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Year-End Update: Revisiting Scenes and People From 1986 View Stories : Well, What's in a Name, Anyway?

December 28, 1986|LYNN SMITH

View has revisited some of the people and places it reported on in 1986 to update their stories. Among them:

--A shelter for the homeless that was itself homeless.

--An author who had new ideas about how to market and promote his book.

--The campaign to save Nancy Reagan's 1981 inaugural gown, which is stretching under the weight of its bugle beads.

Four years ago, Fred Daniel--disgusted with what he saw as the undeserved image of Freds as incompetent cavemen and nerds--formed the Fred Society. As the Santa Ana graphic designer envisioned it, the society would promote "Fred pride" through slogans such as "Better Fred Than Dead" and "Name Your Next Child Fred." After three years, he had a small following of 160.

But since a Times article on the society appeared in February, Daniel has been deluged with mail and interview requests from around the country and Canada. Now the society numbers 3,200 official members, he said. "Even guys with the middle name Fred are coming forth and saying, 'Hey, I'm a Fred, too.' " Women named Winnifred and Fredricka have written for membership.

He Gets All the 'Fred' Mail

Daniel, 32, has moved to Palm Desert, where postal officials know that letters addressed simply to "Fred" are for him, he said.

Freds have written in from as far as Australia, New Zealand, England and Mexico, mostly to relate how their names have been maligned and how they too have been victims of anti-Fred stereotypes or childish taunts such as "Freddie Spaghetti with the meatball eyes," Daniel said. "I had a letter from a great Fred in California who is chairman of a 2,000-member (professional) organization. They still refer to him as Freddie."

A bachelor Fred, Fred DeMaria of Moreno Valley, wrote in to say he had better luck dating women when he tried introducing himself as Michael, Daniel said. The man even considered going to court to change his name, but Daniel said Fred Society members would picket the courthouse and wave placards saying, "Don't Do It, Fred." In the end, he decided to keep his name, Daniel said.

Another Fred, Fred Hayward, a men's rights activist in Sacramento, described a trip to Denmark where he "freaked out" one night as he wandered--slightly tipsy--through a graveyard and saw the name Fred on every tombstone. It was not an omen or figment of his imagination, since he later learned that "fred" means peace in Danish, Daniel said.

Daniel has been busy re-establishing his graphic design business and has had to recruit both his mother Frances and father Louis to help him fill orders for Fredrobilia--Fred Society T-shirts, bumper stickers ("Fred and Proud") and yellow diamond signs ("Fred in Car"). He has added new items, including coffee mugs, a stuffed Freddy Bear, a "Fred in Shirt" T-shirt and bumper stickers, "Put a Fred in Your Bed" and "Fred Is My Co-Pilot."

The society has not made Daniel rich, but he has met "a lot of nice people," he said. "All the Freds have a great sense of humor. The Freds really take pride in their name."

In the Fred Connection, the official society newsletter that debuted this fall, Daniel reported the existence of "fredaphobia"--the fear of "freds," a term in the bicycling world referring to cyclists who crowd the bike lanes on Sundays getting in the way of "true cyclists."

On the other hand, Fred lovers have contributed testimonials such as: "Every time I hear someone say the name Fred I get tingles up and down my spine."

Daniel said he is still working on funding his dream: a Fred Fest where Freds would "promote Fredness" and offer mutual support. He said he contacted Fred Astaire and Fred MacMurray in hopes they would appear as positive role models. "I haven't heard back," he said.

He does plan to speak in February to 2,000 employees of Fred's Frozen Foods in Riverside, at their company convention, and will join a promotional campaign for a pizza-parlor chain serving Fred's Bread in Vacaville.

"I've always liked my name," he said. "I'm even more proud of it now."

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