Writer, producer, environmentalist and philanthropist
Peter Getty, writer, producer, environmentalist and philanthropist -- was born in New York City in 1965. At the age of three, his family (his father is Gordon Peter Getty, former CEO of Getty Oil) moved to San Francisco, where he lived, more or less, for the next decade. He spent two years (1974-1976) at Heatherdown Preparatory School in England (David Cameron was a classmate and friend), then returned home and finished at the Town School for Boys in San Francisco.
From 1979 to 1983, he attended high school at Exeter Academy. He was accepted to Harvard University, where he majored in English and American Literature. He took a year off from his studies at Harvard to work as a copy editor at Grove Press, graduating with a degree in English in 1987.
After working at Grove Press, Getty decided he’d rather pursue a career in music than in publishing -- his father, a composer of symphonic and operatic music, had taught him to play the piano by ear at the age of two -- and he began to focus on singing and songwriting. While still at Harvard, he started a band with his roommate, Charlie Fulton; this was the early incarnation of Virgin-Whore Complex, which he and Fulton officially formed five years after graduating, in 1992. Getty, who performed under the stage name Spats Ransom, was the primary songwriter, guitarist, and vocalist; Fulton played keyboard. The pair later added multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Deb Fox.
The indie-pop trio released two well-received albums, in 1996 and 1998, respectively. But they split up shortly after the release of their second LP, as the members drifted into alternate careers. Getty turned to managing his Los-Angles-based boutique record label, Emperor Norton: both Virgin-Whore Complex LPs were released under the label, which was mainly focused on electronica, hip-hop and dance music, as were albums by Air, Ugly Duckling, Ladytron, and Fantastic Plastic Machine. He also concentrated on writing, producing, and supporting various philanthropic organizations.
These days, under the auspices of Peter Getty Productions, Getty writes and produces for film and television. His projects include: "Monster Control," a mock-u-mentary about crypto-zoologists; and an untitled project currently in development that he created with Tori Bellici of MythBusters.
Aside from music and writing, Getty has been very dedicated to environmental issues. Many of the philanthropic initiatives and organizations Getty supports are committed to protecting the environment and/or furthering environmental awareness.
These include World Wildlife Fund, Environmental Defense Fund, Global Green, Greenpeace, Sierra Club, and Friends of the River. Growing up, Getty’s family took river and camping trips across the United States, to, say, the Sierras, Muir Woods, Point Reyes -- a trip down Idaho’s Salmon River and a tubing adventure on the Truckee River stand out as particularly memorable -- and it was during these outings that he developed a connection to nature.
The first time he recalls thinking about the environment per se was in elementary school, when he asked about the Grizzly bear on the California state flag and was surprised to learn it had long since been driven from the state.
As an adult, Getty continues to spend time in nature, taking trips on the Tuolumne, the Rogue, Smith, and Colorado Rivers. He believes that you preserve nature while enjoying it by leaving the lightest footprint possible. He is alarmed at the way some people can willfully shut out the warnings of research scientists in favor of their own wishful thinking, and can ignore glaringly obvious problems like climate change, depletion of natural habitats, species extinction, and pollution.
To Getty, it seems inescapably obvious that we only have one world, that we can’t exhaust it forever with impunity, and that there’s nowhere to go if we wreck it.