|Los Angeles Times, Feb 5, 1986
The Bottom Line: Hed Rather Be Fred Than Dead
By Lynn Smith, Times Staff Writer
Fred Daniel says it started back in grade school. Schoolmates made fun of his name, calling "Hey, Fray-yud!" as if he were a dumb kid in overalls chewing on a long straw. It was downhill from there.
Girls he met in high school humiliated him by saying, "Your name is Fred," "really" and then laughing out loud.
"Anti-Fred" stereotypes only made it worse; comedian Red Skelton’s Freddie the Freeloader, cartoon caveman Fred Flintstone, the bumbling character of Fred Mertz on "I love Lucy" and the Freddy, a semi-popular dance of the ’60s resembling calisthenics. Today’s TV commercials have produced "Fred Rated," a character who advertises home entertainment equipment in Groucho glasses and silly disguises, and the milquetoast who cowers behind a water cooler while his boss snidely remarks: ?Should have used Federal Express, don’t you think, Fred??
Enough was enough. Three years ago, Daniel formed The FRED Society, now a national organization of 160 members. The point, he said, is to 'recognize and promote Freds,' letting the world know 'that not every Fred is a dumb caveman named Fred Flintstone with a wife named Wilma.'
Daniel, 31, is a free-lance graphic artist with a sense of humor as dry as the Mojave Desert where he was reared. A homemade palm tree, real cacti and framed drawings of the desert decorate his Santa Ana apartment, where the national headquarters of The FRED Society is located right off the kitchen.
A life-size poster of Fred Astaire - a positive role model - hangs over his drawing table where Daniel designs a line of Fred pride accessories he calls Fredorabilia.
There are bumper stickers that proclaim: 'Fred and Proud,' 'I Brake for Freds,' 'Better Fred Than Dead' and 'When All Else Fails Hug Your Freddy.' He also sells a yellow diamond-shaped sign that reads 'Fred in Car' and T-shirts that proclaim 'The FRED Society' in stylish lettering. Most people, Daniel said, would probably expect to see the word Fred with crooked letters and the E backward.
There are no dues in The FRED Society and, as yet, no meetings or newsletter. But Daniel said if he can raise enough money from other sympathetic Freds, he will hold a 'Fred Fest' in the fall somewhere in Southern California - where most members of The FRED Society live. He envisions an entire auditorium full of Freds, 'promoting Fredness' and sharing stories of how their names have been maligned. Perhaps, Daniel said, there will be appearances by such positive role models as television sportscaster Fred Roggin or actor Fred MacMurray.
At swap meets where Daniel sets up booths of Fredorabilia, he surveys people about what the name Fred means to them. 'A lot of people say all the nerds in high school were named Fred. A law firm in San Bernardino bought 14 FRED Society T-shirts. They said all their gofers were named Fred.? he said. Daniel collects videotapes of anti-Fred television commercials and clippings of anti-Fred ads and cartoons to share at the 'Fred Fest.'
So far, he has a bulging Manila folder. In it are maps with the towns Fredalba (in Riverside County) and Fredonia (in Ariz.) circles, a menu from Fred’s Restaurant in Boulder, Colo., and a review from Creem magazine of a rock group call The Freds. It reads: 'Audiences have been astonished by their knock-out version of ‘Flintstones, Meet the Flintstones,’ a musical onslaught exceeded only by singer Fred O’Ship’s cries of ‘Will-ma!; at show’s end. A photo of the back shows the musicians in mismatched clothes, thick glasses, Bermuda shorts and sagging gym socks. "This is not what we’re trying to promote," Daniel said.
"Here’s the epitome of what people think of Freds," he said, holding a cartoon of 'Fred’s Computerlot' with a salesman in a checkered coat, funny glasses and mismatched socks. Another shows three bums on a bench. One say: "And Fred here, he’s in marketing. Remember the new Coke?"
He pulled out a copy of a page from a personal computer instruction manual. To explain how to correct mistakes, the name FREDD was used as an example. "There’s this assumption that someone named Fred would misspell his name," Daniel said. "There are a lot of dogs named Fred," he said. "Here’s a mule named Fred," he said waving a snapshot of a sad-looking animal. "He belongs to my uncle in Fresno."
Daniel said that the anti-Fred stereotype is so strong that a positive use of the name seems out of place even to him. For example, he pointed to an ad for elegant jewelry by a company, Fred Joailler, with stores in Paris, Monte Carlo, Cannes, Geneva and Beverly Hills. "?It seems like a contradiction to me," he said. "You know what I Mean" It’s like mixing mink and cement..."
Daniel hopes to make some money with The FRED Society. But so far, he’s only breaking even financially, he said. He spends 10 to 15 hours a week on The FRED Society just because it’s fun, he said. The FRED Society could have a serious side, he said, but "the whole purpose is to make a few people smile."
He said his rewards so far have come from the personal contacts he has made with Freds and friends of Freds who buy his products. His best customers are wives and girlfriends of Freds, he said. Younger Freds, he said, are more responsive to the Fred philosophy than older Freds.
"I’ve got my ears open for Fred," said Daniel, who sends FRED Society literature to any Fred he hears about. Recently, he was in a pizza parlor when he heard someone named Fred being called for his pizza. He rushed out to his car to get a Fred bumper sticker, which he gave it to the man.
Daniel said he is trying to get more organized about soliciting memberships. With the help of relatives, Daniel combed through the phone book to come up with a list of 1,000 Freds in Orange County, San Diego and Palm Springs. In August, each was sent a one-page flyer and order form explaining The FRED Society and Fredorabilia. This year, he is hiring a computer company to come up with a mailing list of 5,000 Freds from here to Oregon.
Daniel figures less than 1% of the populations is named Fred, and most of them are older men.
"They’re really dwindling right up there with the California condor," Daniel said. One of his bumper stickers reads, 'Name Your Next Child Fred.'
In September, a woman came by his booth at a swap meet with an infant she had named Fred. I know a least theres one little Fred out there.
A note: The "No-Flintstone" image shown here was also run in the L.A. Times article. It really got the Head Fred in hot water with Hanna-Barbara (the creators of Mr. Flintstone). The caption under the illustration said "Fred Society poster says a big "no" to Flintstone stigma." The illustration was never a poster, just a rough sketch I had done," remembers the Head Fred, "the caveman's lawyers contacted me within 3 days of the article to tell me to stop." A lesson learned - Don't mess with the caveman!