Peter & Me
By Damian Korman
The death of Peter Steele has affected those who knew him and knew his music in many different ways. He was loved on many levels through his music and through the lives he touched. If you ever met the man, you forever had a connection to him. I don’t think any of us will ever fully process the fact he is gone forever because it’s hard to imagine that the Green Man is gone. On my road to accepting his death, Id like to share my story of Peter and my two different relationships with him.
I became a fan of Peter’s music when I was 18 when a supposed ex girlfriend of his gave me an advanced copy of Bloody Kisses on a mix tape. Type O Negative was like no other music I had ever heard before. I was into rock and metal, but this took music to a whole new level for me. Not only was the music amazing, but Peter was a fellow Brooklyn-ite (He lived on East 18th bet Ave K&L and I lived on Ave N bet East 3rd and 4th). All of his “Brooklyn” references in his music and all the sound effects of everyday local “brooklyn” sounds made me feel l had a true connection to his music. When I found out he was in another band before Type O called Carnivore, I decided to learn and own everything I could that Peter created.
From time to time, I’d see Peter around Brooklyn on my many travels. I’d see him driving his Pissed Pete mobile on Ocean Pkwy. I’d see him on King’s Highway. I’d even see him in Roll N Roaster eating with his girlfriend. Every time I saw Peter, I’d say hello to him and he would take the time out to speak to me, even if I was driving along side of him on Ocean Pkwy or walking down the street. He had a way of making you feel like you were the most important person to him in that moment you were interacting with him. The day I knew Peter was a gentleman was the time I went to go see a Carnivore reunion in New Jersey. I was front and center during the show and the mosh pit was going absolutely nuts! I was crushed against the stage and Peter noticed I wasn’t having such an easy time in the pit. He reached down for my hand, hoisted me up on the stage and motioned for me to sit on top of his bass speaker off the left of the stage to watch the show from there. I was sitting above him and the crowd! I had the best seat in the house! Just as the last song finished up and Peter was walking back stage, he motioned for me to come follow him back stage where we hung out with a few of his other friends. I was 19 years old and I was hanging out with my idol! He told us stories about the days he worked for the Parks Dept, how he would chase people around the park with an axe and how his co-workers would call him Tarzan because of his long hair! Funny stories! One of the best nights of my life! That was 1994. I continued to follow his music for years after that.
In 2006, I became friends with Peter Steele. I saw him at an Earl’s Court show (Johnny’s Led Zep Cover Band) and was able to steal a few minutes of his time. He didn't remember me from our interaction 12 years prior but he was still very kind and took interest in our conversation. I told him about a Carnivore fan site I ran on MySpace. He seemed genuinely interested since he just put together a new Carnivore line-up to go tour Europe and he thought it was a good way to promote it. A few months later Peter invited me to go to a Carnivore rehearsal out in the Rockaways where I met Joey Zampella, Paul Bento and Steve Tobin for the first time. They all welcomed me with open arms and treated me like a long lost friend! After sharing with them my love for Peter’s music, the MySpace page, my photography and that I was currently a police officer, Peter instantly hired me to go out on tour as security/photographer/assistant tour manager. I wasn’t just a fan, I was now part of the crew!
Before we left for Germany, I had an idea. Considering Peter, at that point, had not played a live a show in some time and considering this new line up never played together before a live audience, I thought it would be a great idea for them to have a “practice show” to work out the kinks in front of a very small audience. I had a connection with a bar/club owner in Manhattan called Fontana’s. I thought they could play the downstairs room (which held 50 people) and it would be a very low stress, easy way to get back into the groove. I suggested to Peter we shouldn’t bill it as a Carnivore show, but as the Brooklyn Lesbian Choir because it might limit the amout of people who would show up. After some convincing that security would be tight, he spoke it over with his tour manager Glenn Kaufman, and it was a go! The only thing I didn't realize was how many people would catch on that the Brooklyn Lesbian Choir was Peter Steele! The venue quickly became over sold! We couldn't possibly fit everyone down stairs to watch the show, so we hooked up a live video feed upstairs so everyone could watch the show on the big screen. That was pointless because the mosh pit down stairs was so crazy, they knocked out the video feed (for anyone who was up stairs that night and missed the show, I have it recorded and I will share it). For me it was the best Carnivore show ever! Peter wasn’t so much into the banter with the audience that night. He was very focused on the music and making sure he delivered the best show possible, and he did! We had strippers squirting super soaker water guns filled with blood on the audience, people being carried out due to exhaustion from moshing and Peter drenched in fake blood. I was once a huge Carnivore fan, now I am a huge Carnivore fan who was responsible for one of Carnivore’s best shows! One of my best memories of him and Carnivore!
One of the unfortunate realities of Peter was his alcohol and drug addiction. One of my biggest and most important jobs I was tasked with was to keep cocaine away from him at all costs during the Germany shows. I was basically his side kick and he knew why I was with him. He explained to me that he respected me and my profession and that he would never do any illegal drug in front of me or ask me to ever get any for him. I was almost successful in keeping any drugs away from him until 30 min before he was to take the stage in Germany at the Wacken Festival. We were in the dressing room alone and Peter asked me to go make sure everything with the “finale” was set up (strippers with bloody water guns). When I returned to the dressing room, a woman I never met before was standing in the doorway and when I tried to walk in, she wouldn’t allow me. I tried to push my way in and I peeked my head in to see Peter in mid snort. I yelled into the dressing room to Peter that I would like to see him outside the dressing room when he was done. Peter finally came out after 5 min and came up to me like nothing happened. In the most respectful and stern way I knew, I explained to him that I was responsible for his well being and that I care for him like a brother, but if he decided to continue to use coke while we were on that trip, that I couldn’t be part of this and that he was on his own. He apologized profusely and started to explain why he did it. To my knowledge, he didn’t do anymore coke that trip. Oddly enough, that was the moment Peter and I became friends. He saw how much I cared for him as a friend, I saw how much he respected me and the job I had to do.
In the months following the Germany trip, we continued to get closer as friends. He would call me up at random hours for us to get together for dinner at Caravell’s, Sahara’s or Outback. Peter loved to eat and he was very specific to where he wanted to go. Everywhere we went, everyone knew him! The waitress at Sahara’s always knew what he wanted to eat (Chicken Soup, Double Cut Sirloin Steak, French Fries, Roasted Peppers and a bottle of Turkish wine). After dinner, he would take the bones from the steak, hold them in his hand and slide his arms up in his sleeves so the bones took the place of his hands. He would walk around like that making sucking noises and yelling “Piggy!!” and pointing at people with the bones as we left the restaurants. Priceless fun.
Peter one day called me and told me about a limited edition military Harley Davidson Dirt bike he purchased and had serviced. The only problem was that he left it at the bike shop for 2 years and the guy wanted $6000 to release it after only doing $1200 worth of work! Peter wanted me to go to the shop in uniform and arrest the guy. I explained to Peter that I couldn’t do something like that and it was not a criminal matter, it was a civil matter. I had another solution. I had a family “friend” who also owned a bike shop and had a “very persuasive manner” about him. We will call him Joe. Joe was just as big a Peter and he just so happened to know this other bike shop owner. So the three of us took a trip to this guys shop to visit Peter’s bike. After explaining to the shop owner that Peter was out on tour for awhile and was hardly ever home and that’s why it was left there for so long, the guy wouldn’t budge from his price. Joe asked Peter and I to walk outside for a minute. Peter had a shit eating grin on his face because he could only imagine what was going down inside the shop. Three minutes later Joe waves us inside and the shop owner was singing a very different tune! He was more than happy to just take the $1200 dollars for the original price of fixing the bike! The shop owner looked very nervous and couldn’t get us out of the shop quick enough after Peter paid him the money! To this day, we don’t have any idea what happened inside the shop. We can only imagine.
So the next day I pick Peter up at his house to go pick up the bike. Peter comes out of his house wearing a green army jacket, a German war helmet, a scarf wrapped around his neck and over sized mirrored sunglasses. He was ready to ride but Peter had one small dilemma. Peter explained to me that he didn’t have a motorcycle license and that he would need me to follow him in my car so he wouldn’t get pulled over and arrested. I was more than willing to help. So we picked up the bike at the shop on Bath Ave and 18th Ave. As soon as he got on the bike dressed the way he was, he automatically drew the attention of pedestrians and motorists. He looked like the second coming of Benny Hill! I proceeded to follow him in my Jeep Grand Cherokee and no more than 5 minutes into our ride, a woman decided to blow a stop sign on 18th Ave and cut Peter off. Peter decided to dump the bike on the floor and slide on the pavement rather than hit her and get thrown over her car. He hit the ground pretty hard. His helmet went flying off his head and he got road rash on his leg and arm. Thankfully I was right behind him and was able to stop traffic before anyone ran over him! The woman decided to flee the scene. I did get her plate number. So I helped Peter up off the ground and helped him pick his bike up. He turned to me and began to laugh. Peter thought he handled the situation pretty well. He said he thought he was pretty graceful in his fall. I told him “Actually, no Peter, you fell like a ton of bricks and it didn't look pretty at all. It was scary as shit!” That made him laugh even more! So he put his helmet and sunglasses back on and we proceeded to continue our journey to East 18th st. The looks on the people’s faces as he rode by were priceless, especially the Jewish people in Midwood. Some small children even hid behind their mothers not knowing what this militant, scarfed, Nazi look-a-like was up to. I never laughed so hard. In the days after that, Peter admitted to me he hurt his hand but he felt it wouldn't affect his bass playing on the upcoming Type O tour that he was about to go out on. He still laughed at how different our views were of his fall. I couldn’t lie to him, he didn’t look as smooth as he thought he did.
The one thing Peter did for me that completely impressed me, happened in November of 2006. I was moving from Bergen Beach in Brooklyn to Staten Island. I mentioned this to him in a conversation about 3 weeks before my actual move date. He asked me the date I was supposed to move and told me that if I needed any help from him, to let him know and he would assist in the move. I found that to be a very generous offer, but I wasn’t planning on asking him to help me move. I’m the type of guy who doesn't ask for much help from friends because I hate to burden people with my stuff. Three weeks went by and I probably spoke to Peter like 3 times in that span, but never once did I mention the move to him. The night before I was scheduled to move, Peter called me at 10pm. He wanted to know what time he should be ready to help me in the morning. I was in shock! He actually remembered when I was supposed to move from our one brief conversation! I knew how much Peter hated waking up before 2pm. For him to actually remember, offer to help and to wake up at 6am to help me do manual labor was huge! None of my close friends offered to help, but Peter did. I gladly accepted his offer and picked him up at 6am. When I pulled up in front of his house to get him, he was waiting outside on his stoop with a friend of his that he recruited to also help with the move. I was completely impressed! He explained to me that he probably was only able to help me load the truck in Brooklyn and not unload in Staten Island due to a band practice that he had in the early afternoon. I had no problem with that! Here I was moving to Staten Island and my idol, my friend, Peter Steele was helping me move all belongings. How many people can say that ever had that happen to them? To this day, I was forever grateful he showed me such kindness and followed through with his promise. I’ll never forget that.
In the months leading into 2007, Peter and I hung out many more times. He went through a lot of emotional times with the sale of his family’s house and the friction he had with his family over it. He would call me at all sort of hours to vent and to express concern with finally moving out of the home he grew up in. We once had a 4 hour conversation about a plan he had to start a new band. He wanted to start a Type O Negative cover band. He wanted to call is “Simply NOT” (It takes a moment to understand the genius behind that) and he wanted to play all the Type O Songs in a major key with happier over tones. Then at one point, “via satellite” he would have the real Type O Negative appear on a big screen and the real Peter Steele would call him out (obviously this would have been previously recorded) for being a phony and they would have a battle of the bands. I couldn’t stop laughing! He was very serious about this! That was a fun conversation. Eventually he moved to Pennsylvania and Peter and I lost contact for the most part. In October of 2009 Peter called to invite me to see Type O in the city and he wanted to put me on the guest list. I felt guilty but I had to decline because I just had hand surgery the day before and I was laid up. That was awesome of him to think of me out of the blue like that! I really wish I was able to go see him perform for the last time.
One of the last times I saw Peter, he asked me to do him a favor. He asked me to drive him to Staten Island to see his eldest sister because he wanted to retrieve a family heirloom. It was his father’s semi automatic handgun his father used in WWII. He was very proud of this gun and everything it stood for. As soon as we left his sisters house, we got in the car and he handed me the gun. He said he wanted me to hold on to it for him for safe keeping because he couldn’t think of anyone else he would trust with it. He said he couldn’t trust himself with it and he knew when he was ready to take it, I would have it kept safe for him. I considered that to be a great honor. I didn’t let him down. A few months after his death, I returned the gun back to his family and upheld by end of the deal. I know Peter appreciated it.
The last conversation I had with Peter was in January of 2010. Back in 2006, I had a conversation with Peter about his car. He told me all these stories about the car and that his car was in storage in a friends driveway. I told him when and if he ever decided to part with the car, to give me first crack at it. He didn’t understand why I wanted it but he promised he would. When he called me that day in 2010, he called to give me his car. He didn’t want any money, he just wanted me to have it as a token of his friendship. I was floored by his generosity. We then spoke of some of his adventures in PA since he moved and we just laughed. We just picked up where we left off. He told me he was planning on coming in on Valentine’s Day weekend and wanted to come over to see my new house and meet my fiancé (now my wife) and we would speak of the details about the car. Unfortunately, those plans never happened. February 14th came and went and I never heard from him. That was the last time we spoke.
The last time I saw him was at his wake. All I could think about when I saw him in the casket was that I lost a great friend who inspired me in so many ways. He had his personal demons and his addictions but underneath all of that, he was an amazing person. His generosity, his selflessness, his music and his wit will continue to inspire me and help me be a better person. I admire the fact he was sober and clean in his last days and I wish I was able to get to know the new Peter....or as his family remembers him to be...the old Peter.
From the Ratajczyk Family: A huge thank you to Damian for coming forward with his remembrance of Peter for the positive things he's done in this lifetime and the inspiration Peter has had on his friends' lives.
A HUGE Thanks to
Patty Piorkowski (CT)
who has donated a number of times to
The Little Shelter Animal Rescue
It's people like you who understand the importance of giving -
thanks for choosing these charities that mean so much to us
Hope you all enjoyed this posting