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Fisher birthday bash tomorrow

Janet Urquhart

Aspen will throw a birthday party Friday for Freddie Fisher, a man who, by all accounts, epitomized the town’s “messy vitality.”Fisher won’t be here, except in spirit, for his 100th birthday bash at the Red Onion (he died in 1967), but his legend lives on in his musical recordings, Hollywood film footage and in the memories of longtime Aspenites who tend to revel in the opportunity to share anecdotes about Fisher.They’ll have a chance again tomorrow to recount their favorite Fisher tales, though locals who knew the man universally agree, many stories about “Fisher the Fixer” cannot be told in mixed company.Party organizer and Aspen native Greg Poschman hopes the party libations loosen up some lips. Poschman was 8 years old when Fisher died, but he has long been an ardent fan of the late repairman/inventor/musician/film star/colorful character.”I’ve been very interested in Freddie Fisher my entire life,” Poschman said yesterday. “I really only started getting to know him from the stories my parents and their friends tell.”

Former Aspenites from as far away as Battlement Mesa, Grand Junction and Denver are expected to converge at the Red Onion to mark what would have been Fisher’s 100th birthday (his birthday is actually June 12).”We’re going to see some old-timers. They all have stories,” Poschman said. “My goal has been for several years now to make a documentary film about Freddie Fisher. I guess this is just part of the process.”Fisher came to Aspen in 1952 and opened a fix-it shop, Fisher the Fixer, on Main Street, where Gusto and Asie are now located. Longtime locals recall it as a part junkyard – Fisher was always scavenging – and inventor’s shop. He could repair anything, legend has it.He’d left behind a career as a famous bandleader – of Freddie Fisher and his Schnickelfritz Band – in the 1930s and ’40s, with more than 200 recordings and at least 15 Hollywood movie appearances to his credit. He combined virtuosity on the clarinet with comedy. Poschman calls it “comedic jazz.” At the time, Fisher was dubbed the King of Korn.Tomorrow’s party will feature Fisher’s recordings as well as some film clips and other memorabilia, and an open mike where friends can re-tell their Fisher stories. There will also be an outdoor barbecue on the mall.Copies of “Fisher the Fixer,” a book of anecdotes about Fisher sprinkled with his legendary letters to the editor of The Aspen Times, will be available for sale. In 1964, Fisher was presented with the first and only Letters to the Editor award by the Colorado Press Association.

One of his letters was prompted by an Aspen Times report on Fisher’s arrest by local police for drunk driving, among other violations. Fisher responded:Thanks for the publicity – everyone apparently enjoyed it except my family – thanx again.Incidently, I feel your readers are entitled to accuracy as well as courage in your reporting – would gladly submit a more factual and interesting version covering the matter of my arrest reported in last week’s Times.Among the anecdotes offered in “Fisher the Fixer,” edited by Su Lum and Barbara A. Lewis, is this one from Bob Lewis:Freddie once said, “A whore couldn’t make a living in Aspen because there are too many enthusiastic amateurs.””He was an incredible character,” recalled Walt Smith, a pianist who performed regular gigs at the Hotel Jerome bar in a combo with Fisher and Fisher’s son, King, (that’s right, King Fisher).

Smith and his current bandmates will be performing at tomorrow’s party. Other jazz musicians are welcome to sit in.Whether the band will come up with one of Fisher’s originals remains to be seen, or heard.”He wrote a Red Onion Blues. By God, I don’t know if I can remember it,” Smith said.For Mary Eshbaugh Hayes, former editor of the Times, it was Fisher’s talent for colorful language that stands out in her memory.”He had a great assortment of swear words, let’s put it that way, and he used them proficiently,” she said. “He was quite a character and you know, Aspen loves characters.”Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com


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