From the time I fell in love with FZ's music and ideas in 1973, I felt a passionate need to sit down and talk with him, one on one. Not because I was a big fan and wanted to drool all over him, but because I felt that his view of the world was the only objective assessment of reality that I'd ever heard.
In 1980, when I was a law student, one of my professors quoted FZ in class. It was a class in Corporations, and according to my professor FZ once said, "If you want to stop crime in America, put a cop on every Board of Directors." That gave me an idea.
Because I was a reporter for my law school newspaper, and also because at this time FZ was still embroiled in his suit with Warner Brothers, I sent a letter to FZ's publicist, WARTOKE (the name and address appeared on the rear cover of Joe's Garage, I believe). In this letter, I requested an interview with FZ on the subject of his views on the legal system, to be printed in the Brooklyn Law School newspaper.
To my surprise, I got a letter from Jane Friedman at Wartoke, agreeing to an interview. There were some negotiations involved: FZ's legal team said that Frank could not comment directly on the Warner Brothers suit. I offered to allow FZ final editing rights on the interview transcript. That sealed the deal.
On 08 May 1980, I appeared with my tape deck at FZ's suite at the St. Regis Hotel in Manhattan, where he was staying for a New York concert. John Smothers opened the door to the suite. He was every bit as intimidating in this personal setting as he was at the concerts. Seeing me, Frank seemed to get the feeling that I was no threat and John left the room.
For the next three hours, Frank and I talked. My being only 22 at the time, and having no script, some of my questions were not as well-formulated as I would have liked, but Frank was gracious and engaging.
For one thing, he denied ever saying that the way to stop crime in America was to put a cop on every board of directors. "Someone would just buy the cop," he said.
We discussed lawsuits, politics, current events, the draft, Iran, Jesse Jackson, and the eternal rumors about FZ. No, he said, he never ate shit on stage, he never stomped on baby chickens, and his father was not Mr. Green Jeans. "I love my fans and I would do anything for them," he said, "except eat shit on stage."
I asked why his public image was full of such nonsense, and he said it was the doing of the rock n roll press, which resented the fact that Frank never went away despite their constant predictions that he was just a brief fad.
After three hours, I was exhausted and out of questions, and we had a pleasant goodbye. I apologized for the fact that my questions were not well-prepared, and I said, "After all, I'm not a rock n roll journalist." "I know," he replied. "That's why you're here."
After that interview, every time I went to a FZ concert, I would pass a note to a roadie and I would be invited backstage to join Frank.
Meeting Frank was, for me, like a mountain climber reaching the top of Everest or an astronaut walking on the moon. I felt then, and I still feel 27 years later, that this was a momentous occasion in my life. I had met and interacted with the only public figure I had ever admired. I cannot overstate my feeling that Frank was one of the greatest minds of the 20th century. I only wish he was still here so that we could sit and talk again about how he views this post-9/11 world and so I could ask him question from my present state as a much more mature adult.
I felt Frank's death as a personal loss, and to this day, I miss his presence in the world. Every few months, I have a dream where I am seeing Frank at a last concert before his death. In the dream, I know it's his last concert and I am very depressed.
The transcript of my interview was never published, but I sent a copy to Frank, and in one of our backstage meetings he said, "This was the best interview I ever gave. We're making it part of my press kit."
How many "celebrities" would grant an interview to a fan, knowing full well he was just a fan, and spend three hours of his time just to give that fan a thrill? Frank Zappa was a genuine human being, and I am sorry to say I will not see the likes of him again in my lifetime.