Into his living room Petey Greene strides, barechested and tie-dyed from the waist down at 12:45 p.m., the victim of forbearance. A long time ago he kicked heroin: 12 years back he left jail for the last time and just recently - a New Year's resolution - he swore off booze because "the more drunks I go on, the longer it takes me to recuperate," and the last drunk he went on, which was in November, he says, he got real sick, and so now he takes those little pills that make you feel ill if you drink alcohol.
"Never put my age in the paper," he says; but facts are facts, and one of them is taht yesterday. Peter Greene turned 49 and was thrown a surprise birthday party. And the other facts about Petey Greene are that he is the cofounder of EFEC, an ex-con organization, the star of WOL radio's "Rapping with Petey Greene," the community liaison of the United Planning Organization, the star of Channel 20's "Petey Greenes Washington" and the star also of a few walls in his Oxon Hill home which feature two Emmy's and a number of certificates and plaques.
And he is, of course, the star of this interview, and he knows it and seems to think it important to be entertaining for the press. "See, I want to be a movie star," he'll say. "Because I like people to see me." But he also likes people to hear him, and he will therefore do almost all the talking in a stream of consciousness that could rival Molly Bloom any day. That is the way it happened and that after all is probably the way he would want it.
"I had an eight-grade education," he is fond os saying, although he actually made it through grade 11. "I could possibly have made valedictorian. I could have said, 'Good afternoon, Mrs. Plummer and members of the faculty . . .' But my grandmother taught me a lot about people. Now I'm very well disliked by your local politicians. As soon as you get behind that desk and you put on that m - f - three-piece suit you forget where you come from. Hustlers, pimps, prostitutes, they're still my friends. I got my rings with my name on them (three at this wearing, all with varying numbers of diamonds) and I got my ('76) Cadillac . . . I got a Cadillac because I want them to understand you don't have to be no dope dealer to have a car and because it's a big fun car and you can drive comfortably and people look up to Cadillacs.
"I like to hang my hand out the window of my Cadillac and show my rings. I got furs, a rabbit fur and I got the best of colognes and bath oils . . . and women have a tendency to say, 'Gee, Petey, what you have on? Now I have a barber, and after I'm there, my hair glows, and some will say, 'Gee, look at Petey's hair, and that about exterminates me . . .
'Cause, see. I was rised with roaches, and if you had to sleep in trucks and alleys in this kind of weather, you would be vain too. When I was begging for wine and whiskey, no one ever (treated me), and now when I go drinking, they say, 'Petey's drinking with me' . . .
"I know that money is all a nigger needs to make it. I know I can be bought, that's a fact, and that's why I stay away from politics. Earl Butz was talking about me. I know this. I got three bathrooms in this house. I know what it's like to be poor. I was raised in Georgetown when it was 90 per cent black, and I know what it was like to be laughed at, you know - "Petey, you can't come in here and play" - that's because they were government workers and my grandmother was a domestic . . . And when my father went to jail for 21 years, some kid tacked the article up on the bulletin board . . .
". . . The worst thing that hurts me is that my grandmother didn't live long enough to see me living like this. My grandmother brought me up, she was a strong women and the boss of the house. She smoked a pipe and she sold whiskey and wrote numbers, and she was the first person in church every Sunday.Yeah, but she didn't give more than $5 in church because she said the preacher was richer than we were . . . My grandmother used to tell me, 'Bay, I'm gonna die before you are. But I'll always be watching over you.' And sometimes when I have a problem, I think it over and within an hour or two I know I'm going to deal with a situation . . . We used to call my grandmother 'Aunt Pig.' When she found out I was on heroin after I came back from the Army, she started crying and I had never seen her cry before . . .
"I was 8 or 9 when I was in a receiving home . . . I couldn't tell you how many times I spent in jail . . . Being incarcerated - people have a tendency of thinking that when a guy comes out like me, I've been rehabilitated. A 360-degree turn. Not so. I didn't get rehabilitated. I just got tired.
"There was no rehabilitation at Lorton (where he spent five years of a 10-year sentence for armed robbery). Because the guards didn't care about what happened to a young person, and their occupational programs are outdated. I got tired of guards doing things to us like turning off 'Alfred Hitchcock, at 11 p.m. I just got tired, you know? Things began to change in the penitentiary. It just wasn't glamorous any more . . . The young guys, some of them, would get taken advantage of by the old guys. No, I didn't get raped, you kidding? Because my father - well, he was a real 'bad' father, he was a legened down there.
"So I got out because a guy went on the water tower and threatened to jump off. And I talked him down. And they took up to the commissioner, and said, "It took this guy just 19 minutes to talk him out of it.' But see, it took me six months to get him to go up there. We discussed it. It was a plan . . .
"The thing they try to tell us is there's no such thing as big people and little people. That's a lie. Patty Hearst's parents, they get her F. Lee Bailey. But the truck driver, he's got to go to the public defender or legal aid, and don't run that blacks - at me. There are just as many blacks who look down on the little blacks as crackers, almost. And the first time a black gets into trouble he cries racism . . .
"Now we got a black mayor and the city administrator is black, and all the rest, and (they're) got to fight among themselves. Now how can we have leadership for the little man when the rumbling that goes on is among the (people) at the top?
". . . My radio show started in '65 when I got out of the pen. And I got my first TV show on Channel 26 in '67. I made out like I didn't wanna be in it. Everyone was very impressed with me. Because I have a bubbling personality.
"Now on my Channel 20 show, I take prostitutes, ex-offenders, senior citizens, I take Head-Start youngesters and I dress up like the Easter Bunny (for them).
"The two best things that happened to me since I came out of jail, the two most beautiful words are 'honorarium' and 'consultant.' Now I'm trying hard to get on this college circuit. I'm all right (financially), I'm cool. I emcee shows in Capital Centre and Chicago - I go everywhere.
"You know they try to make statements that I'm not a little person any more. But I'll always be a little person. Because I know that at any time the little jive success I got can be cut off . . .
Later he'll say, "You don't think I'm famous?"
He asks that so suddenly, so abruptly, you have to reply that it doesn't matter, that you don't care.
"Well I do. I do. I like singing autographs. When you've been - over so long and you get to a point where you've made it, you say to yourself, 'Now don't get crazy, Greene. You don't want to do that.
"Once this old winehead told me, 'Petey, you're a good cheater. But you can't keep the cheat off you.' Well, I want my children Pine (7) and Petra (8) to keep the cheat off them . . . I'm going to teach them about dope and gambling; I've got to. It's just so many times we shelter our children. Always remember the little girl that runs with the boys is the one who's last to get pregnant. I want my children to get a quality education, become Rhodes scholars if they can, but I'm going to teach my son to gamble in my living room so my son won't go gambling in Vegas because he knows he can't win."
Petey Greene pauses amidst all this, and a smile lights up his face, a mildly ironic smile, but a smile for all that. "And you know another reason I'm proud to be Petey Greene? Because Amy Carter is about to attend the same school I attended for six years. Yes, Amy Carter would have had a time if she'd been there when I was there."