A few years back, my friend Fred threw a perfect party. It was a summer Sunday afternoon in Silver Lake. His friend (Bob?) had come down from San Francisco and made mint juleps for everyone. (Refreshing!) It was the first (and only) time I ever had Pioneer Chicken. (Delicious!) There were over 60 people scattered throughout his perfectly decorated 2 bedroom apartment, even spilling out into his backyard where the temperature hovered around 75 degrees Fahrenheit all day. Gays and straights mingled, the nicest and most interesting specimens of each. I remember an elderly jazz singer, sat imperiously on a chair in the living room, holding court as 20-something’s listened to her stories about Hollywood in the 50s and 60s. It was the kind of party where you intended to be there for 2 hours, but stayed for 6. Also, Fred had set aside boxes of CD’s that he didn’t want anymore and told people to take the ones they wanted. I took Judy at Carnegie Hall. I still listen to it from time to time. For months after that party, several times, we would be out and about and someone would tell him, “Fred, THAT was a great party!” And every time, Fred would just smile and say, “I know, wasn’t it?”
This February, as I passed by Carnegie Hall in the blustery snow, I thought about that CD and in turn that perfect summer day and then, about Fred. My memory isn’t what it used to be, but it was either one or two years later that Fred died. He had a massive heart attack at work, three weeks shy of his 50th birthday. He was planning a blowout celebration for the milestone at the Redwood Bar downtown. After he died, it was decided that the party should go on as yet another memorial to this man who’d left his mark on so many. There were hundreds of people there, someone made a video tribute that made us laugh and cry. It was not the event that Fred had planned, but it was another memorable night.
When someone dies, especially in situations where they die suddenly, those left behind tend to ponder the what ifs. What could he or we have done differently to keep him here still with us? If he were alive today he would be 56. He would have just turned 56. Of course, there is nothing that can bring him back in a physical reality, but I’d like to think that he is still with us, hovering over, cosmically making sure there is enough wine in our glasses, enough food on our plates. It’s a comforting idea, anyway.
A few years ago, I was in a restaurant in Chinatown that Fred loved, Hop Louie. In fact there was a dinner there after his funeral. On the wall of black and white head shots of celebrities was a signed color photo of Fred. I really don’t remember who else was on that wall, a couple newscasters, various athletes and someone from Magnum P.I., I think. Per usual, Fred was the one who stood out. If you’re reading this and knew him, you knew that Fred was the most famous non-famous person you knew. More than that, Fred was loved by all.
So, during this time of year when I want to spend every day at an afternoon soirée that spills into evening, with just the right drinks and snacks and company, I remember with great fondness that perfect party, that perfect day and a mostly perfect man, who always, always knew how to have a good time. His name was Fred.