By Scott MacClelland
IN HIS NEW AUTOBIOGRAPHY, “From Colored Town to Pebble Beach,” Pat DuVal’s entertaining stories, told with wit and charm, do not mask the undercurrent of his life: entrenched, institutional racism. Long since embraced by an enlightened white community on the Monterey Peninsula, including numerous celebrities, he still says, “Racism is everywhere.”
DuVal was born and grew up in the ‘colored town’ district of Fort Pierce, Florida. His father, “one of the few black deputy sheriffs in the south,” had no qualms about administering corporal punishment on his sons. “I was the black sheep of the family,” he jokes. Thanks largely to that, Pat left home at 16, “but stayed in school,” for Detroit where he had extended family. “I got put in jail two or three times,” he recalls. “My dad, the sheriff, wouldn’t get me out.”
The DuVal family was not particularly religious. Moreover, the music favored at home was classical and opera. “My daddy didn’t like gospel music or any of that racial stereotype stuff.” Back in Florida, he spent summers as a farm hand and cowboy, wearing western attire that he hated, and doing other work for his father. In Fort Lauderdale he heard the chorus from Florida A&M University and after high school enrolled there.
In 1963, the allure of Motown found him back in Detroit. He spent six months auditioning to join the likes of Stevie Wonder and Smoky Robinson. While there he was officially questioned about his draft status. “I forgot to register,” he said on his way to jail as a draft dodger. A judge sentenced him to enlist in the army. “I had to go to Miami to be sworn in.” It was the height of the Vietnam War. Trained in law enforcement and investigations at Ft. Gordon, Georgia, he wound up in Panama where the Canal Zone was under siege by Pan Nationals. It was in Panama that “I first saw integrated schools,” and other institutions that did not discriminate between races. “I ate Chinese food for the first time,” and “I liked it.”
In 1967, his Panama tour concluded, DuVal was reassigned to Ft. Ord, with only months remaining before his discharge, where he ran the stockade. “After that I had planned to go to Florida to study choral music,” he says. “During that time I met Jack Davenport in Salinas.” Davenport was Monterey County Sheriff. “He told me a test [for deputies] was coming up.” DuVal took the test and immediately boarded a Greyhound bus bound for Florida. Four days later, when he arrived at the family home on a Saturday, a letter was waiting for him. Davenport was calling him back for an oral interview the following Tuesday. “I never even unpacked. On Monday I flew back to Monterey.”
In his book, he described himself as “an angry young man, afraid of white society.” The day he went to work for the Monterey County Sheriff, the under-sheriff Jimmy Rodriguez said, “You’re one of us now.” He was shocked when Rodriguez added, “And, by the way, you’re the first black deputy sheriff in Monterey County.” Not having any significant experience in a white community he assumed he would be assigned to a black one. So he was doubly taken aback when his beat was to be Carmel and Pebble Beach. “I was very uncomfortable. I had never been around white people.” As he settled in to his new job, one white person who had befriended him made it clear that they were anti-Semitic. “I was dumbfounded. I didn’t know what to say.”
Now at the start of a 30-year career as a deputy sheriff, DuVal soon joined the Monterey Peninsula Choral Society, the chorus of choice to the Monterey Symphony. Conductor Haymo Taeuber (right) quickly noticed the standout clarion tenor, identified DuVal as in fact a countertenor and asked him to sing the high ‘roasted-swan’ solo in Carl Orff’s popular Carmina Burana. After showing up for a rehearsal with his service revolver in his jacket, Taeuber dubbed him The Singing Sheriff. (I still remember him singing the haunting alto solo in Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms.)
DuVal began formal studies with the late Harvey Marshall, voice professor at Monterey Peninsula College. “At least I knew I could carry a tune.” DuVal sang lots of solos, including with Sal Ferrantelli and I Cantori “Deposuit” from JS Bach’s Magnificat and the tenor arias from Handel’s Messiah with Taeuber and the Symphony. He began to sing in area lounges, at the Mission Ranch and, in Carmel Valley, the Holman Ranch and Los Laureles. “I learned a lot of songs from Kate Holman,” he says. When Pat Ramsey, then co-owner of the Highlands Inn, invited DuVal to dine there, “It was the first time I had dinner in a real restaurant.” That’s where he began his career as a singing entertainer.
DuVal sang “for years” at Los Laureles Lodge in Carmel Valley. He sang at Rocky Point Restaurant, Cypress Inn, several times at Corral de Tierra Country Club and other well-known area watering holes. He has frequently entertained the residents of retirement communities, like Carmel Valley Manor and Hacienda Carmel. In 1989, while singing at Neil DeVaughn’s, a popular Cannery Row restaurant, he was surprised when Maya Angelou showed up to “hear the Singing Sheriff.” When she learned of his history, she advised him, “take notes and write a book.”
In retirement, DuVal has been a referral agent with Alain Pinel Realty. But he’s winding that down because, “My real love is singing.” He says of his life here that there have been both good and bad times. Among the good ones are his film and television activities. He has had small parts in three Clint Eastwood films. (DuVal with Eastwood and sheriff Norm Hicks, left) He was the AT&T Pro-Am Kickoff MC/host from 1990 to ’93. He sang the National Anthem for the San Francisco Giants and Houston Rockets. And he appeared in the TV series Doris Day’s Best Friends.
Today, he and his life partner of 37 years, Carol Zeise, a retired paralegal, have health issues on their plate. He is so delighted with the response to his book that he is tempted to write another one. His one lifelong regret, a dream that still haunts him, is never having been able to open a restaurant with his parents, his mother now deceased, and siblings. It’s a nostalgic image from childhood of a family gathered together around the dinner table.