Off the Record

"I've known a few Freds in my day, but never realized they had an image problem. They do. According to Fred Daniel, founder of The FRED Society (Making the World a Better Place for All Freds!), fellows named Fred have been ridiculed, labeled as nerds and suffered from stereotypes because of their monikers. I had no idea life was so fragile in the Fred lane. I've known a lot of Freds over the years. There was Freddie Francis ... a wild, other-side-of-the-tracks type of guy who you wouldn't want to invite to your spring tolo. Freddie was a hood.Fred Eoff was another hometown kid, this one in my brother's class. He was a star baseball catcher and slugger with a younger brother named Warren. I always called him Warren Peace...he didn't think that was funny.Fred Nygard was a soft-spoken upperclassman who was brainy and played the French horn. So did I, but not like Fred. He was fairly suave and sophisticated for somebody from Arlington...I always wondered what happened to him. Then there was my favorite Fred, half of the Fred and Frank twin team who hailed from Woodinville. By some quirk of a family re-marriage on my mother's side, the Valenta twins were shirttail cousins of mine. I had a big crush on Fred, but he was way too old and we were way too related. Oh, well.So why does Fred Daniel, the Head Fred of the 3,000-plus member FRED Society, feel he has to uphold his honorable name? According to his letter of introduction, Our goal is to eradicate the nerdy, caveman Fred stereotype so prevalent in today's society; while restoring the reputation of the good name of Fred. Is this guy for real? I decided to find out and give Fred a call. After all, he had a toll-free number (800.318.FRED) and more than likely was lolling around the pool at The Fred Society's corporate headquarters in Palm Desert, California. Hi, Fred. I'm Sue Frause, a columnist for a newspaper in Washington State. Are you really serious about all this Fred stuff?Turns out that Fred is dead serious, ever since he started the organization in 1983. The 45-year-old graphic designer explained his motivation: I really felt some discrimination ever since I can remember, said Fred. And I ask all our members if they feel discriminated, and at least 80 percent of them do.Revenge of the Freds!Fortunately, Fred is doing his daily duties with a mega-dose of humor. From his lively newsletter The FRED Connection (it includes Letters to the Freditor) to a fred-ly Web site,, it's a hoot. Included on the website is a FRED Museum with four virtual galleries, with photographs of albums by Fred Astaire, Freddy Martin and Fred Waring; a Fred McGriff baseball; and of course, a Freddy Kreuger doll.If you're a shopper, you'll love FREDMART, a click away from bumper stickers (Fredneck, PureBred Fred, Got Fred?) to t-shirts (Club Fred, Carpe Frediem, Absolute Fred, FredEx). Along with buttons, note pads, parking signs, mugs, license plate frames and membership in The FRED Society ($24.95). That'll get you a personalized membership certificate, personalized membership card, static cling window sticker and four issues of The FRED Connection.And what about all those Famous Freds? You'll find them on the website, along with their stories. Folks like musician Freddy Fender, morning show host J. Fred Muggs, composer Frederic Chopin and cowboy star Fred Thomson. Although Fred is no longer a popular name for newborn boys (it didn't make the Top 100 List for Most Popular Names in 1999), Head Fred's goal is to propagate the name Fred (Name your next child Fred!). So what if 1,200 people at the website listed Fred as one of the ten worst handles to hang on a baby.How did Head Fred end up being a Fred? Turns out he was named after his maternal grandfather, and although his mother carries no guilt over naming him Fred, she's totally supportive of his organization. Wherein lies the future for Freds? Head Fred wants to host large gatherings of Freds, and is looking for sponsorship by corporations headed by folks named Fred (or Frederika!) At some point, he'd like to establish The FRED Foundation, donating money to worthwhile causes and charities.In the meantime, Fred Daniel is happy to be the CEO of The Fred Society. In addition to his real job as a graphic designer, he spends 20-25 hours a week on FRED business. But he loves it, most of all hearing from Freds around the world. Recently, Fred from Michigan stopped by to see Head Fred in California. Head Fred thinks that's swell.I like to hear stories about Freds meeting Freds, said Fred.Well said. I mean well Fred."

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