Welcome to Coffee with a Coastie. We had the pleasure of chatting with Central Coast local Peter Lee. Peter is a Graphic designer, Illustrator, Corporate Event and Entertainment Producer who at 77 refuses to retire. Last year he released the first book in his series titled Little Dino Dudes which are devoted to teaching children social values, along with a music single in aid of the Australian Wildlife Conservancy. He is also a proud father to five children, two of which are under 10 and three grandchildren. We hope you enjoy reading our chat with Peter and be sure to listen to the full interview here
Well Peter, I’ve been lucky enough to see where the magic takes place when you put pen to paper, and it is amazing. Have you always been artistic from a young age?
Pretty much, I think I’ve still got a drawing somewhere in the archives that I did when I was about three. It was a cow with four square legs. It probably looked more like an out of proportion bulldog. Though art used to always fight with me between my love of sports.
You worked as a Graphic designer and Art director before going on to produce and direct shows and corporate events. How did you transition from designer roles to producing and directing shows?
That really happened at Scholastic more than anything. Because as the Art director I had to do anything and everything that came along. It was not unusual for me to have 30 plus jobs on my plate from brochures to exhibitions. I designed Scholastics big international book fair exhibition, which I took out stand of the year for five years in a row. I also designed their travelling children’s literature show called the Dromkeen exhibition. Which toured Australia, New Zealand and America.
You must have worked with some talented people in the entertainment industry. Who has been the most memorable and why?
The one I remember above all of them is Don Lane. A friend of mine, well–respected musical director Barrie Heidenreich, who passed away a while back was Don Lane’s musical director, and they did a duo show together that they took all over the place. Whilst I was staging the show one time, I was having a bit of a break and Barry starts calling out to me, “Peter, Peter Don’s in agony.” I said, “what do you mean Don’s in agony?” He said, “he’s in his dressing room and he’s in real agony. He’s got an ingrown toenail. Can we do something about it?” I went into his change room and there’s Don sitting in his chair with his foot up and socks off with his big red toe. To see this icon sitting there with his toe up, I said, “oh Don, look I don’t have any first aid, but I do have my tool kit.” I went outside and got some tissues and a roll of gaffer tape. Then here I am on my hands and knees, gaffer taping tissue around Don Lane’s big toe. I then gave him my shoulder as he hobbled with me down to my truck. I helped him up into my truck and drove him to his motel where he could have a couple of hours rest before I sent a car to pick him up to come back to do the show. I got a report after that, that Don Lane had said to Barry, I want him on every one of my shows.
Some people may not believe it, though you have 5 children, including a 14 year old son plus a boy and girl 6 year old twins. Have you got any words of advice or wisdom, for someone having children later in life.
Don’t do it (laughter). No look, it depends. You see I think I’ve said this to you before Luke. Age is a number and I don’t relate to it. I take my disposition in life right the way back to the spirit and the character of my mother, which has stayed with me all the way through my life really. I don’t have the thought that you’re too old for anything. And even though there’s difficulty along the way, they’re all beautiful and lovely children.
In researching your latest children’s book Little Dino Dudes. I was amazed to see that your first Dinosaur characters are almost 10 years old. Where did the idea of Little Dino Dudes come from and what or who inspired the first dinosaur character Bluey?
My son James, who’s about to turn 14. As a little lad, loved dinosaurs. So, on one particular birthday I drew up a dinosaur. Which turned out to be my first character Bluey. I’d combined Bluey’s image with an A.A. Milne verse where Christopher Robin is speaking to Winnie the Pooh. The words were just beautiful. Then before I knew it, I had other members of the family wanting me to draw them one and because James was so protective of his character, I had to invent other characters. I ended up with a family of four dinosaur boys and four dinosaur girls, who have become my family of Little Dino Dudes.
I was also amazed to see that your dinosaur characters appeared on children’s shirts and baby jump suits before the Little Dino Dudes books. What inspired you to start writing the books so many years later?
The quantum leap for the characters appearing in books happened purely and simply because of Covid. Prior to Covid I was still providing production services for shows, then Covid stopped the shows and I had to decide what I was going to do. So, I simply picked up an old cap and took my characters one step further. I have always loved writing and I love humour. Everything I write, I like to write humorously. Then when it came down to these books, I knew I wanted to write about values. Once I’d picked the values that I wanted to write about the brain just got going. Before I knew it one after the other I’d written eight stories. Which I’ve combined into the first two books.
The Little Dino Dudes books are devoted to teaching children social values. With your first book containing the values honesty and justice. Can you share what the other values are going to be and why you feel it is important to instil these values in our children?
Yeah for sure. At my age most people are quite happy to be granddad to their grandchildren, yet I’ve still got to take on the role of dad and I feel the importance of basic values becomes even more important as a dad. My second book contains determination, consideration and love as the main values. But you know there’s all sorts to follow. I’ve listed integrity, faith, empowerment, courtesy, faithfulness, enthusiasm, self–control, humility and cooperation. These are just the tip of the values that drive us to be who we’re going to be as human beings.
Lastly, after meeting you I know that at age 77 I see no signs of you slowing down and as you have mentioned you feel that age is just a number, provided you have good health. Can you share how you stay young in mind and body?
Well, mentally I still think I could do a backwards somersault. I think we’re all young in the mind, even if we’re not in the body. I’ve worked for a lot of years in an industry where there is no particular age barrier. As in the entertainment industry whether you’re a producer, a performer or a production person, you have equal respect for those that you’re working with. That could be an older roadie working with a younger roadie or an older singer working with an up and coming new singer. Either way the newer singer would have respect for the older singer and the younger roadie would have respect for the older roadie, because the older roadie is either guiding him with good advice or can still scale a three metre ladder as quick as he can. And thankfully I’ve always been fit and like to look on the humorous side of life. Which they say humour keeps you young.