Peter Henry Fonda

Paternal 28th cousin, once removed.

Peter Henry Fonda was born on February 23rd, 1940 in New York City. He was the only son of actor Henry Fonda and my paternal 27th cousin, Frances Ford Seymour. Peter was the brother of Jane Fonda.

I discovered Peter and his sister Jane quite by accident as I was tracing one of my several Royal lines. When I came across Peter's mother in my records, I was naturally excited as it meant that he and his sister were cousins, albeit very distant cousins. Like many others, Peter Fond is both an instantly recognizable name from his many movies, as is his name. Although I was too young to have seen the movie when it was first released, Easy Rider is the film that I remember Peter Fonda from the best. Aside from that movie, I DO remember seeing him star in Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry which I saw at the drive-in with my parents in 1974 or 1975. Although the film wasn't exactly made for children, I was more interested in the car chases at the time anyway, and the film was one of a number of car chase films from that era. 

The other movie that I vividly remember Peter in was Race With The Devil which was released in 1975. I remember Peter and actress Loretta Swit (who I knew from M.A.S.H.), Warren Oates and Lara Parker taking a holiday in a large RV. During a stay one night out in the wilderness, Peter and Warren witness a human sacrifice and spend the rest of the movie being hunted down by an evil cult. The movie scared the hell out of me - my family used to go camping all the time in the 1970's (but at a campground, thank God!) - and somehow that horror movie really played with my mind. Still, it's now one of my favorite movies from the '70s.

Peter acted in many more movies, of course, but those  movies are the ones that I personally associate most closely with my distant cousin. Peter was the definitive icon of the "counter-culture" of the 1960's and 1970's, both on screen and off. Peter's anti-establishment stance would often rub the studios the wrong way, but it doesn't seem that he cared and his career continued. Peter was also open about his use of LSD, a mind-alternating drug that gained popularity during the 1960's. 

Aside from acting, Peter was also a director and he directed a number of films. Interestingly (at least to me), during my research of Peter Fonda, I discovered that he worked with Michelle Phillips (from the Mama's and the Papa's group) in a film called The Last Movie which I do not recall seeing. Although Michelle Phillips is not (at least as far as I know) related to me, her daughter, Chyna Phillips is a good friend of two other distant cousins of mine, Wendy & Carnie Wilson.

 

Much like his father, Peter had an instantly recognizable voice and had the ability to look at you from the screen and make you feel as if he were looking directly at you.

Peter was married three times. His first wife was Susan Brewer, with whom Peter had two children, Bridget and Justin. They married in 1961 and divorced in 1974. Peter's second marriage was to Portia Rebecca Crockett who he married in 1975. Peter and Portia were divorced in 2011. Peter's final marriage was to Margaret DeVogelaere in 2011. Peter remained married to Margaret until his death in 2019.

On August 16, 2011, Peter Fonda died at his home in Los Angeles after a battle with lung cancer. He was 79.

Peter Fonda will always remain the image of the counter-culture, and to millions of his fans, he will always be "Easy Rider".

© 2023 by William B. Taylor

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