Big City Dick

| August 2, 2004

While watching this documentary about a remarkable savant street musician, I was reminded of a similar street musician who came to fame in Chicago in the late nineties. I have no idea what happened to him, but his voice still beats over my head as his song “Rock N Roll McDonalds” periodically drills my skull. Having this experience immediately caught my attention towards this documentary.
Richard Peterson has commonly frightened people at first meetings. With a tubby belly that bursts out of his plaid sports jacket, a clean shaven bald head, bushy eyes brows and a penetrating stare, it’s quite understandable why people have this reaction towards him. He tends to have child-like outbursts and an obsessive fascination with Johnny Mathis and long purple ties. However, as many have come to realize, Richard’s own unique world is consumed with music that he has developed as a child. He took his talent to Seattle and came to become a trumpeter outside of the Seattle Seahawks football games. Soon followed stints at clubs and a guest appearance on a Seattle radio station. Richard became a local celebrity musician and with the support of other local musicians, Richard produced four albums that eventually lead him to a small, but profoundly important role in the Stone Temple Pilots second album Purple. Richard’s story however is not without it’s complications and setbacks. He comes to struggle with serious physical ailments, family abandonment, loneliness and a painstakingly difficult childhood.
The culmination of about ten years of footage that chronicles Peterson’s life, is presented both humorously and respectfully. Scenes at times play with hints of 50’s and 60’s nostalgia, a period of time so critical and influential in Richard’s life. One of his earliest musical inspirations is the theme song from the TV series “Sea Hunt” which starred one of Richard’s current biggest fans, an adolescent Jeff Bridges. The film builds with a curious insight into Richard’s cult status and gradually lures us into the private world that only few experience and eventually into the dark past that has set the coarse for a talented, but emotionally damaged person.
My only complaint would be the few times the film tends to lag in pace, creating a somewhat frustrating viewing experience from an otherwise absorbing and moving documentary. However, the film is a hidden treasure more people need to experience and when they do, they too will come to admire the larger than life talent that is Richard Peterson.
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