Murder in six degrees

By MIKE MILIARD  |  September 10, 2008

It’s quite a testament to Ivers’s force of personality that so many big players were willing to drop everything and sing his praises. “These people,” recalls Frank, “who hadn’t seen him in 25 years, who probably hadn’t talked about him much, with one phone call, would sit down, and just start talking. It was almost too easy.” It’s all the more striking that he’s faded from public consciousness as time has marched on.

Frank admits it. Plunging into Ivers’s creatively fecund, well-connected, and multifarious life, he got carried away. “The book originally was 450 pages. I had overwritten by 15,000 words.” It’s understandable. After all, Ivers was a guy who can be seen on TV, interviewing a 17-year-old Anthony Kiedis on New Wave Theatre, three years before the Red Hot Chili Peppers formed, in 1980. He did the soundtrack for Ron Howard’s directorial debut, Grand Theft Auto. He jammed and recorded with Van Dyke Parks. Francis Ford Coppola picked his brain about what bands he should use in his films. “He was involved in some of the early Boston alternative rock,” Frank marvels. “I mean, he produced the first Human Sexual Response demo. He was just . . . there!”

Cold case
Peter Ivers’s murder was never solved. Partly that’s because so many of his friends massed on his loft in the wake of his death, corrupting the crime scene. And it’s partly because he knew so damn many people. There was no shortage of theories. Some figured it was the tragic end of a botched robbery. Others wondered whether it was one of the punks who pogoed in the audience at New Wave Theatre. Even Ramis was questioned — and soon cleared — by the cops.

Little headway has been made in the ensuing years. So, “for half of writing the book, I felt like a cold-case detective,” says Frank. “There were hundreds of stories. Some were ridiculous, some were complete rumor. I tried to do what a police officer would do: write down the facts. Keep it clean. I think what happened with Peter’s case is that so many people had so many theories and they were throwing them all out there, that there was too much bullshit to get to the truth. I went to some really shady places, and I talked to some really crazy, weird people, and, y’know, basically asked for their alibis and reported them back to Clifford Shepard at the LA cold-case division.”

You’ll have to read In Heaven to see what Frank was able to come up with. But while no arrests have yet been made, “In a way, I kind of feel like the book solves the case as best it can be, given what there is,” he says. “Within the book are many of the answers of what most likely went down.”

And, at any rate, Frank feels that Ivers’s early death is almost less of a tragedy than the fact that the impact he made has since been forgotten by so many. “This guy was an icon that got lost in time,” he says. “I think that he would have made a huge mark. Yes, there was this crime that he was murdered. But it’s actually a greater crime that no one’s tried to solve this man’s life. This is like the investigation of a crime of a lost life.”

For more about Peter Ivers, including a trove of audio and video, visit peterivers.com. Mike Miliard can be reached at mmiliard@phx.com.

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