Archives for March 2023

Freeman James

Over our thirty-five years in business at Christos Greek Restaurants, we entertained many celebrities: Musicians like Elvis Costello and Donny Osmond; moviemakers like Guillermo del Toro; actors like Telly Savalas, Max Von Sydow, Josh Hartnett, Sally Struthers, and Olympia Dukakis; athletes like Herschel Walker; artists like Dale Chihuly; and a plethora of mayors, governors, and US senators.

Freeman James was not such a known celebrity to me. After a friend introduced him to Christos, Freeman became a regular whenever he was in town. He fell in love with the food. Freeman claimed Greek ancestry, although I never found out why his name did not convey his ethnicity. Always underdressed, even shabby, he had a rocker’s hair which was perennially capped by a baseball-type hat, the kind suburban soccer moms often wear as they drive the kids to practice. He never made even the slightest attempt to be conspicuous. He was a low-key guy content to be seated in a quiet corner of the dining room. It’s not surprising that once, while waiting for the valet to bring his Ferrari around at a hotel in LA, another guest handed him keys to his car to park.

Freeman had a gravelly speaking voice that hurt one’s ears from close range, yet he was never loud. Whenever I sat down at his table to visit, he told “tall tales.” He related these stories in an understated tone, as if these were everyday occurrences. He did not appear to brag about any of it. I listened incredulously while trying to appear impressed as he made himself out to be someone important in the music world. He was a musician who played with several name bands over his career. He was master of many musical instruments but was best known as a bass guitar virtuoso. Back then he was a member of The Who! He owned a private plane that he used to fly to distant gigs. He told fantastic stories about A-List musical celebrities who were his friends. He had traveled all over the world and owned properties on three continents.

One day over Greek coffee, Freeman asked me what kind of music my wife, Carol liked. I didn’t know where to begin. I told him that Carol listened to music all the time. Her mother played Big Band music for her when she was in her crib. Later on, she listened to the tunes of the fifties’ and sixties’ crooners: Old Blue Eyes, Tony Bennet, Al Martino, Dean Martin. Along the way, she fell in love with everything Motown and knows every group and the names of their members. Her all-time favorite is still Smoky Robinson. She knows who wrote what tune, who first recorded it and with what label. She can recount the break-ups and the make-ups, the fights and the betrayals. She knows everything there is to know about the Beatles and the Stones and the myriad other bands of the sixties, seventies, and eighties. She has an uncanny ability to identify a tune after one, maybe two chords. She often comments that if she ever ends up on a musical quiz show, she’ll kill it. Neither I nor any of her friends doubt it.

“Does that answer your question, Freeman?”

“Yes, but I didn’t hear you say anything about Prince. Does she like Prince?”

Silly question, Freeman. Very silly question,” I responded. “Would someone from Minnesota who loves music as much as she does not like Prince? Of course she loves Prince and The Revolution, in fact the whole Minneapolis sound, Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis, all of it.”

Having gotten the answer he was apparently looking for, Freeman casually asked if Carol would like a private tour of Paisley Park. I was floored. Is this guy for real? I had listened to endless stories that were hard to believe, some of them downright laughable. Now I was supposed to believe that he had the run of Paisley Park? What kind of sucker does he think I am?

I realized at this point that it was a mistake not to question him earlier in this charade. I had obviously been far too polite.

Suddenly I started to suspect that this could be part of a plan to make my life miserable. I began imagining myself in the doghouse for months on end if I sent Carol and her closest friend, Jane, a music lover in her own right and an accomplished piano player to boot (who would without a doubt be included in this adventure at Paisley Park) all excited about a private tour of this Mecca of music only to have them turned away: “You are here to see who? We don’t know a Freeman James! Are you sure you have the name right?” What a nightmare! What did I ever do to Freeman that would cause him to want to hurt me like this?

But as I pondered this, a little voice in my head started to tempt me. What if there is no plan to ruin your life? What if you are just being paranoid? What if somehow this is going to work out and you’ll be the hero who set up Carol and Jane with this amazing experience? Freeman could very well be a friend who wants to make you look good. Have you thought about that?

I let that thought marinate for a moment. The temptation to be a hero far outweighed the potential embarrassment, even pain, that I would surely suffer if the worst happened. So I capitulated. “Oh my God, yes, Freeman, she would love that.”

On the following Saturday, the day of the tour, I was sweating bullets. I dreaded the inevitable phone call I would get if things went south. I had insinuated a little doubt about how “real” Freeman might or might not be, just to hedge my bet.

But Carol and Jane did not pick up on that. They were too excited to worry about such details. There was no turning back now.

To be prepared for the eventuality of a disaster, I made plans to take the ladies out for drinks and dinner the following night. I would keep this in my hip pocket in case Freeman made a fool out of me.
I took a deep breath and waited. Four o’clock, the time of the appointment at Paisley Park, came and went without a call. Luckily, I was very busy hosting at the Minnetonka Christos and didn’t have time to dwell on this.

At seven o’clock, with a full house on my hands, my cellphone buzzed; it was Carol. Should I answer it? Do I really want to face this right now? But I knew how relentless Carol could be, particularly if she was angry, so I braced myself and picked up.

“What a fabulous time, Gus. This was unbelievable. Thanks for arranging it.”


It went down something like this: At Paisley Park, they asked for Freeman James. The receptionist said she would page him. Freeman appeared promptly. He was warm and welcoming. He gave them a complete tour of the facility. Along the way, Freeman led them to a kitchen area to get them bottled water.

As they were doing that, Prince walked in. “Hey, Freeman.”

Apparently, Prince was on the premises composing the music for Batman, and Freeman was part of that project! He introduced Carol and Jane to Prince. They chatted for a few minutes. They found Prince incredibly short and, totally unlike his stage persona, very shy and soft-spoken. Nevertheless, they were starstruck. Shortly afterward, Prince excused himself and disappeared into the recording studio. Freeman was soon to follow.

What a relief! My man Freeman James came through for me. I was at once elated that Freeman was real, and remorseful that I ever doubted him.

Copyright @ 2023 Gus Parpas