhere we went - meeting Peter's friends for drinks or dinner, it was always mentioned how astonishing it was in that era for a mother to have kept and raised a child out of wedlock. The social climate in Napier, NZ in the 1950's would have mandated a single mother give the child up for adoption or make "other arrangements". Marie Cross must have been a very courageous woman.

At the council for some admin related to the interment of ashes...

We went to get Peter's plaque at "Headstone World" - clever marketing, who could forget Headstone World? And located beside "Baby Factory" - only steps from cradle to grave! 
Peter was a huge monarchist and remained loyal to the royals all his life. I don't really understand how someone born with so little could be so obsessed with people who were born with everything, but there you have it. His devotion began early on, and one of his fondest memories as a child was seeing the Queen off when she visited Napier.

In going through his things, Richard found this hardback book - befitting title and all - that Peter had checked out and never returned to its owner: Napier Boys High School.
But of course, Peter Cross!
Richard tracked down the school's headmaster and personally returned their property - 40 years later! It's a small town and Richard is now known all about Napier as, "that nice man from Darlinghurst". The night before the big day, we played with our food at a fabulous restaurant with creative food combinations and a lot of wine.


I asked Richard what he was going to say graveside and he admitted he'd been putting that part off.

Peter was an actor, so we thought perhaps reading some Shakespeare, "All the world's a stage..."? But Richard started instead into the lyrics from Showboat, "Life upon the wicked stage ain't nothing what a girl supposes...". I suggested a mash up - it's the Bard and Hammerstein together again for the first time. Richard said, "Peter would never forgive me." We were at least two bottles of wine down.

Richard ended up reading a poem from the Sydney memorial. Though he feared not being able to finish the emotional rollercoaster, he persevered admirably.



Farewell and fait accompli

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Jesse,

Richard and Peter are lucky to have a friend like you!

xoxo Your Friend Jimmy

Jesse Archer said...

Thank you, Jimmy. I think we're all pretty lucky... and I know I'm also blessed to have friends like YOU!
XXX