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Jack Rose's Harvey Fry: A Fine Madness
Comments () | Published June 3, 2011
He ditches DC for New York and Greenwich Village. It’s the early 1960s. Jackson Pollock is dead, but the Abstract Expressionist movement is still the talk of the Village. Fry fills his canvases with paint, one after another. He makes enough to keep a roof over his head and to eat and drink—drink more than eat. Thus ends the short life of Abstract Expressionist Fry.

Rejecting the idea of becoming the academic or teacher his degree has prepared him for, he returns to DC and takes up cab driving. He likes the easy money—and the fact that so much of it goes directly into his pocket.

But Cabbie Fry is animated by something larger than money. A philosophy. As a libertarian, he sees driving a cab as affording him more freedom than any career he can fathom doing. He isn’t simply piloting a car; he’s expressing his individuality.

He’s also drinking. Heavily. A friend says, “You’re not gonna live to see 30.”

He lives to see 30, becomes Businessman Fry. He starts one of DC’s first successful courier companies, makes a pile of money, sells the business.

See Also:

Drinking with the Jack Rose Team

He becomes Gambler Fry. He joins forces with a friend, wagering on professional football for the next eight years. For the first six, they gamble widely, placing bets on six or so games every Sunday. In year seven, they try something different. In Vegas, you ride the hot hand. Fry and his partner try riding the hot team. It’s 1985. The Chicago Bears enjoy one of the most dominant seasons in NFL history. They go 15–1, covering the spread in all but one game. Near the end, Fry and his friend are placing up to $200,000 on the games. It’s a period of hard living, hard partying.

“You’re not gonna make it to 50 if you keep this up,” his doctor brother tells him. Fry is 47.

He’s sitting in Shea Stadium, watching the ’86 World Series, Red Sox versus Mets, when a friend saves his life. If you had to pay more for the stuff, he says, you wouldn’t drink it like water. You need to start sipping.

Because Fry does nothing halfway, he plunges into the world of bourbon and Scotch and cognac. More than learning what he likes and doesn’t, he learns the language of that world, its systems of codification. He creates another, more sustainable self: Collector Fry.

Next: The strange similarities between Bill Thomas and Harvey Fry

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Posted at 10:05 AM/ET, 06/03/2011 RSS | Print | Permalink | Washingtonian.com Articles