“Tone is the hardest part of saying no.”
Jonathan Price


This is part of my series of things I learned working the security company job I had in college.

This one is about Big Fred. That is what everyone called him. Big Fred was a mountain of a man. I am sure there was a lot of muscle hidden in there somewhere, but he was Jabba the Hut before there was Jabba. I am not sure he ever had to actually take any action because he was so intimidating.

Anyway. Big Fred’s job was always the same job at every event. He managed the artist/players entry area. He was the last line of defense to the performers. He said who got in, what got in and in general provided oversight for their well being. So when I was a backstage supervisor I was kind of de facto under Big Fred’s supervision.

I would say everyone I talked to thought Big Fred had the sweetest job in the company. After a couple of months watching Big Fred in action I was pretty confident if I paid attention I could learn a lot and very confident you couldn’t pay me enough to do his job.

  • **       note: by the way, while I didn’t follow closely, I do believe he was recognized for ability beyond being big because I believe a number of bands hired him to manage their backstage tour.

Big Fred had a big job that was easy to miss because of all the glitz and glamour surrounding everything taking place.

Big Fred was constantly squeezed – by those within (the performers) and those without (those who wanted to be near the performers). He had to balance all that and make it all seem like it was under control. I am pretty sure I never once saw Big Fred freak out (even as the oiled up dancers came racing out of the Van Halen dressing room).

Let’s see. So. I have Neil Young at the back entrance wanting to be let in. I don’t have his name on the list (and you learn VERY quickly it doesn’t matter who it is, if you don’t have them on the okayed list they don’t come in). So me, capable of making many decisions, frankly ain’t gonna make this call.

“Hold on a second, will you Mr. Young.”

Back to Big Fred. Explain. Now Big Fred was a master of this crap.  He knew if he should ask someone, put someone on the list or just say no (all while he has one eye on caterers wandering in, random special guests and keeping riff raff out of the way). Here is where he shared an even bigger lesson to me (the kid). “Nope. He can’t come in” (“oh shit” bubble over my head), but he then says “hold on. Let me come with you and we can tell him together”.

Look. This may sound stupid, but to a 19 year old kid telling Neil Young “nope” was a big thing. And Big Fred kinda had a great sense for how to defuse things as well as delegate and empower. And he wasn’t willing to hang one of his employees out to dry.

I know I say in my bio I have always been a collector of moments and Big Fred gave me some of the most thoughtful formative management moments. I am unclear whether others saw the same thing, but I hope Big Fred is still doing well. He taught me some basics I still utilize today.


Other CSC security job learnings:

corralling chaos (a management lesson)


practicing actually means more relaxed


action has its time


gaining perspective

Written by Bruce