Files & Clippings

Fred Haskell*

by Jon Singer

Seems to me that professionalism has nothing (or less) to do with getting paid for what you do (though, to be sure, Fred has been paid for both photography and music)—professionalism (it’s all in the mind, you know) is really a matter of attitude. Of course, our attitudes are reflected in our actions (it isn’t REALLY all in the mind, you know), or at least in the ways in which we perceive each other’s actions. (Hmmm… mebbe it really IS all in the mind, you know?)

As we know, the mind is a huge and somewhat mysterious place. Do you smell a Wumpus? I thought you did. Ooop! Excuse me. What I meant to say was:

Someone recently asked me to describe myself succinctly. The best thing I could come up with was “fanatical appreciator.” Now, I like that term. I’m going to stick with it. Not only that, I’m going to apply it to your Fan Guest of Honor: Fred Haskell is a fanatical appreciator, and, like others of my acquaintance, he likes to share the things he is appreciating. Well, hell. If he didn’t like sharing, what use would he be as a Fan GoH?

Appreciating is not as simple a matter as it may appear. In fact, I think an example is in order…perhaps a story of ancient times….

In my youth, I fancied myself to be a fanzine writer. (The delusion continues to this day; have kindness: do nothing to dispel it.) For two years and ten issues, Fred was the editor of the Minneapolis clubzine, RUNE, and every once in a while he would publish one of my pieces. It eventually transpired that Fred decided to move on, and he started to put together his last issue. I decided that it was important for me to put a piece into that issue, so I put Selectric to paper and sent a jolly article off. Fred bounced it. Said it wasn’t right for the zine. Well, Jeez! You can’t do this to me, you Gnraxlfratz! So I wrote another one, and sent it off to him, and HE BOUNCED IT! Said it wasn’t good enough!! Aaaaggghhh!!! There I was, the deadline creeping up on me, and I couldn’t figure out what to do. It was a most unpleasant experience. So I went to MidWestCon. I was not, at the time, well off (The condition continues to this day; have kindness: do something to dispel it.), so I traveled by bus. For 36 hours. In the last awful hours, I wrote a piece. It was in bus-handwriting, in a blue exam booklet, but there it was. When I got to the con, I looked around until I found Fred, and said to him, in sepulchral tones, “Observe this blue exam booklet. You will now take me to your room. We shall edit the contents of this blue exam booklet, and you will then publish the result, or I shall fall upon my sword and see an end to fanwriting.” Actually, I wasn’t quite that pushy about it… No, I take that back; those aren’t the actual words, but I WAS that pushy. Fortunately, Fred was in a good mood. He took me to his room, and we appreciated that blue exam booklet…for two and a half hours. There is nothing quite like taking a piece that almost works, sitting down with a good editor, and hammering it into a shape that really says it right. When the pounding stopped, it did. We had gone over it word by word, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, and entirety by entirety. Fred published that piece in his last RUNE.

Fred, a real appreciator, is creative about it, and the result is a general appreciation (in value) of the items he appreciates. (Do you appreciate that fully? I thought you would.) This reflects in Fred’s photography and music as well. Fred has been taking (and giving) photographs for a LONG time. If you examine them, you will almost certainly find that some of them don’t work for you; if you take a careful look at those, a few of them may surprise you. (They certainly surprised me.) Fred has a way of catching something special in a picture, and then hiding it, so you have to look for it. He is also the only person I know who could, and in fact did, take an erotic photo of an escalator.

And then there’s music. Fred started making music about the time he got into fandom (archaeological evidence puts this somewhere in the range of 1962 to 1963). Fred gives a lot of himself to his music, both in his choice of material and in his interpretation. He can give you new insight, even into songs you’ve heard many times before. And that’s another part of appreciation: giving.

Some years back, Vaughn Bode, another appreciator, gave Fred a suggestion that it would be entirely appropriate for him to combine the photos with the music. This was ingenious in that Vaughn recognized the potential for a splendid bit of synergy. The interaction is known today as “Da Fred Haskell Song and Slide Show,” and if you check your program, you will find it listed.

Fred first performed Da Show, a subset of Da Fred Haskell Experience, about seven years ago. About three years ago, after a number of performances and much evolution, he stopped doing it. After allowing some fallow time for maturation, he has recently been reconfiguring it. While he is not 100% satisfied, he is indeed ready to perform it again. (I think that part of the professional attitude is that 100% satisfaction is rather like perfection: a cute notion, but certainly no more than that.) I can tell you quite frankly that if he had told me that he felt 100% satisfied, I’d be frightened, but of course, he didn’t. He’s too shaggy professional.

Those of you who are well acquainted with both of us may marvel at seeing my byline on this bio. After all the occasions on which Fred has, well, “surprised” me, you’d think that he’d be afraid to ask me to do this (or even to LET me), figuring that I might, well, “surprise” him. As it happens, Fred will have checked this for (ahem) accuracy before you see it, and we will have edited it together. This, I guess, precludes any attempt on my part to put one over on Fred, but I am content to bide my time. I can you doestime, however. No. Think does? Can’t. I’m sure that the suspense is going to get to him eventually. Thank you, Al Sirois. When my plans mature….

Now, where was I? Oh yes! Here’s Fred. Share with him. Enjoy him. He’s going to put a fair piece of himself into appreciating this convention, and you’re part of it.

Jon Singer was born in 1949, in New York. He hopes you won’t hold it against him. After all, he can’t help it, and he has since left. He found fandom in 1969 (just missing SaintLouisCon, alas), and has been continuing to discover it ever since. A born fanatical appreciator (what’d I tell ya?), he has a lifelong passionate involvement with food, and considers himself to be 20 pounds overweight (awww…). Jon met Fred Haskell at DisCon II, in 1974, and has been appreciating Fred, Fred’s photographs, and Fred’s music at various cons and parties during the intervening years. Fred has retaliated in various ways; perhaps the most grandiose was the formation of The Jon Singer Fan Club, in 1976. Of this, we will not speak further; you must ask Fred himself. Singer has resided in Boulder, Colorado, also the home of Celestial Seasonings and more Tibetan Buddhists than you can shake a stick at, since the middle of 1978. He loves it there, even if it is a bit windy sometimes. Don’t ask him about NeuroLinguistic Programming unless you have considerable time to devote to his answer.

*Fred’s maiden name was Fred Haskell—he’s now Fred A Levy Haskell. Written for Minicon 22, 1987; ©1987, 2003 Fred A Levy Haskell & Jon Singer.