Tears of a Clown

Fredgie's quest for kids' show success hasn't exactly been a barrel of laughs -- but then again, it sure is a funny business

He pauses. "Anyways, after New Year's I've made a vow that I'm not going to do any more shows for free. The truth is, I don't foresee doing much more street performance. I want to get into a studio with a set and some original material, as opposed to kids just trotting out a song. I've even got a pilot in mind: Fredgie's a soda jerk, see, and he's got this luncheonette, and kids come there for sodas and malted milks and stuff after school. It's sort of like a combination of Fonzie and Cheers. And in back of this soda fountain area, Fredgie's got this little theater, and Friday nights he holds auditions so the kids can perform. So you've got this combination of performance and real-life problem-solving, with Fredgie acting in a kind of parental role, giving advice."

And what do his own sons, now young men in their own right, think of his new career?

"I think their attitude is: If this is what I want to do with my time, then I should." He absently fingers a Fredgie yo-yo. "I mean, if you had a father who was going through a lot of changes, you would want him to be happy, wouldn't you? I mean, this is your dad; you wanna judge him, or what?"

He laughs, but the noise loses its steam, slows to a sigh. He gets up abruptly, searches through a stack of papers on his desk. He draws out a card from his son, a drummer living in San Francisco, and reads a portion wishing his father "good luck on the marketing side."

"You have to understand, this whole thing has been very existential," Fredgie says finally. "It's really been like letting something out of a box, like a genie. I guess you could call it a spiritual mission.

"Now, would you like a Fredgie Whammy?"
He offers up a necklace, letting it sway back and forth from his fingers. The reflective medallion at its center flickers like a dead star, a piece of plastic throwing color at the world.

Fredgie El Maximo's International All Star Latin Music Dance Festival airs Saturday morning at 9:30 on Channel 40 on Miami TCI, Channel 51 on TCI South, Channel 52 on Adelphia, and Channel 44 on Gold Coast. Call your cable company for more information.

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