Sunday, April 30, 2006

Convicted Sex Offender Peter Yarrow Peforms in Baltimore

Peter Yarrow's Idealism Arrive
By Judy Oppenheimer
Contributing Editor
Baltimore Jewish Times -

Peter Yarrow is walking his dog on the far-from-mean Upper West Side streets of New York City and reflecting, via cell phone, on his life.

It’s been a long, and for the most part, deeply fulfilling trip. He still sings with the folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary — the group that gave him eternal name recognition, popularized Bob Dylan’s "Blowing in the Wind," and is today "the only group with international reputation of a major sort who’s lasted this long with original members," he says, proudly.

Peter Yarrow

An educational program he created, "Operation Respect," aimed at teaching children to treat each other more kindly, is spreading across the globe. He is close to both his former wife and his two grown children, Bethany, a musician, and Christopher, an artist.

Oh, yes, and he insists he still doesn’t mind singing "Puff the Magic Dragon," the song he co-wrote and composed more than 40 years ago, which he has performed at least 500 kazillion times, as of this writing.


And no, the song was not written about pot — though it’s hard for aging baby boomers to hear it without remembering its supposed connection. (During a concert in the 2004 campaign, a Washington Post reporter spotted presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry, thinking himself unobserved, rather unwisely lifting an imaginary joint to his lips when the song was played.)

All in all, life is good. Also, his dog, Zackie, a Jack Russell/ Chihuahua mix, a "rescue dog," he points out, is very cute.

In fact, at 68, Peter Yarrow considers himself "the luckiest person in the world. My work, my friends. I can’t imagine finding them more gratifying." He will be performing tomorrow night, April 29, in a benefit concert at Baltimore Hebrew Congregation; money will go to Life Long Learning programs.

Mr. Yarrow’s interest both in music and social justice started early. Raised in Manhattan by a socially progressive Jewish mother — an early member of the New York Teachers Union — he was playing guitar by age 8.

At 17, he was in the audience for The Weavers’ famous 1955 concert at Carnegie Hall, which electrified him, a kind of vocal equivalent of tikkun olam, he calls it. (Unknown to him, future partner Mary Travers was also there.)

As a senior at Cornell University in 1959, he taught a folk singing class and realized that "this kind of music could serve as a trigger, a spark, to ignite another kind of consciousness. I felt folk music was going to play a part in the changing of America and the world, and that I could be a part of helping that happen."

Cut to Greenwich Village, the following year: a manager, Albert Grossman, spotted him singing at the Cafe Wha, took him under his wing, and announced they needed to find two more singers to form a group. They auditioned several, but when Mary Travers and Noel Stookey showed up, "it was magic — instantaneous." Noel became Paul, for alliterative reasons, and everything fell into place.

How have they managed to stay together so long? "From the get-go, we had a mutual agreement to be straight with one another," says Mr. Yarrow. "We weren’t pretending. We were real. We called forth the best in each other."

Was it always perfect? Of course not. "We all have feet of clay. It’s just like with any relationship, marriage or whatever." But they did try.

Another strong tie between them was their commitment to social justice. "We had a vision and purpose, we never compromised," he says. They were a constant presence at civil rights and anti-war demonstrations. "When the record company told us, 'You can’t go on this march, you’ll lose the Southern market,’ we didn’t give it a thought." (They did lose their popularity in the Deep South, too, as it happened, he added.)

Their fame was worldwide. But fame can have a price: any misstep is magnified. And in March 1970, unfortunately, Mr. Yarrow took a big one: he was arrested and convicted for what were termed "immoral and improper liberties" with a 14-year-old girl who came to his hotel room after a concert. He served three months in jail; 11 years later he was pardoned by President Carter.

Mr. Yarrow sounds a little sad, but clearly unsurprised, when the subject comes up. "It was 35 [actually, 36] years ago. You know, you make mistakes," he says. "You feel terrible about it, make your amends. In that time, it was common practice, unfortunately–– the whole groupie thing.

"Was it reprehensible on my part? Yes. Was it common practice? Yes. Does that imply justification? No."

Still, he can’t resist a little defensiveness. "In Washington, it was considered a felony. In New York, it would have been a class B misdemeanor."

What he doesn’t say but you can’t help wondering is, would it have received any of the same attention had it been Mick Jagger, or any one of rock’s bad boys, in that hotel room? Did his arrest, and the subsequent outrage, have anything to do with the fact that this was the man who wrote "Puff?"

At any rate, Mr. Yarrow believes he has paid his dues. "With the mean-spiritedness of our time, it gets hauled out as if it’s relevant. You don’t get a presidential pardon if you’re not doing great work, have paid your debts to society."

When he campaigned for Sen. Kerry in 2004, the story once again came up — one Texas politician even canceled a fund-raising concert. "The price I pay," Mr. Yarrow says. "What can I do, it’s part of my life. [With other people] I’m very sympathetic, understanding, forgiving, because I realize we all have feet of clay. Certainly I do."

His organization, Operation Respect, which grew out of a children’s program he developed called "Don’t Laugh at Me," takes up much of his time. He recently returned from Croatia, where the government decided to add the program to the school curriculum; it is already being used by schools in Hong Kong and Vietnam, along with 15,000 schools in the United States. Both Argentina and South Africa have expressed interest.

The program is based on the theory that the cycle of hatred — the wellspring of prejudice, of wars, of much of the evil in the world — can only be confronted, and hopefully squashed, in childhood.

For Mr. Yarrow, it’s all about respect. "In terms of our own Jewish history, it relates to what the Anti-Defamation League calls the pyramid of hate. The beginning of the Holocaust, of any war, starts with teasing and ridicule. Bullying. Ostracism builds to real bias, prejudice, racism, and hate killing."

To change the cycle, "you have to get to the children," he said. "They don’t jump out of the womb saying, 'I don’t like Jews, blacks, Poles.’ It’s up to us to give them the tools to interact compassionately, to resolve conflict non-violently, appreciate differences."

And that in a nutshell, he says, is what his program is about, "and what I’m going to be talking about and singing about."

Peter Yarrow’s concert will be held on Saturday, April 29 at 7:30 p.m. at Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, 7401 Park Heights Ave. Students from the day school will join him for part of the concert. Call 410-764-1587 for ticket information, or visit www. .


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, but I just don't get this. If the article that appeared in the Baltimore Jewish Times has Mr. Yarrow discussing his mistake, then it must be common knowledge or am I mistaken?
He says it was reprehensible, but then again, do you think that Mick Jagger or Jim Morrison were acting any different with their young "chippies" at the time? He got caught, did some time and moved on, and he's admitting it publically and not in denial about it.
Move one whoever you are.

April 30, 2006 3:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a question, has Yarrow ever felt a sense of remores for what his victim has gone through? It seems like he only feels bad for himself, and how it has effected his own personal life.

How is his survivor doing these days? Has she been able to heal?

"Mr. Yarrow sounds a little sad, but clearly unsurprised, when the subject comes up."

Excuse me? He should sound MORE then just a little sad. He attempted to rape someone's child. Why? Because he was a rock star and he felt he had a right to rape a fan?

Yarrow was in his 30's, The girl was 14-years old. His excuse:

"In that time, it was common practice, unfortunately–– the whole groupie thing."

He's still making excuses for his actions. Before we can just let this go, we need to know if his survivors life is ok, and if she feels it's ok to let it go.

April 30, 2006 7:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Read Yarrow's excuses. This really makes me sick. Does anyone know if he's on the National Sex Offender's registry? I have a feeling because he got a presidential pardon from a friend of the family that he's not.

I agree, the question should be -- how is his victim doing these days? How can we all show her support? I can't imagine what she went through -- being assaulted, going to court, having him pled guilty, and then getting a pardon.

"Was it common practice? Yes. Does that imply justification? No."

"In Washington, it was considered a felony. In New York, it would have been a class B misdemeanor."

"With the mean-spiritedness of our time, it gets hauled out as if it’s relevant. You don’t get a presidential pardon if you’re not doing great work, have paid your debts to society."

April 30, 2006 8:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I grew up with Peter, Paul and Mary. I love their music. I also voted for Kerry. I am proud to be liberal with my thinking.

I am totally outraged at what I'm reading. I agree 100%, Peter Yarrow should be on the National Sex Offender's registry. I think his presidential pardon should be over turned. Is that possible?

I wonder if he wasn't married to McCarthy's niece if would be on the registry today?

I care more about protecting children from child molesters then I do about the politics of a political campaign

April 30, 2006 8:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Have other allegations been made against him?

I'm not saying that he ISN'T a continuing offender, but you people would have felt right at home burning witches.

You take all the credibility away from the people and organizations who are truly looking to identify and convict the guilty and exonnerate the innocent. Those are the true protectors of children and survivors.
You comments are reprehensible and give survivors (if indeed you are truly survivors) a bad name.
Get over it, get therapy, move on and find someone truly guilty.

May 01, 2006 6:57 AM  
Blogger Vicki Polin said...

Please read the following information that comes from this site:

In 1985, research conducted by Dr. Gene Abel of Emory University in Atlanta examined a group of sex offenders. Funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, Dr. Abel's research concluded that the typical sexual offender against children is male, begins molesting by age 15, engages in a variety of deviant behavior, and "molests an average of 117 youngsters, most of whom do not report the offense." Dr. Abel emphasized that offenders seek legitimate access to children, noting that "child molesters seek out jobs to access kids" (Abel, 1985).

May 01, 2006 9:59 AM  
Blogger Vicki Polin said...

In a MTC (Massachusetts Treatment Center) study, the term "child molester" was defined as someone whose sexual offenses were against victims under the age of 16. "Sexual offense" was defined as any sexually motivated assault involving physical contact with the victim. When the victim-age criterion was not sufficient (for example, because the offender was young or because of multiple victims of varying ages), several additional guidelines were used. Age discrepancy between offender and victim was considered, as was the predominant age of victims and any other victim age trends.

Massachusetts Treatment Center (MTC) in Bridgewater, MA, which was established in 1959 for the evaluation and treatment of sexually dangerous persons. State law provides that a person found guilty of a sexual offense can be committed to MTC for terms of 1 day to life if judged sexually dangerous.

May 01, 2006 10:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Peter Yarrow should have no contact with minors. He is writing books and sing a longs. Common practice for pediophoiles to place themselves by children."Their friend."

October 12, 2010 4:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"You don't get a presidential pardon if you are not doing great work." Mr Yarrow observes.. Abe Lincoln pardoned a man who was convicted of bestiality. So Mr. Yarrow argument is spacious. He shold not be allowed children and should be on the sex offenders list

October 12, 2010 6:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Peter Yarrow is one of the great musical geniuses of the 20th century....get over it...when I was 14 I would have given my eyeteeth to sleep with Peter Yarrow...I just wish he had been gay. What a bunch of prudes...what a punch of puritanical hypocrites you all are who condemn 14 I knew exactly what I was and what I wanted....and so did the bunch of you. A bunch of idiots.

January 31, 2011 9:39 PM  

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