Richard Chon on Fred Bacher

Back in my young, poor, boho Buffalo days, Fred was friend, provocateur, rival, antagonist, stimulant, and a character who will never ever be forgotten. I remember how he’d hold forth for hours at Ambrosia (much to the chagrin of the owners), ordering serial soda waters with lime, a drink I called the “Fritz Fizz.” (The name never stuck.) His revels and their aftermaths were legendary — once he and Liz were struck by a car crossing Main Street late one night and spent the next few months in crutches. They named themselves “The Invalids,” with the stress of the second syllable — typical dark Fritz Bacher wit.

I remember a third floor attic apartment on Ashland with a clangy old grand piano, where we’d argue the merits of Leonard Cohen (I was wrong, Fred), and Fred would prepare his big one-man shows, which always struck me as being a bit undercooked. We often didn’t see eye to eye, but Fred’s presence was an intellectual challenge that could not be gotten around. I wonder sometimes why he wasn’t spinning his special brand of Continental Blarney in the Latin Quarter or in Prague instead of Buffalo, and now it occurs to me that Fred brought a kind of shabby but elegant European culturedness to Buffalo.

While we’re remembering Fred, we shouldn’t forget his considerable charm. He could be magnetic; in fact, his work was predicated on a special kind of chutzpah and courage of conviction, a belief that his was an original poetic voice and that we should hang on every word. His stuff was so bravely minimalist and self-sufficient. Watchability is such a rare quality in a performer, and Fred had it in spades.

God protect you, Fred. I hope you’re drinking with the angels now.

Richard Chon (on Facebook: reprinted with permission)

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