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The Sad Death of Peter Steele

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"Two steps forward, three steps back,
Without warning, heart attack..."

In news particularly sad to me, Peter Steele (Petrus T. Ratajczyk ) of Type O Negative passed away yesterday at the age of 48 due to heart failure. It's been a hard thing to accept from the moment I read about it this morning. Type O Negative has been one of my very favorite bands for half of my entire existence.

Having heard significantly more about Peter Steele's drug and alcohol struggles from Peter himself over the last 2 or 3 years, I suppose this news didn't entirely blindside me. It also doesn't make his death any less hard to accept.

"You love someone, there will be grief,
The kiss of death, lips of a thief..."

I became an instant fan of Type O Negative the night I first saw "Black No. 1" on Headbanger's Ball back in 1993. One single watch of the video prompted me to go out and buy Bloody Kisses for $18.99 at The Wall. That was the most I had and have ever spent on a single disc CD. Because it was so expensive, I played the hell out of it that weekend and beyond in order to justify buying an pricey CD based on one viewing of one music video.

"I hate to wish it, but I'll tell you though,
That I'm quite ready because I'm already dead..."

As I reflected on Peter Steele and Type O Negative today, as sad as it all is, I couldn't help but also smile at the many memories I have about the band and meeting Peter after shows...

I remember seeing Type O Negative open for Danzig and after the show, Peter Steele was signing autographs in just a green shirt and tighty whiteys on the step on his tour bus. You can't forget that imagery even if you want to!

I also recall after one show on the Bloody Kisses tour where a fan asked Peter Steele for a guitar pick and after he searched his pockets, he came up empty. Instead, he gave the fan a screwdriver that was in his back pocket. I'll never forget that on the next tour, the same guy brought back that very screwdriver for Peter to sign.

I'll also never forget when waiting after one show, we waited well over an hour for Peter Steele to come out of the venue. The band and the entire crew were loaded up and ready to go and Peter was the last one to exit. Everyone was waiting on him so they could go and yet when Peter did come out, he profusely apologized for the lack of time that he had, but still signed for every last person who waited for him in the rain even while the bus was honking its horn for him to get going.

The very first time I ever met Peter Steele after a show, he made the best impression. After signing for everyone, he just plopped himself up on the hood of a curbside car and just hung out with the lingering fans. It was the first 'rock star' I ever conversed with like a regular person. So you see, the reason we waited outside as many shows as we did is because we liked Peter so much as a person and he made it worth our often very long wait.

"Everything Dies,
Everything Dies...."

I have to say that one thing Peter Steele accomplished for me is that he helped desensitize death and helped open my eyes a little wider to my own mortality. So many songs related to death in one way or another that it took something that most people try not to think about and put it front and center in his music. It's hard to sing along to a song like "Everything Dies" and not have it serve as a little pinch of reality. In the real world, death isn't something to romanticize, but it's healthier to realize that you (and others) aren't going to live forever. You appreciate life more when you do.

I've been lucky enough to see Type O Negative over a dozen times over their career. The most memorable shows were the once annual Halloween concerts where the band would end the night with a giant toilet paper fight with the audience. Of all the things things I've had Peter Steele sign that have since been packed away, the one thing that has has endured on my shelf is the autographed toilet paper roll that he signed for me after one of the Halloween shows. Such a memento would probably only would make sense to those who participated in those epic TP battles!

"It's better to burn quickly and bright,
Than slowly and dull without a fight..."

As the day has gone on, the reality of Peter Steele's death has really begun to set in. At first, it just didn't seem real, but sadly, he is no longer with us. I don't doubt that his demise was, in part, due to many years of a reckless, self-abusive lifestyle which makes it somewhat difficult to see this is an untimely tragedy. Of course, it doesn't make it any less sad.

"Please don't dress in black,
When you're at his wake,
Don't go there to mourn,
But to celebrate..."

Peter Steele -- you will have forever touched my life through your music, lyrics and the many great memories you've given me. I'll always regret having missed seeing Carnivore live just once. Dammit! Thankfully, you have left a sonic legacy behind that I will get to enjoy for the rest of my own life. Thank you for everything, Peter. I will miss you.


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