10 Guys Named Bob Anderson Discuss Their Plans for Summer 2003

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“I’m going on vacation overseas. I’m not telling you where.”

Bob Anderson, Marble Hill, the Bronx

“I have no idea. I don’t have any money, so I guess I will stay home. I mind my business. That’s hard to do. Just doing what you’re supposed to do is not easy. I might go play some basketball. I have an old-timers’ game I go to every year.”

Bob Anderson, Upper East Side

“I’m going out to the Cape-Cape Cod, that is-with my family.”

Bob Anderson, Throgs Neck, the Bronx

“Nothin’. I’ll watch TV-that’s about it. I can’t do much. I can’t hardly walk. I’m in a wheelchair. I play cards, poker, with my friends. We get together sometimes; we play for nickels and dimes. The only activity we have is bingo once a week. If you win, you win $5. You win the big pot, you win $15 to $17.”

Bob Anderson, Prospect Park, Brooklyn

“I’m going to go outside and look at the weather, see if it rains or if it’s sunny. I can’t do nothing at all. I just sit down; I just watch people walking by, eat ice cream when the truck comes. It comes once in a while-every two hours. I just sit down and play checkers sometimes.”

Bob Anderson, Flatbush, Brooklyn

“There’s work to be done. I have sales work, I have house work. For me, I’m stuck in a work mode. When you borrow people’s money, you create a dynamic where you have to have a system to repay it. I borrowed from the bank. I just have to bear down on the issue. There’s much I would love to do recreationally, but it’s not a priority at this point in time.”

Bob Anderson, Upper West Side

“We’ve got a bunch of kids, and different people are going in different directions. One’s going to Italy, one’s going to France, another’s going to Canada. We usually go to the Hamptons, but we’re not sure this year because we don’t know which of the kids we’re going to visit, with all the events in the world. It’s just completely up in the air. It’s paralysis through analysis.”

Bob Anderson, Bay Ridge, Brooklyn

“I’m just existing. Just hanging around waiting to die.”

Bob Anderson, Flatbush, Brooklyn

“Sometimes I go on vacation; sometimes I just take time off and read and putz around. Maybe I read and go to the theater. I’m not one who really plans. I’m not a beach person. I come home after work, work in the garden. I play music sometimes. I play my trumpet and read. I’m just sort of low-key.”

Bob Anderson, Upper West Side

“I’m going to write a novel. It’s about Sylvia Plath.”

-Alexandra Wolfe

The Dean of Peekskill

In 1977, a sultry, green-eyed 21-year-old singer/songwriter named Dean Friedman released a song called “Ariel,” an ode to a free-spirited Jewish girl from “way on the other side of the Hudson” who volunteered for WBAI, didn’t eat meat, got high and “wore a peasant blouse with nothing underneath.”

“Ariel” was a hit, and though some compared the Paramus-born Mr. Friedman’s elastic vocals to a stoned Kermit the Frog’s, others thought his wry style and urbane wit resembled Bowie’s and Dylan’s. He enjoyed some success in later years, but following a skirmish with his record label-the now-defunct Life Song-Mr. Friedman’s three top-selling albums went out of print, and the whinnying chorus of “Ariel” faded along with the Carter administration.

Mr. Friedman’s career fared somewhat better in England, where his managers were savvier and his moony duet “Lucky Stars” became a Barry Manilow–esque guilty pleasure. But in 1981, the BBC banned his song “McDonald’s Girl” because the government-owned station wouldn’t play songs that insinuated anything commercial. Mr. Friedman’s U.K. label dropped him, and not long after that he filed for personal bankruptcy. Though the Barenaked Ladies later covered “McDonald’s Girl”-there was even a recent dance-remix version-“Whatever happened to …? ” became something of a prefix to Dean Friedman’s name.

Now 47, Mr. Friedman lives with his wife and two kids in Peekskill, N.Y., where he runs his Web site, deanfriedman.com. In the site’s chat room, devoted fans banter about his music-“My 4 year old was caught singing a DF song at breakfast yesterday!” wrote Stu from Abu Dhabi on May 18. Then there’s Mr. Friedman’s “Frequently Asked Questions” section. Example: Q. Is the reason Dean didn’t record for 17 years because he’s a reclusive millionaire living off his royalties in the mountains of NY State? A. ROTFL (Rolling on the floor laughing… )

“People imagine that I sold all these records and had all these hits and made millions of dollars and retired,” Mr. Friedman said on a recent evening at the DT-UT cafe on Second Avenue. Now gray-haired, with a trimmed beard and a little belly, he smiled wryly. “The reality is that I never got paid for any of the sales of those records. Just business and politics-record companies have been fucking artists since the beginning of time. I’ve made more money as an independent artist selling 10,000 records directly to my audience through my Web site than I did selling a million records as part of the mainstream industry, and I think that’s very revealing. It illustrates how odious the industry is.”

Since songwriting didn’t exactly pay the bills, Mr. Friedman has also spent the better part of the last two decades making musical, synthesizer-inspired toys for kids’ museums around the world. They come in fantastical shapes-one looks like a beach ball sprouting breasts-and they have names like “The Booble” and “The Honkblatt.” Today, Mr. Friedman’s largest group of American fans is under the age of 10, and his current repertoire of original music includes songs like “That Stove is Hot” and “Please, Don’t Tease the Bees.”

“There’s not a big difference between performing for 10,000 people on a stage or sitting on the floor in a kindergarten surrounded by a dozen little kids,” Mr. Friedman said. “The essence of the exchange of music is the same.”

In England, Mr. Friedman still appears on the occasional sit-com or talk show. To promote his two new albums-as well as to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the British release of his earlier albums, Dean Friedman and ‘Well, Well,’ Said the Rocking Chair -Mr. Friedman has organized a 30-city United Kingdom tour this fall. “I could actually make a living there as a musician,” he said. “But we never moved because, up until this year, there was a quarantine for animals.” He explained that his wife, Allison, is a zoologist, and the two-along with their tykes, Hannah and Sam-have two cats, a dog and a pet monkey.

But Mr. Friedman seemed content with the attention he’s gotten from his Web site, which gets 10,000 to 20,000 hits a month.

“People find the site and write and say things like, ‘I can’t believe I finally found you-I’ve been looking for your records for 25 years, because my girlfriend took them when she moved out.’ Or ‘Thanks for helping me get through college,’ or ‘through my divorce,” Mr. Friedman said. “And I get lots of e-mails from girls named Ariel.”

-Anna Jane Grossman

Hamptons Summer Preview

1. “Wooooooooooo!”

2. “You’re not invited.”

3. “Wooooooooooo!”

4. “Jerkoff!”

5. “You’re not invited.”

6. “Wooooooooooo!”

-Jason Gay

10 Guys Named Bob Anderson Discuss Their Plans for Summer 2003