Eugene Fodor, the 'Mick Jagger of the violin,' dead at 60
Folks of a certain age will remember well the name of American violinist Eugene Fodor, who died over the weekend at the age of 60 in Northern Virginia.
When he shared a second place prize in the 1974 International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow -- a year when no first prize was awarded -- he became quite the celebrity. With echoes of pianist Van Cliburn, Fodor was hailed not just for his musical talent, but for giving the U.S. a boost during the lingering Cold War.
And thanks to his physical attributes, Fodor attracted attention far outside the usual classical music boundaries. He became one of Johnny Carson's frequent guests on "The Tonight Show"; he performed at the White House; he posed shirtless on a horse for a publicity shot that got wide exposure. Someone dubbed him "the Mick Jagger of the violin," and, for a while, it looked like he would reach superstardom.
But Fodor, like many a sudden star in many a genre, encountered ...
some powerful personal demons. By the 1980s, he was into drugs; in 1989, he was arrested on Martha's Vineyard after breaking into a motel room and found with heroin and cocaine. Fodor went in and out of rehab, in and out of a career.
I interviewed him during one of his first comeback periods in the '90s, when he was booked to play for a large condo community in South Florida. He seemed genuinely interested in focusing on music again. That concert revealed worrisome signs of decline from earlier peaks, but still enough sparks to suggest that Fodor could turn things around.
I hadn't heard about him in years -- until Wednesday, when word came of his much-too-early death from liver disease. Here's a clip of Fodor in his charming prime, playing a bravura showpiece during a skit on the great SCTV show parodying the fabulous Joan Crawford-John Garfield film "Humoresque":