Raymond & Peter

Biography by

Raymond Huffman and Peter Haskett were the unlikely and unwilling subjects of a cult phenomenon; a pair of aging alcoholics living together in a crumbling San Francisco tenement building, their endless…
Read Full Biography

Artist Biography by

Raymond Huffman and Peter Haskett were the unlikely and unwilling subjects of a cult phenomenon; a pair of aging alcoholics living together in a crumbling San Francisco tenement building, their endless drunken fights and rants were surreptitiously documented by neighbors, with the recordings eventually achieving legendary status in the tape-trading underground. Little is known about Raymond & Peter's respective backgrounds, how they met, or how they came to be roommates. On the tapes, Raymond claimed to have served in the military, a boast Peter denied. Regardless, by the mid-'80s the twosome was ensconced in an apartment building in San Francisco's Lower Haight area; the complex, located at 237 Steiner, was known by locals as the "Pepto-Bismol Palace" for its hideous pink exterior. In 1987, one Eddie Lee Sausage and his roommate Mitchell D. moved in next door, where thanks to the building's paper-thin walls they were subjected nightly to Raymond and Peter's drunken, venomous harangues; ranting against homosexuals, the police, and most of all each other, the two men bickered like an old (albeit homicidal) married couple, with most every showdown ending in Peter's trademark bon mot "Shut up, little man!" When a frightened but frustrated Eddie Lee finally banged on their neighbors' door to complain about the excessive noise, Raymond met them with the following response: "I'm perfectly willing to kill anyone that thinks they're tough. I was a killer before you were born, I'll be a killer after you're dead."

Eddie Lee and Mitchell first began making what would become the Shut Up, Little Man! tapes in order to establish evidence should Raymond ever make good on his threats, but soon became obsessed with the recording process; in time, when Raymond and Peter's own drunken dialogue became repetitious, the neighbors even began making prank calls next door to further stir the pot. The tapes indicate that Raymond and Peter were at least sometimes aware they were being recorded, and indeed, the legal dynamics at work in documenting their lives, even given the volume of their verbal fisticuffs, remain muddied at best. Sometimes, Raymond and Peter were not alone in their apartment, either: Tony, a Southern-born drifter and Vietnam veteran, was a frequent houseguest as well as Peter's sometimes gay lover; and the police, fire department, and emergency medical teams made their share of appearances as well. Both Raymond and Peter spent many a night in the hospital, as well as the "stony lonesome" (Peter's euphemism for the police drunk tank). Also captured on tape is a chillingly calm murder confession delivered by Raymond, lending some credence to his claims of being a "killin' motherf*cker." At the peak of their animosity, the larger Peter is said to have pushed Raymond off their apartment balcony, where he fell about 15 feet to the ground below. Assuming the story is true, Raymond did survive the fall. He ultimately died of chronic alcoholism on February 28, 1992.

Largely unknown to Eddie Lee and Mitchell, their tapes of Raymond and Peter -- six volumes in all -- began circulating across the country, and in the spring of 1992, Eddie received a phone call from Bananafish magazine editor Seymour Glass, requesting an interview. Bananafish's publisher Tedium House also pressed 500 cassette copies of each of the six tapes, which quickly sold out; a comic book adaptation boasting artwork from alternative comics stars like Daniel Clowes and Dame Darcy soon followed, also selling out. In the spring of 1993, the highlights of the Raymond & Peter tapes were compiled on a CD, Shut Up, Little Man!, which caused a minor media sensation, earning write-ups everywhere from the Washington Post to Vanity Fair to Playboy. Soon after, playwright Gregg Gibbs secured rights to bring Raymond & Peter to the stage; with dialogue culled exclusively from the original tapes, the play Shut Up, Little Man! premiered in Los Angeles. Now somewhat flush from their financial success, Eddie Lee and Mitchell set out to track down Peter Haskett, who'd since moved to the Bay Area's famously seedy Tenderloin district; they found his new apartment, took him drinking, explained the phenomenon of the tapes -- Peter denied he and Raymond ever quarreled, naturally -- and cut him a royalty check. Peter died in 1996. In 2002, Bob Taicher, who played Tony in the original Shut Up, Little Man! stage play, directed the feature film Shut Yer Dirty Little Mouth!, bringing the exploits of Raymond and Peter to the silver screen for a new global audience to experience.