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Pete says his problems did not begin "for real" until that year. "I turned 21. Bars in every state would have to serve me. I had money. And that was the year I got introduced to a new drug."
From 1982 until March 1984, Pete estimates he blew about $150,000, most of it up his nose, a smaller part on booze and gambling. Cocaine fit his high-energy personality. "From the first line of coke I ever did, I was hooked," he says. "I loved it. I've done weeks when I've gone through an ounce or two, eating nothing but fast food. Plus I was drinking, a fifth of Jack Daniel's a night, easy."
Any number of sobering experiences failed to sober him up. Someone held a gun to his head in a hotel parking lot in Detroit after he refused to turn down the stereo in his van. He rolled the van over four times down an embankment in Syracuse, N.Y. and walked away with just a bloody nose. He ran to the men's room and did lines of coke between games. And then there was a bizarre four-week stretch in 1983 when Pete was competing in body only. "I can't remember anything. Complete blackout."
Once, at the Quaker State Open in Grand Prairie, Texas in January of '84, he spent the afternoon with a friend drinking double Long Island iced teas—a lethal concoction. He reeled in for the evening session and bowled himself from 17th place to sixth, rolling some 280s, 260s and 250s along the way. "I was in a daze," says Pete, "but I was into it."
But, says Pete, "I heard the whispers from the public. 'You're nothing but a drunk, Weber.' 'Look at him, he's all washed-up.' But I didn't care. I didn't believe them. I didn't think I had a problem." Months earlier Dee Dee had left with their infant daughter, Nicole, and a divorce was just a couple of signatures away. Partyin' Pete was wearing thin on some of his competitors, too. One more conduct fine—he had three already—would have resulted in a six-month suspension, and many pros believe that the ax would have fallen had he not been the man with the magic name.
A depressing witches' brew of hurt, anger, shame and guilt bubbled away inside of Dick and Juanita. Drugs were an unknown, but booze had always been around. Indeed, beer and bowling are almost a word-association pair. Dick himself had never met a party he didn't like. Was it their fault? "Pete has seen me drunk," said Dick. "He's seen my friends acting up. The first time he ever got into trouble he stole liquor out of our basement. I couldn't get rid of the guilt."
Dick Evans, bowling writer for The Miami Herald, finally got Pete to talk about his problems in February 1984. Events came to a head at Dick and Juanita's Florissant home on March 6. Pete had drunk a lot of beers and taken some Valium. "I was down so low," says Pete, "I literally couldn't talk." At the time, he and Dee Dee had reconciled, but she was ready to walk out again. They had a terrible argument. Pete went after her physically. Dick stepped in. Pete wanted to fight him. He wanted to fight his mother. He wanted to fight anybody. "He was foaming at the mouth," says Dick. "It was terrible, horrible." When things finally quieted down, Pete and his father went out for cigarettes.
"I need help," Pete told his father in the car. The next day he checked into the $4,500-a-month White Deer center. Dick told everyone Pete had a sore wrist.
Pete's first postrehab tournament was the Greater Hartford Open in Windsor Locks, Conn. On opening day he addressed his fellow bowlers in the locker room. He told them where he had been and asked them not to invite him out for drinks. They gave him a standing ovation. Since then he has won four tournaments, and this year he has a good chance of catching Aulby and even of breaking Earl Anthony's earnings record of $164,735.
Those around the PBA tour watch Weber warily, one admiring eye on his incredible talent, one jaundiced eye on his penchant for messing up. "His problems will never be behind him," says Rich Weber. "Yes, I worry about him. I worry about the people he bums around with. There is some real scum out there."