Peter Beckman



of his deeds

In The Ramones album, Subterranean Jungle, which includes the song, "Psycho Therapy."

Peter Beckman makes a brief and (unfortunately) memorable appearance in the Atlantic Films production of Echo Park.

C.H.U.D. II, with "B" stars galore!
Image courtesy of

Low Pop Suicide's The Disengagement EP, which includes the song, "Crush."

The VHS cover of Irresistible Impulse, directed by Jag Mundhra.

The DVD cover of the Ione Skye feature, Mascara (1999).

A production still from The Decay of Fiction. Peter Beckman is in the center of the scene. (It's hard to tell in this still but all of the characters are slightly transparent.)


Peter Beckman


Peter Beckman is the well known cult actor and voiceover artist.

Mr. Beckman's career started at the Sacramento State University (then called Sacramento State College) in the Department of Theatre & Dance (then part of the Speech Department). Peter performed in over 10 productions while at the school.

At the Sacramento Civic Theatre he appeared in another 5 productions which included the play, Breaking Point (set at the arctic circle) as Gronshaw and in the Lerner & Lowe musical, Brigadoon as Mr. Lundie. (Peter can sing from tenor to bass.)

Beckman was then accepted at the California Institute of the Arts (Cal Arts) and attended from 1972 through 1976. During that time he appeared in a number of plays including, The Maids as Madame, The Curve as Dr. Kaplar, in the Moliere comedy Tartuffe as Cleante and in the Peter Weiss play, Marat/Sade as De Sade.

While at Cal Arts, Peter directed 3 short films:

  • Diesel Mama (1974) an 8 minute color documentary about a woman who wanted to become a truck driver (which was uncommon at the time). The short was co-directed and edited by James Hart.

  • Third Time's The Charm (1975) a 20 minute Black & White surrealist film within a film. The "film" keeps on stopping because of artistic or technical difficulties. Beckman wrote the screenplay and James Hart was production manager. Future film critic F.X. Feeney had a small on-screen role.

  • Quantum's Quaver (1976) a 1 1/2 minute color faux-commercial for a flavored douche. Again written by Beckman, the spot starred 2 artists, Diane Buckler and David Dashiell (who were both dubbed). The short was purchased by Landmark Theatres and was included in one of their Erotic Film Festivals which toured the United States.

Beckman also performed on behalf of Cal Arts itself. They recorded Peter narrating as James Mason for a short 16mm film honoring the opera star, Beverly Sills. The film was projected at a special tribute for the diva held at the school.

Besides acting in numerous Cal Arts student films, Beckman would later appear in an American Film Institute Master Thesis project, directed by Walter Hart. In Tenure, Peter had a featured role as a Head Professor who conducts a tenure ceremony for a character played by Robert Walker, Jr.

Beckman's first professional on-screen film role would come in the feature, The Other Side Of The Wind written and directed by Orson Welles. Although principle photography was completed over several years in the early 70's, the feature remains unfinished for legal reasons. Peter Beckman's scenes (he played a filmmaker) were shot in 1974. Later, after the director's death in 1985, Peter (performing his Orson Welles imitation) narrated a promotional trailer commissioned by the inheritors in what proved to be an unsuccessful attempt to raise money for the completion of the film.

During his time at Cal Arts, Beckman started to receive voiceover gigs for a number of companies & institutions. These included two in Orange County (California) for the Board of Health and IBM computers. He also recorded for Quad Eight Electrical, the Norton Simon Museum (narration for multi-media shows), Intel computers and Twentieth Century Fox (for the featurette and trailer for the motion picture, Crossed Swords [1978] also known as "The Prince and the Pauper").

Started in 1979 and still not completed is Keanes Wonder Mine, an experimental feature film, written & directed by fellow Cal Arts graduate, John Frady. Peter Beckman played the part of Dr. Venkman, a mad scientist (one of Peter's favorite characters). This would prove to be the first of 3 productions within 3 years in which Beckman would be involved in some sort of on-screen insanity. It would also be the first of many productions with John Frady as director.

No on-screen insanity was evident in the spoken word video, Daddy Beat Speaks (1981) co-directed by John Frady and (another Cal Arts grad) A. Star Reese. Daddy Beat was a character created by Peter Beckman which he would perform at Hollywood night clubs before or inbetween music acts. A contemporary take on the beatnik poets of the 50's, Beckman's character was of such interest that Frady & Reese asked to produce some of his material into a video. Pooling their resources, the 2 directors shot Daddy Beat's "poetry" on the rooftop of the Chateau des Fleurs late one night with a complete video crew.

Peter taped numerous performances as Daddy Beat years later for Ian Price's The La Reina Del Barrio TV Show, an underground television series which was broadcast in East Los Angeles on Adelphia cable (as public access). Old shows with Daddy Beat are sometimes posted on YouTube.

In the movie, Frances (1982) directed by Graeme Clifford, Beckman played the Head of the Asylum where Jessica Lange's character (Hollywood star, Frances Farmer) was committed. Unfortunately, Peter's scenes were cut out of the film in order to spend more time on the romantic sequences. Peter was in good company as a song composed by John Barry and sung by Sarah Brightman was also dropped from the Brooksfilm production.

Ending Beckman's "insanity" cycle was the music video, Pyscho Therapy (1983) directed by Francis Delia for the Ramones album "Subterranean Jungle." Peter played the part of a Prison Psychiatrist. The video was censored in some countries for some disturbing imagery.

In the feature, Echo Park (1986) Peter plays a short but pivotal (and uncredited) role as the molester of Susan Dey's character, May. Robert Dornhelm directed and Tom Hulce co-starred (in his first film after Amadeus).

An unusual narration assignment was for the promotional short, This Is CinemaScope (1987) directed by David Koenigsberg (the producer of The Soul Patrol). The 35mm film was only 2 minutes long and was projected at one frame per second through a Todd-AO anamorphic lens on an animation camera stand. The film extolled the great virtues and ease of shooting in CinemaScope on that stand. You can listen to it here!

C.H.U.D. II - Bud the Chud (1989) directed by David Irving, was a zombie movie with an all-star "B" cast. Gerrit Graham co-starred as Bud the CHUD with Trisha Leigh Fisher, Robert Vaughn, Bianca Jagger, Larry Linville, Jack Riley, June Lockhart, Norman Fell, Rich Hall, Clive Revill and Robert Englund. Peter Beckman played a Fry Cook who turns into a Zombie.

Throughout his career Mr. Beckman has been a writer of all trades. During the late 80's and early 90's he was a Contributing Editor & Arts Editor for Venice Magazine, arguably the best art magazine in Southern California at the time.

Peter appeared in another John Frady directed music video, this time for the band, Low Pop Suicide (formed by musician Dave Allen), and their new single, Crush (1992). The single was from the band's premiere release, "The Disengagement EP." Beckman played a Producer within the video.

I Married My Mom (1993) was a feature directed by David Jove (under the pseudonym David Maxson), which starred Michael Pataki, Mary Woronov and Ed Gale. Peter had a small but good part as Gordon Blinn, a school principal. Luxor Films produced the feature and sales were handled by KIP International Pictures. The film was never released and had its only known screening at the American Film Market (in Santa Monica, California) on Wednesday March 3, 1993.

A feature which did get released (but without Peter and a whole lot of other actors) was Wild Bill (1995) directed by Walter Hill, starring Jeff Bridges and Ellen Barkin. A sequence that was shot at the State Theater on Broadway in downtown Los Angles was scrapped after several days of photography. Beckman played the part of the Stage Manager. Since the sequence was never completed and was never part of any Director's Cut (Walter Hill elected not to complete it), it will probably never be included on any DVD. Yet, a completely different version exists as the feature was based on the book "Deadwood" by Peter Dexter, which was then made as an HBO television series (with Walter Hill as one of the directors).

Norman Corwin is considered to be the finest writer & director of radio dramas and On A Note Of Triumph, his best work. Originally broadcast on V-E day (May 8, 1945), Corwin directed a special 50th anniversary production with Peter Beckman in the role of a Nazi Commander. This production was performed for an invitation-only audience at Theater 40 located on the grounds of Beverly Hills High School.

Another unreleased feature (shot in Super 16mm) was, Free Love (1996) directed by Cal Arts grad, Jeff Phillips. The film concerned a blossoming 24 hour romance between a gas station mechanic and a woman. Peter plays the part of the gas station owner, Harry, who wants his mechanic to go back to work.

More voiceover work during this period included the narration of trailers for Irresistible Impulse (1996), Mascara (1999) and I Want To Be A Vampire (1998) for German director/actor, Ulli Lommel. Later, Lommel (best known as the star in many of Rainer Werner Fassbinder's films) would hire Peter to perform his Orson Welles imitation for the narration of the documentary, Monica and Bill. The documentary concerned Monica Lewinsky and Bill Clinton. The film was taken away from Lommel and finished by others as Monica in Black and White (2002).

Back in 1999, Peter started narrating all of the episodes of The Soul Patrol. The narration was written specifically with Beckman's delivery in mind and listeners have been very impressed with his performance. Beckman also played other characters, often uncredited so as to not confuse his two roles as narrator and sometimes bystander (commenting on the action).

(We'll cover just a few more productions after the recording period of The Soul Patrol.)

For the film The Decay of Fiction (2002), actors had to perform in ultra-slow motion as a computer driven motion control camera filmed scenes in time lapse photography. Shot mostly in the closed Ambassador Hotel near downtown Los Angeles, this experimental (and very entertaining) feature concerns memories and nostalgia as filtered through old Hollywood movies. Peter was an extra as a favor to one of his former teachers at Cal Arts, famed independent filmmaker Pat O'Neill. Other former Cal Arts students (now working in Hollywood) also took part (behind the scenes) in the production including Chris Casady, George Lockwood and Byron Werner. Peter's scenes were photographed in the 1990's as it can take years to complete a non-commercial movie.

By 2003, Beckman had firmly established himself as the "go to guy" for all things Orson Welles. So when the Writers Guild of America presented readings of great, unproduced screenplays which included Welles' own version of Heart Of Darkness, Peter was chosen to play Orson Welles' part. Reuniting with Beckman was F.X. Feeney, who read other parts. This one time performance was held at the Barnes & Noble bookstore in The Grove shopping center (not more than a couple of hundred feet from WGA West headquarters). The audience was packed with a Who's Who of Hollywood past, present (and probable future).

On The Rag (2004) was another underground television series which appeared on Adelphia Cable in East Los Angeles. Again written & directed by Ian Price, this was his take on soap operas. Set in the small, fictional town of Seedyville, On The Rag, refers to the fashion magazine at the center of the soap. Beckman played a former horror star who moves to the town pretending to be a doctor (Dr. Grismond Urge).

Ulli Lommel placed Peter in front of the camera for the co-starring role in the feature, Zodiac Killer 2005. It did not receive a theatrical release and was only distributed through Home Entertainment where it was subsequently retitled Ulli Lommel's Zodiac Killer. Beckman played a police sergeant hot on the trail of a serial killer (modeled after the Zodiac killer of San Francisco).

Further Reading (and listening)...
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This page was last modified on Friday, September 15, 2006.

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