In the past few years, Capitol Hill has last two of its most colorful luminaries. And they’re not politicians.
Last March, having left the Senate for the House, my phone rang with a 301 phone number. It was the Prince George’s County Police — Andy Bestor was dead. Andy was the guy with a straw hat and funny signs who would post zany things to get attention, only to give you one of his neatly printed handouts with absolutely looney toon theories on one world governance and lizard people. But they often were funny, despite their departure from sanity, and smart.
How did I get this call? On the repeal of prohibition holiday, the Clydesdales were on the Hill. Andy was walking around — not protesting mind you — and was fascinated with these majestic animals. A wedding party came out of the Phoenix Park hotel and posed with the horses. I snapped a photo. Andy came up to me and said “you work on the hill, right?” I said yes, and he asked me to email him a copy. I did. Apparently my phone number in my signature is something he put into his phone, and thus the call.
I never found out what happened to him.
This morning, a colleague of mine wrote “Peter Bis passed away…” on my wall. Peter and Andy were friends. Peter was the gregarious one, always talking about the weekend, giving one liner advice to passerby. He was often in the park by Columbus circle, but eventually moved to the Capitol Hill Exxon next to Heritage (which offers excellent car repairs, I might add.)
He slept there and kept the lot tidy. He was like a night guard for this station, and a trustworthy one at that. I was paying for gas one time at the Exxon and in he walked, picked up a water from the cooler, and out he went to his stoop.
Like Andy, he had some zany theories. I talked with him on the way to a book party and mentioned Andy’s passing, something he was deeply suspicious of. He sincerely believed that he dated Princess Diana. If you could get past that, Peter had you — for at least a few minutes.
Just last week I had an appointment near that Exxon and I purposefully avoided him because I would be late if I got sucked in. I now feel a bit bad for doing that, knowing I’ll never get a joke, advice, or a crazy story from him again.
Reports from Roll Call and National Review for a homeless man? That’s the kind of guy Peter was, and he deserved every bit of praise. Peter was off his rocker, but he was harmless. More importantly, he was kind, funny, and caring. He was an institution for Senate staff.
Rest in peace, Peter. I know you’re up there with your “Lady Di.”
Just one day until the weekend, Peter. And I won’t go skinny dipping.