The following is an excerpt from FRED WHO?: Political Insider to Outsider, which was written by Fred Karger and Steve Fiffer, who contributed to "The Deadline Cafe" on Evanston Patch.
It’s early September 1971. Tomorrow I’m supposed to leave our home outside Chicago for Denver and my senior year of college. My older brother Dick will be heading in the other direction. He’s taken a position at an investment bank in New York City. And so on the eve of our departures, my parents have organized a small family dinner. My mom’s sister Doris and her family are here. My mom’s brother Buddy is not.
Buddy’s not exactly an outcast, but he’s the guy in the family that everyone likes to make fun of. He sells insurance. Never married, but seen around town in the company of very attractive women, some of them showgirls. Despite the fact that he’s sometimes the butt of jokes, I like him. Maybe it’s because folks have always said I remind them of him. Or maybe it’s because I know something they don’t know.
After dinner the eight of us are in the den when the phone rings. We all hear my mother scream, “Oh God, Buddy’s dead!” He’s killed himself, overdosed on pills and alcohol. He was 42.
Why? No one is sure. His three-word suicide note only heightens the mystery: “It’s Don’s fault.”
The only Don we know is a guy who had worked for my father. He’s one of Buddy’s friends. What could have happened? Here’s what I know that nobody else in the family knows: Uncle Buddy was gay.
Here’s how I know it: On my very first trip to a gay bar in Chicago when I was 19, I saw Buddy. Fortunately, he didn’t see me. I ducked around a corner and quickly left. I never told a soul.
And now, two years later, he’s dead. Killed himself. Growing up everybody had always said that I looked just like him. If only they knew how alike we were. So, I think as I lay awake in my bed, the tears streaming down my face, this is my destiny. Some day, just like Uncle Buddy, I’m not going to be able to live with my secret anymore. It’s only a matter of time.
If you had known me back then or in the twenty-one years of my life leading up to that night, you might have thought I was a little goofy, the class clown, the guy who crashed political and charity events, but you wouldn’t have known I was gay or that I was in despair. In fact, when I describe my childhood, I also use four words: Leave it to Beaver.
My parents, Jean and Bob Karger, were June and Ward Cleaver. My older brother Dick was Wally, the cool jock and ladies man. And I was the Beave, lovable, but often in trouble. We lived in a comfortable two story, four-bedroom house in Glencoe, a suburb on the lake about twenty miles north of Chicago. I kid you not, we had the exact same refrigerator that the Cleavers had on the television show.