By Alex Distefano
By Daniel Kohn
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By Nate Jackson
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However, many criticisms posted on the Internet blast Freese for accepting money from a teenager. “I was really bummed reading [about it] on the Internet one night, and I felt pretty shitty. I put this thing up for sale; someone bought it. I didn’t know if he was 60 or 15.”
Freelance photographer/pharmacist Andrew Youssef, 33, of Huntington Beach, purchased a $250 Cheesecake Factory lunch—the first fan package experience ever for Freese.
“I think [Freese’s marketing strategy] is genius. I think people are jealous they didn’t think of it first,” Youssef says. “With the music industry going the way it is, he’s gotten more publicity out of all this than anybody could even dream of buying.”
Youssef says he’s definitely another satisfied customer. “I think the criticism is definitely unwarranted. Obviously he’s doing it for the money a little, but it’s not like the people who wanted to pay for it are feeling gypped at all,” he says. “I don’t think you’re hearing any complaints from anybody who spent the money.”
* * *
A few weeks later, Freese finds himself in front of the Indiana Jones Adventure ride at Disneyland with Ferris Al-Sayed, 18, from Carmel, Indiana. A recent high-school graduate, Al-Sayed is quiet, but he slips in every now and then with a funny one-liner. He wears a faded, black Nine Inch Nails Ghost T-shirt with a black button-up over it. It’s his first time in California since childhood, and he’s being given a tour of Disneyland by Freese as a part of the $5,000 package. Freese has on a huge smile under a baseball cap and sunglasses; a one-strapped Tumi backpack is slung across his chest.
Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard had FedExed Freese a thick envelope a few days earlier, containing the letter to Al-Sayed explaining his favorite song off Since 1972.
When asked why Al-Sayed chose that particular package, he replied simply, “He has to write a song about me and spend a pretty extensive amount of time with me.”
Freese and Al-Sayed head toward the Rivers of America, and then run into Eric Wilson, the bass player of Sublime. Freese points out the Mark Twain sternwheeler floating just behind them, where he and his little brother would play hide-and-seek while his father and the Disneyland Band played at the bow of the riverboat.
Freese, Al-Sayed and Wilson pose for photos in front of the Pirate’s Lair on Tom Sawyer Island. Al-Sayed cracks a joke about chopping off Tom Sawyer’s foot and replacing it with a peg leg. He stands, posing with a thumbs-up and his mouth gaping open.
Freese and Al-Sayed decide to tackle the 45-minute wait at the Haunted Mansion. While in line, the two chat about music, and Freese swaps stories about his rock-star pals such as Twiggy Ramirez and Buckethead, the latter of whom is apparently a huge Disneyland fan. A pregnant woman with a belly ring and two scrunchies in her hair stands just behind them, listening in on their conversation. Al-Sayed reveals he’s an aspiring musician himself, about to study music theory at either Indiana University or Purdue in the fall.
The group finally reaches its destination inside the Haunted Mansion and is ushered into the room with the “stretching walls.”
Freese grins and asks, “You want to know something scary? I can recite every single word of this.”
He’s not kidding. “Welcome, foolish mortals to the Haunted Mansion. I am your host—your Ghost Host,” he begins, reciting the same speech playing overhead in time. “Your cadaverous pallor betrays an aura of foreboding, almost as though you sense a disquieting metamorphosis. Is this haunted room actually stretching? Or is it your imagination, hmm?” People around him are staring. “And consider this dismaying observation: This chamber has NO windows, and NO doors. Which offers you this chilling challenge: To find a way out!”
Freese lets out a maniacal laugh.
“Of course, there’s always my way,” ?he finishes.
The two hop into their Doom Buggy and ride off into the dark, where happy haunts materialize. Afterward, Freese reveals that from 1985 through 1987, he probably made out with more 13- and 14-year-old girls than anyone else in the world while in the Haunted Mansion.
“My whole summers were spent at the Haunted Mansion,” he says with a laugh. “Let’s put it this way: My first groupie experience was in the Haunted Mansion. I’ll go on the record with that.”
But that rumor in the summer of ’87 that Stan Freese’s kid got a blowjob on the monorail? Not true, Josh says.
* * *
Controversial or not, Freese’s flippant marketing tactic has everyone from fans and non-fans to marketing execs and other professional musicians talking.
“Josh is irreverent and perceptive and punk in his music and his marketing,” says Gossard. “His creative energies are so vast he’s having fun with all aspects of his music and how people get interested in it.” (Gossard later retracts this quote, thinking it way too serious and e-mails a possible alternate: “That little punk-ass bitch is cracking me up. Shit, I love Josh Freese.”)