A New York nightclub legend, Fred Rothbell Mista died this morning after a long bout with AIDS-related illnesses. Fred was the go-to man at the church-turned-dance-club the Limelight in the ’80s, greeting people in the upstairs VIP library (sometimes on his knees) with wit and effervescence. At the same time, he developed a stage act–Rocco Primavera and the New Jersey Nightingales–which spoofed Vegas lounge singers, complete with pompadour ‘do and a marked preference for the song “My Way.”
Fred truly DID it his way. In the 2000s, he went on to open an East Village artists’ hangout called the Apocalypse Lounge, where a pre-American Idol Constantine Maroulis worked as a waiter, and where Fred was just as enthusiastic about encouraging the creative process and the chance to jumpstart a “scene” as he had been from clubland’s early days.
One bizarre memory stands out: Once in ’85, when I called Fred to chat, he said he couldn’t talk because he was traumatized, having just read in the Post that HE had been the intended victim of suspected killer Andrew Crispo. I’m glad we got 24 more years of him, but they weren’t enough.