Ed. Note: Services for Fred-Freak Smith were held on Tuesday, Aug. 29, in Maryland. His body was sent to Maryland where his mother currently resides. He was killed on Aug. 8 in Las Palmas Park in the City of San Fernando, stabbed in the neck and left to die alone in a pool of his own blood. Police have yet to catch a suspect. An outpouring of sorrow and heartfelt stories have come to the San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol since we reported his death. This is one of those stories.
Ever since she saw me suffer in bed for two weeks over having my first love in high school break up with me, my mother implored me to never allow myself to be in love with someone who wasn’t just a bit more in love with me than I was them.
She saw, both as an expert astrologer and as a world-weary human being, how much trouble I was going to get myself into, and possibly die because of this trouble, if I didn’t desensitize myself daily, weekly, to the kaleidoscopic lures that love and co-dependency would set for me. These lures are not just romantic or sexual; they are everywhere with everyone and they have a million disguises. No one goes out of their way to warn you about them until you’re already hooked.
While I haven’t always been successful at keeping my emotions in check, I have been able to temper my enthusiasm long enough, consistently enough, so that I haven’t fallen madly in love for anyone without having a foolproof exit strategy. So I sit here today and, of all the things I could be thinking about in finding out that my great, troubled, brilliant and beautiful friend has been murdered, I am thinking about my mother, her advice to me, how I have failed her advice.
I was, am, always will be madly in love with Fred-Freak Smith, and I forgot to set up any exit strategy from the pain of losing him.
We had the same birthday, pretty much the same astrological chart, and everyone thought we were the same person, which we were. We had the same strengths and weaknesses, the same addictions and struggles with them, the same challenges we ran way from and the same desire to run back to them and conquer them, the same everything.
We adored each other because we had no choice but to do so. He was my elder and I was his. We would spend time together and synthesize and disconnect from everyone that wanted us fat or indifferent or dead, and we inspired each other to live and create and defy.
We told each other everything. We were best friends. I was his guardian angel and he gave me everything else, even sometimes grief, but it was a grief I recognized as being the kind I gave to other people, and therefore I deserved the grief. I welcomed it. I embraced it.
Everyone who knows us knows how the last few years of his life have been like, so I don’t need to discuss any of that in a public forum. Freak was a monumental force of nature who accomplished massive and wondrous things in a short life, no matter what conditions his personal challenges sometimes placed him in, challenges most of us wouldn’t be able to handle and therefore none of us have the right to speak on them.
Freak was that naturally exceptional. You don’t have to explain what exactly that thing was that he had you’ll never have because Freak was Freak, and he had whatever “It” is and you didn’t.
I remember how he walked into a bar I tended at 8 years ago and I looked at him and said ‘Hey, you’re Fred-Freak Smith from Beefeater!” and he clutched his heart and dropped to his knees as if having a heart attack. I remember how he taught me to play the “chonk chonk chonk chonk chonk” on the guitar that runs through Lungfish’s “Straightaway” and how shocked I was at both how difficult and easy it was to do.
I remember going with him to get his personal identification card and the carnival of comedy that ensued when he insisted that his name be “Freak” on the license; the state of California granted his wish.
I remember us starting our band and us copyrighting the name “Black Cat Syndrome.” Originally we were going to be called “Black Bitches” but he said, “Everyone will have to be black in the band for us not to get killed on tour and don’t you have a skin allergy to shoe polish.”
He taught a teenage Dave Grohl (of Nirvana and the Foo Fighters) how to play guitar and didn’t give up on him until he got it right. You know how that turned out.
I remember everyone who met him loving him. I remember feeling like I had found a pot of gold every time I would be driving somewhere in Hollywood while Freak lived with me all these years, and seeing him on the street and us both, eyes meeting exclaiming, ‘What’s for dinner tonight, f—ker?”
I remember Freak being my friend. I am overwhelmed from all the pictures and songs and feelings that are engendered from the endless awesome memory of Freak being my friend.
He was a brilliant musician and artist. He was generous with his time. He cared about everyone. He loved animals and anyone who was downtrodden with angelic affection. He was tough and dangerous if he had to be, and never towards someone who didn’t deserve it.
He was a real f—king human being.
Arthur Capone is a writer living in Los Angeles.