It’s really weird not actually getting to say goodbye to a place you called home for half a decade. It’s like losing a loved one, or a form of grief. In many ways, 2020 has been a grieving period for many of us as we’ve actually lost loved ones, friends, family members, significant others, employment, homes, stability. It’s been grief bulldozed with more loss and more grief bulldozed with more loss and more grief and the spin cycle has just continued. I honestly wasn’t going to say a damn thing, but it would not have been in my truest character to just sit in silence, and I realized The Daily Feels was the only appropriate for my love letter and my goodbye.
For the readers who don’t know those personal details about me, I spent my past five years running a live music venue /slash cabaret lounge/ slash drag bar/ slash dive bar. Yes, it is possible for a place to be all of those things in one, sometimes even on the same night! I did everything there from bartending, managing, assisting bookings, running lights, DJ’ing for some of the best drag queens in NYC, beverage manager, and producing my own live music shows and theatrical events roughly 4-8 times a month. If it sounds like I was doing too much, it’s because I was doing too much. But I loved it, and I cared. I loved what we grew The West End to represent to people. It really was a second home to so many, and I personally always prioritized and valued providing and curating a safe space, over money and usually over sleep. While there were so many things there wrong (What’s central AC? Oh you’re throwing a stool or a beer pitcher at me? Cool), there were more important things there right. There was family.
So I’ll keep it probably not so short, but hopefully sweet, and just say, thank you. Growing up I grew up on different sets and changing schools constantly, and my life as both a child and a good amount of adulthood was very much me showing up to a new environment, figuring it out and then pretty much destroying myself trying to be the best in that environment. I at times took the term overachiever to unhealthy heights, (Hi 2015 heart attack!) but I always did it with the best intentions in mind. The West End was my second home for the past five years, and though damn near tumultuous at times, what began as just a job I took to work on curing some rough writer’s block, metamorphosed into becoming responsible for some very important life lessons, some monumental growing, and for bringing people into my life that in every sense of the word, have become family to me.
When you grow up as a short ass, black ass, gay ass scholarship kid in a predominantly white private school system and a child actor, your life is essentially anyone that is not your tribe second guessing you. From those constant experiences, I learned the importance of family and a tribe very early on. I don’t trust easily, but those I trust, I trust with my entire heart. It’s a trait that has resulted in some heartbreak and tragedy, but a trait I would never change.
Some thank you’s:
To my trifecta, Mello and Megan, for literally keeping me sane and breathing, and for dealing with me when I was not always at my prettiest or most positive. I very honestly could not have survived without you two. The three of us are in very different parts of the country right now, but ride or die co-workers and friends like you two are so hard to find, and I thank you for loving me.
To Marty, for being there the whole damn time, give or take. #bookedandblessed
To The Jack Boice, for being my Wednesday hubby and a true friend now for over five years, and combined with all my Columbia Cuties, for being one of the things I looked forward to every single week, without fail. No matter how bad my week was or how rough life was treating me, I knew on Wednesdays that I would feel loved and I would feel safe, and that we created something special. Feelings like that are priceless.
To my So You Think You Can Belt FAMILY (especially my judges, Natalie Weiss, Sam Carner, Chris Dilley, Nedra Belle, Brita Filter and every incredible guest judge who came through our doors), to every contestant for taking my ideas and my ridiculously monologued Virginia Woolf stream of consciousness emails, my lovely door girls and incredible pianists. Thank you all for trusting me every week and CARING even though we were paid pennies.
To Jake McKenna, to Jake McKenna, to Jake McKenna. I could literally never thank you enough, and quite frankly, everyone at The West End could never thank you enough. The definition of underappreciated, but also the definition of a fucking star and a true best friend.
To Kristy, Jennifer and Jeremy for being so kind to me my first week. I would have immediately jumped ship had you not been.
To Alexay Cooper for hiring me and welcoming me with open arms.
To John Forslund for gifting me a baby and letting me run with it, for giving me a playground, and for being way too trusting with me with a calendar at times.
To Brittany, Kirsten, and Sam Parrish, you were my first produced cabaret shows outside of Belt and if it wasn’t for your hearts, talent, trust, and love, I probably wouldn’t have explored that road.
A special shout out to Chris Blackman for watching the bar for me countless times and for probably saving me from being murdered by that creepy Bud Lite stealing psychopath.
To Eric for being the best honorary and unintentional employee who didn’t actually work there, but was always so willing and sometimes forced to help. And more importantly, for being such a great best friend and sometimes getting the brunt of my frustration. (There I finally admitted it!)
To Nya, for being the sister I’d always wished I had while not even knowing how much I truly needed.
To my Bathhouse Boys, Jake, Michael, and Magnus: I love you girls. Wellllll, no West End so I guess we have to finally get ready for that tour now, just in case the world doesn’t actually finally implode and end. We all know Michael’s READY for the tour!
To my staff and co-workers for dealing with, me. The good, the bad, the ugly, and the late AF. Thank you. Your Nobel Peace Prizes are in the mail.
To Nacho, may everyone be so lucky to meet someone as fearless, hard-working, loyal, resilient, and good-hearted as you.
To every single person that trusted me for even a second, as an artist or a regular or a friend or a patron, I am so thankful. Some of you I met before you even officially lived in NYC. Some of you never even lived in NYC. Some of you I met and as you moved from borough to borough you still gifted me with your company and presence no matter the distance. But despite how I met you, you all did one thing that was forever the same: you gave me a bit of your heart, your soul, your mind, your time, and your love.
267 produced shows later. Over 500 SYTYCB contestants. Roughly 520 Teas with Peter. A fuckton of memories and one smiling Petey.
To every shot, every side eye, every song, every mashup, every riff, every crazy arrangement idea that should have never worked, every impromptu jam session, every laugh, every tear, every smile and most importantly every single person that met me at the end of the bar for a Peter hug on your way in or out, I love you.
This pandemic and this year is teaching us a LOT. I very honestly have absolutely no clue where life is taking me next, and that’s kind of terrifying as I’ve always been a person who as John John would call me O.S.A. was usually One Step Ahead of things. But here’s the thing: at the end of the day, the rug can be so drastically and terribly pulled out from under you, and you can have almost everything you’ve worked really damn hard towards taken from you in what felt like a second, and it feels fucking traumatic and it fucking SUCKS. But ALL that matters at the end of the day, and the only lasting impression that truly matters, is how you treated people, the person that you were and how you left them feeling.
Be kind. Be gracious. Be supportive. Be respectful. Uplift others. Try to make people smile. Try to make people laugh. Say I love you. Don’t be afraid to have your heart broken a couple times. Don’t be afraid to cry. Say thank you. Grow. Up. I did my best to lead with those things, and for the mostttt part, I have no regrets. Some slip ups? Oof, fuck yeah, but I really tried. One of the greatest gifts we can offer another human being is to let them know that you believe in them. Most simply do not hear it enough in life, and life is already very, very fucking hard.
Take every opportunity, whether it feels huge or minute, and make it count.
Wherever this next adventure takes me whether relevant or not to this career journey, I am eternally humbled to know that this will forever be one of the all-time most important and influential chapters of my memoirs. Thank you from the very bottom of my heart to every single one of you that played a part, for better or for worse. I am so so very grateful
And to That Little Stage That Could. “Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.” Right on Pooh Bear, right on.
It was quite the ride. XxP
Peter William Dunn is a born and raised New Yorkers, who is currently a freelance writer, producer, director and sometimes actor in the city.
His professional passions include: film, music, literature, helping other artists thrive and all around storytelling
His personal passions include: puppies, babies, black and white milkshakes, and attractive men with accents (he has an extra strong track record for attracting emotionally unavailable men, but don’t tell him we told you that, and don’t yell at him for speaking in third person right now).
His current loves are his dog, Domino, a whiskey neat, and in case you didn’t know, his mother is the greatest human being on earth ❤