Murder in six degrees

By MIKE MILIARD  |  September 10, 2008

Ivers was that popular. He had legions of devoted friends. Seemingly everyone who came into contact with him was immediately struck by his warmth, his spirituality, his impish charm, his talents. They described him with words like “subtle perfection” and “the kindest guy in the world.” When Harvard founded the Peter Ivers Visiting Artist program not long after his death, his powerful friends banded together to ensure it was funded in perpetuity.

But in the quarter century since his death, Ivers has largely faded from public consciousness. Frank had never heard of him until he began research on his first book, Fool the World: The Oral History of a Band Called Pixies (St. Martin’s Griffin). (Pixies were known for their excoriating live cover of “The Lady in the Radiator Song.”)

His curiosity piqued, Frank started poking around online. But aside from “one or two YouTube clips, there really wasn’t much about him.” So, he says, “I decided I was gonna try to find his family. There was really only one way to get to his family on the Internet. There was one mention of this woman, Lucy Fisher.”

Fisher, who was Ivers’s girlfriend for more than a decade, is these days a Hollywood super producer (Jarhead, Memoirs of a Geisha). Frank contacted her to inquire about an Ivers biography, and when he reached her, he opened a door that had long remained shut. “I have been dreading this day for a long time,” she said.

“She knew sooner or later someone was gonna come sniffing around,” says Frank (who will, along with his co-author, be reading from In Heaven this Tuesday, September 16, at the Harvard Coop), “and she was basically gonna have to deal with that.”

Fisher opened her Rolodex, and Frank got to work. “She said, ‘Call my assistant. Whoever you want to talk to, we’ll set it up.’ ” But before she sent him off to start his reporting, she tried to prepare him for the depth of feeling people had for this man: “You have no idea what you’re getting into.”

Indeed, as one of Ivers’s close friends told Frank, “You’re going to find out who this guy was and it’s going to blow your mind. And it will make the loss of him that much more profound.”

Center of the world
Frank interviewed more than 200 people for In Heaven. As he started calling around, he soon found that “Peter Ivers was the greatest calling card.” Everyone was willing to share. “It was like, ‘Who do I want to talk to?’ I probably could’ve stopped at 100 [interviews], but this was like the one opportunity in my life to talk to everyone. John Lithgow. Stockard Channing. The family tree that connects Ivers is so unlimited that I could get an interesting story from almost anyone I imagined. It was like a game: how can I connect this person to Peter? David Lynch. Harold Ramis. I talked to Gore Vidal. Dan Aykroyd wrote me a nice little note. [Ivers] was at the center of a number of nexuses that went on to take over the world.”

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