When Bruce Pingree, proprietor of the Press Room and general man about town, announced that he would be celebrating his one hundred and eleventh birthday with a lavish party in the bar he’s been involved with for almost four decades, Portsmouth reacted with excitement.
Pingree, known for his peculiar demeanor and generosity, has been hanging around Portsmouth for more than forty years, with gigs in radio, theatre, poetry, and at the Press Room. He’s been renowned in town for nearly as long, ever since his remarkable disappearance and unexpected return twenty years ago.
“I just needed some time to find out what was up,” he told the Portsmouth Herald in an interview nearly five years ago.
The riches he brought back from his travels are nearly as famous. Some locals still talk about hidden rooms in the basement of the bar, filled with rare vinyl and storied musical instruments.
Almost as notable as his reputation is what some would call his advanced age. Looking at Pingree, you wouldn’t think he was a day over sixty-five. Sources at Kittery City Hall confirm Pingree was born in 1905, making him 111 this past Saturday.
“It’s definitely odd,” said longtime friend Dan Beaulieu. “He never looks any older.”
Beaulieu and Bruce have been working together since the founding of Seven Stages Shakespeare Company. They also share a birthday, and Beaulieu was also among celebrants at the party Saturday night. Pingree adopted Beaulieu in 2014.
The party, which lasted well into the night, was an invitation only affair attended by Portsmouth luminaries of all generations, including Mayor Jack Blalock, City Manager John Bohenko, musicians, theatre folk, and more. A few were overlooked by accident, but they attended all the same. Though Pingree called it a party, it was really a variety of entertainment all rolled into one, with musical performances by Chris Klaxton and his band, Tan Vampires, and others. After hours of music, drink, games, theatrical performance, Fireworks in Prescott Park resulting in multiple noise complaints, and a lavish meal, Pingree finally took to the podium to deliver a speech.
After thanking his guests each by name, and flubbing a few, Pingree expressed happiness for his new age.
“I’m eleventy one!” he said, to thunderous applause.
“I hope you all are enjoying yourselves. Me, I’m alright too,” he said, interrupted by raucus partygoers who would not be quieted until Klaxton sounded a few notes from his horn.
“I’ve called you all here for three reasons” he continued. “First, I want to tell you I dig you all. I don’t know half of you cats as well as I should like; and I dig less than half of you as well as you should be dug.”
His second reason was mumbled and our reporters could not get a confirmed account of what was said.
“The third reason is I want to make an announcement. I regret to announce that, though eleventy one years is way too short a time for you and I to have been walking together, this is it man. Taps. I’m out of here. Later”
After that guests reported seeing a blinding flash of light, and by the time they recovered, Pingree was nowhere to be seen.
“I think I saw him fiddling with something behind his back,” one partygoer recalled. “I can’t be sure though.”
Beaulieu refused to comment further on his adoptive father’s whereabouts, and multiple calls to his phone have gone unanswered.
Portsmouth Police are seeking anyone with information as to Pingree’s current whereabouts. They have set up a tip line. Details are on the City’s website.