The entry on Fritz’s Facebook page at 6am this morning shocked me. His sometimes outrageous postings would do that. But this one was different. A family member posted that he was dead. I was taken aback. His “status” entries had continued right up until just a few days ago. He was only in his mid-40s. I was not close to Fritz, in fact you could say that I did not really know him at all except through his Facebook postings, and even they became unhealthy. But I could not help feel a sense of disbelief, and even sadness, for this high-spirited, fun loving guy full of rock’n’roll dreams, and more than enough money to help him pursue those dreams.
It was because of rock’n’roll that I met Fritz twenty years earlier. His father and step-mother were neighbours. We were not close friends, but enough to say hi to in the corridor of the condominium and occasionally longer conversations in the laundry room when we would meet waiting for the dryers to finish, and maybe a Christmas invite for a glass of wine. His father must have mentioned my name to Fritz, because one day I received an e-mail from the young man identifying himself, and the loose connection. He mentioned how much he admired my work in the music industry and could he send me a demo of CD of his band? I replied with an affirmative, and a few days later the CD arrived at my office. It was a hard rock sound that mixed classic rock with more modern stuff, reminiscent of Free meets Van Halen. It was good, not “run out and mortgage the house to finance an album” stuff, but solid. I replied with my feedback and words of encouragement. His reply was: “Could I come out and see the band in rehearsal?” Their rehearsal space was literally just three blocks away. What the hell, I thought, it can’t hurt. But as with so much in the music industry once the conversation starts its hard for it to stop.
The band was good. I liked their sound. I gave Fritz some friendly words of advice, but I also warned him how hard it was to make it a career, and how much money was needed to break through the layers and layers of the music industry. Don’t give up your day job, the overused but truthful cliché, was part of my spiel. Fritz mentioned the other guys were employed as couriers, cooks, and dish washers, but he had a different reality. He alluded to the fact that he had inherited a substantial amount of money and had no financial worries. In fact, it was his cash that paid for the rehearsal space, the demos, and the posters and other elements to promote the occasional live shows.
I wasn’t keen to get involved with the band, either as a manager or as a consultant, but I told Fritz that he could contact me any time for free advice, and just keep me updated on his progress. A couple of months later he sent me an email and informed me that he was flying all the band to Los Angeles, accommodating them, paying for rehearsal space, and would attempt to crash the LA scene. It’s an old story in this business, a flush of talent matched with money, matched with dreams of stardom, matched with an industry willing to take your cash to keep the machinery ticking over. My response to Fritz was to wish him the best of luck and not to blow all his dough (although I had no idea just how deep his financial resources were. It could have been Bill Gates money, or just a reasonable nest egg left by a grandmother in “the old country”.) There’s always the possibility of success in this business, it is unpredictable, and sometimes you don’t even need talent to succeed. I heard nothing more from Fritz for some time.
A year or two later we met each other on Queen Street. He was jovial, and I suspect a little high. I asked him how the LA trip went and he gave me the thirty second rundown: had fun, had some gigs, made some connections, but no deal. He did mention that he had made contact with some of the guys from Van Halen and Metallica, and was even in correspondence with members of hometown heroes Rush. I was slightly dubious, but then again anything was possible. Look it up on the Internet, he said. I asked: Where’s the band now? Fritz said that he had dissolved the group and was now starting a new one and had recruited some “well-known” musicians. The new band was going to be harder, faster, and louder. Once again I wished him luck. Back at my office I did google him, and sure enough there were some postings, and even a few photos of him with famous hard rock musicians. His money had allowed him to purchase select band memorabilia, and such things as meet your musical heroes backstage, with funds raised going to charity. Once again we fell out of contact. I heard nothing more.
Fast forward about ten years and the era of Facebook. My main postings were about music. I received many “friend” requests and confirmed almost all them realizing that they were my new audience, as if I was still on the radio spinning discs. One day I received a friend request from Fritz, I Ok’ed it. He had a new band, had set up a label, and had his own following via the internet with a large group of like-minded individuals. He had not received the big deal, but the digital age had allowed him to continue his dream. Obviously, the funds had not run out. In fact, with his cryptic references to investments, it appeared he actually might have more money than when I first met him. He had no job, but pictures of his comfortable home, his photos of his wife and two kids, and updates about celebrity meetings, suggested that he had no financial worries. His postings were numerous and in addition he would direct message me with soundcloud links to new tunes he had recorded, or songs that he liked. I answered them occasionally, but quite honestly I did not wasn’t to encourage him as his public postings were beginning to become perverse and more and more extreme.
There were continual references to marijuana, not an unusual thing on music Facebook sites, but soon those notes included pictures of his stash. Not just a gram or two, but huge baggies. Then it was more than one bag, it was a couple of bags all of various strains with exotic names. He would talk about getting stoned, drinking beer, listening to Rush, and telling the world what he thought of things. He would make those postings in capital letters (the equivalent of shouting) and they would ridicule anything from politicians to poor people on the subway. It was the diary of a privileged person’s life that had lost contact with the normal world.
If it wasn’t drug or music references then it was photo postings of scantily clad girls, particularly if they were smoking dope, or had marijuana buds on their nude bodies covering up the essential parts (allowing Facebook to post the pics.) And it wasn’t just the occasional photo, but sometimes my Facebook feed on a single day would be full of continual links to these soft core sites. Anybody reading the entries knew what state of mind and what activity Fritz was up to that particular day. I had to just ignore them, but at the same time I was curious. I felt like writing to him to say he should not be posting that stuff, if for no other reason the police might be monitoring his site and that could lead to serious problems. But I didn’t. I didn’t want to start that conversation. However, other people began to point out the problems with his revealing so much of his life. “FUCK ‘EM” he would post.
Then the postings became more extreme. Cocaine was mentioned. Eight balls. Serious nights of drinking. Visits to strip bars (with lurid details), and photos of a zoned out Fritz. He did not care. It was the equivalent to a performance, as if this was the rock’n’roll life he was living and he wanted the world to know. I wondered about his wife and children. What was happening to them while Fritz was camped in his office, in front of the computer for what seemed like the whole day? You could tell that there was trouble. He would rant about the fact that he had paid for everything, and she, according to him, was doing nothing. His Facebook postings occasionally insulted her with a spew of profanity, most often in capital letters, and it was just heartbreaking to read. He did not need to air all this stuff in public, but he was determined to do so. Facebook empowered him.
Then for a couple of days things would be normal with numerous postings of music related items. But then all of a sudden things took a dark turn. Fritz posted cell phone video of the cops in his house. Judging by the content of the video he and his wife had had an extreme altercation. She had called the police for safety. She was leaving and taking the children with her. The police were incredibly calm given the fact that this outspoken and large man held a video phone in front of their faces. But what was incredible was the attitude of Fritz. With the video still rolling he asked the police for their badge numbers and zoomed in on their names; he mentioned that he owned the house and he did not invite them in, he criticized the whole proceedings, and told them, his wife and kids to leave HIS house. He then abruptly turned off the video. It was shocking and heartbreaking. But what was even more unsettling was the fact that he posted it to Facebook. Somehow that allowed him to exact revenge.
But then things took another dark turn. He was now in jail – at weekends for assault (no details as to whom he assaulted, or the number of weekends required.) True to form, he took video of the lock up, of him in his orange jump suit, or standing outside the jail. He wasn’t bragging – well, yes, maybe he was. It somehow played into his rock’n’roll psyche. It made him tougher, he argued. Being a weekend jailing his postings lasted for a series spread out over a month. This was now like a perverse soap opera. But then once again things settled down. The postings, when those occasional times I clicked on them (I was doing by best to ignore them) returned to the “usual” stuff: music, dope, and pin up girls.
I no longer paid attention, and scrolled over his postings. But this morning, at 6am, going through my regular newsfeed I notice a posting under Fritz’s name, but the preview line read: “Hi, this is Melissa, Fritz’s wife. I’m saddened to say that Fritz passed away this past weekend…” What?! I quickly clicked on the link. Fritz had died that past weekend. No details. I went to his Facebook wall. He had posted pictures of pin-up girls right up until late Friday. Was it an overdose? Suicide? An illness he did not reveal? I did not want to reply to satisfy my morbid curiosity. I was left to wonder, but somehow his sudden passing affected me. I could not understand why; possibly the suddenness of it all, or maybe the pointlessness of the situation. It left me perplexed. I did not know him well enough to grieve, but it did sadden me. I wonder what happens to his Facebook wall. Will all that extreme stuff exist in cyberspace, the document of a man who had a dream, too much money, and too much time? What would a stranger think if they suddenly clicked on his page? Fritz would most probably reply – that’s rock’n’roll.