Old Glory

Veteran Phoenix lawyer Gary Peter Klahr fought The Bar and The Bar won

Klahr's watery brown eyes are sincere. He believes strongly in what he's saying; he has his entire life.

Gary Peter Klahr is the oldest of Fred and Frieda Klahr's five children, born in the South Bronx on July 9, 1942. Frieda was a teacher, Fred a produce wholesaler. There were too many people in the produce business in New York, so when Gary Peter was 5, Fred moved the family to Phoenix. Klahr is uncertain whether they arrived on a DC-5 or DC-6, but knows it was September 3, so hot he thought he'd landed in hell.

"I skipped second grade — that was my first accomplishment — because I was so bright, and also because the second-grade teachers didn't want me," Klahr says, chuckling.

Klahr wreck: Gary Peter contemplates life.
Kevin Scanlon
Klahr wreck: Gary Peter contemplates life.
Klahr: "They convicted me of charges not made. That's a good sound bite you might want to use."
Kevin Scanlon
Klahr: "They convicted me of charges not made. That's a good sound bite you might want to use."

He won the spelling bee at Longview Elementary School three out of four years.

"The one year I didn't win, you know the word I missed?" Klahr asks. "Ingenious." He spelled it like "genius."

But Klahr's real claim to fame came when he made his radio debut at 7, as the announcer for the Lew King Rangers variety show, which aired nationwide and soon made it to television as well. To this day, old-time Phoenicians still imitate Klahr, who announced King as "Woooooooooo King." Klahr quit at 11, he says, because the $3 weekly salary was inadequate. Klahr recalls that his parents didn't encourage him at all in his broadcasting career — the whole thing was his idea. "I was a cheeky kid."

"Cheeky" probably isn't the word Klahr's brother Eddie would use. Eddie has nothing good to say about his eldest brother.

"I'll be honest. It wasn't easy," Eddie says of growing up with Gary Peter, who is seven years his senior. Eddie now works for the U.S. Postal Service, tagging mail bags in Phoenix.

"We just didn't get along real well. He sometimes would open his mouth at the wrong time. He can't keep secrets," Eddie says. "I think on one side of his brain, he has something lacking there, I think. I don't know, I'm not a psychiatrist. That would be my guess. I don't think he realizes."

Doesn't his brother have any redeeming qualities as a person? "To be honest, I can't think of even one," Eddie says, adding that Gary Peter has always been an embarrassment.

"He is the most complicated person I've ever known. . . . As smart as he is, he's not as smart as he thinks he is."

After three boys, the Klahrs had twin girls, Betty and Bonnie. Bonnie Dahl, who lives in Boulder, Colorado, is the only Klahr who keeps in regular contact with Gary Peter; their parents have been dead for many years.

"He was unique," Dahl says of her eldest brother; she's a decade younger. "My mother, the term she always used was that he's colorful. That's the safe term she always used."

(To be fair, Gary Peter is not the only eccentric Klahr. His brother Bruce, who is reportedly independently wealthy, lives in a home in Boulder nicknamed the Volcano House — complete with a Polynesian room with a volcano fireplace, waterfalls, a fire pole, and Halloween and '60s-themed rooms. And Bonnie runs the largest head shop in Boulder, the Pipefitter. Bonnie and Betty, who lives in Denver, are married with children. None of the boys ever married.)

Dahl says Gary Peter was reading at age 2, telling time at 4. Their parents, who Dahl describes as "very mellow, easygoing people," had no idea "what they had when they had him."

"He was a very different, difficult child, I'm sure very frustrating for my mother. . . . Brilliant on one hand, but not mature on the other, which is still the case."

Dahl thinks this is due in part to the fact that Gary Peter skipped grades in school. But she's not so sure anything would have changed him.

"It's just who he is. It's just kind of how he entered the earth."

And yes, Dahl confirms, Gary Peter was always domestically challenged.

"Growing up, his room, my mother would shut his door and just leave it shut," she recalls.

Rabbi Albert Plotkin remembers Klahr's bar mitzvah well. It was his first as a rabbi. (A bar mitzvah is a coming-of-age ceremony for a Jewish 13-year-old boy.) Typically, the Bar Mitzvah Boy is sweaty and nervous, overwhelmed by the Hebrew prayers and passages he must memorize and chant. But Klahr wanted to give a sermon, as well.

"He was something else," Plotkin recalls. "He said to me, You preach every week. Why don't you rest and let me preach?'"

Plotkin agreed, but warned Klahr to keep it brief. "He said, Well, there are some things I have to get off my mind.'"

The rabbi advised the Klahrs to send Gary Peter to a program at the University of Chicago for gifted children. "Of course his parents said no; they didn't want to send him away," Plotkin recalls.

Klahr has always been too smart for the real world, the rabbi says.

Klahr recalls telling his high school newspaper he would one day succeed as a politician, businessman and lawyer. By that time, he was already a veteran of the campaign trail. His parents were New Deal Democrats, so he rebelled by affiliating with the Republicans. He started running for office in grammar school (elected vice president of his fifth-grade class) with the mixed success that has continued his whole life.

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I grew up in Phx...and fondly remember Mr. Klahr.  It was the time of the ever expanding "War on Drugs" and the Liquid Giraffe with Christine Bohling.  I never had dealings with Mr. Klahr but always knew the Hippies in PHX had a friend in Mr. Klahr fighting the craziness of "the war on drugs" and civil rights.  Thank you so much...If you don't know now, I'll tell you...You are loved just for being you...you gave all of us hope.  Peace to you GPK...

Michael Bragg Flanagan
Michael Bragg Flanagan

I was once the defendant in a civil action pleaded by Mr. Klahr. It took time out of a busy life, cost me in attorney fees although the proceedings were thrown out for lack of even basically establishing anything like wrongdoing, "I agreed to pay mine if he paid his" simply because I wouldn't have missed that day in court for the world! Can't speak for my counsel... or the befuddled Judge. The man can expound. Lawyers say if you have evidence pound the evidence, absent evidence pound the table!" Mr. Klahr didn't even need a table! I also wouldn't have missed the pretrial settlement "wunch" with Mr. Klahr... I simply could not eat a thing it was so... enuf, I personally will regret Arizona not having a Gary Peter Klahr to kick around! He was an institution unto himself no doubt! And... there may be some Dracula left in him... like Yogi said, "It ain't over til it's over!" Michael Bragg


Gary Klahr is in ill condition at the moment and those who have a bitterness in thier mouth need be silenced for you do not know the man who has had open arms for those in need dispite is sociable skills he was very carring and warm hearted in many ways tho different he was by all means no creep nor was he dihonest to any of you his manors were just and his services were well served and for those who deny these facts or rebuke the truth uttering false accusations let the shame fall apond every work you yourselfs do

Former Prep Employee
Former Prep Employee

I met GPK back in the mid-90's when he was representing 2 students at the Phoenix Preparatory Academy in their suit against the mandatory school uniform. I was a member of staff and was incensed that this creep obtained my personal home address and contacted all of us by letter TWICE in an attempt to encourage us to be insubordinate and undermine the implementation of the School Uniform Policy and Dress Code. Turns out that he lost both students' cases AND the appeal and the uniform policy went on to be extremely successful.


I have know Gary from the 1886,... he was alway one of hte best to know.. I was looking for him.. need to get a hold of him,thanksAlexandra Seals/ Tell him Roger Rudman was my x partner he will remember.. I think best wishes to him

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