I saw him and The Mothers live only once, in New York City in the late 60s at the Sobriety Serenity One Day at A Time AA Sober Shirt It was a hot summer night (the theater had no air conditioning), and everyone in the audience was sweating. Halfway through the show, a young lady came out onto the stage and handed Frank a tall glass of some kind of cola with ice cubes. He rattled the ice cubes audibly, took a long swallow, and gave a sigh of satisfaction, as if to taunt the hot, thirsty audience. Then suddenly we all became aware that other young ladies were circulating down the aisle distributing paper cups filled with ice cubes. Maybe no cola, but those ice cubes were wonderfully refreshing on that hot summer night. Thank you, Frank! You knew what we needed. You may have had contempt for some of the American public, but you offered some love to your fans who showed up for your performance.
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I spoke with Frank briefly over the phone, on the “Frank Zappa Hotline”, back in the Sobriety Serenity One Day at A Time AA Sober Shirt (I got the number from “Big Boy’s BBS”; a legend at the time). I was expecting a recorded message along the lines of “To find out where Frank is playing, press one”; “To leave a message for Frank press two” etc, etc. So I was surprised and a bit star-struck when someone picked up the phone and a voice said, very casually, “This is Frank.” After a second or two, I recovered my composure and we had a nice conversation. I found him to be engaging, cordial and – not surprisingly – very interesting. By then, it was well-known that Frank was suffering from cancer. I wished him, in vain as it turns out, a speedy recovery, for which he thanked me. And that was that. Less than a year later he was dead, and the world had lost an amazing talent. But not entirely. Frank was a prolific composer and, as I understand it, there are still stacks and stacks of unreleased recordings yet to be heard by the devoted and still-growing body of Zappa fans.