Russell Frisby's was grand role modelWith a grandfather...

SUNDAY SNAPSHOTS

December 12, 1993|By Stephanie Shapiro

Russell Frisby's was grand role model

With a grandfather like Herbert Frisby, H. Russell Frisby Jr. had "big shoes to fill." His grandfather, born in Baltimore before the turn of the century, was a jazz pianist, war correspondent, scientist, teacher and an arctic explorer who was devoted to the legacy of another Maryland native, Matthew Henson, co-discoverer of the North Pole.

"He left me with the real sense that I had an obligation to be involved in the community," Mr. Frisby says of his grandfather. As a partner in the law firm of Venable, Baetjer and Howard, and chairman of the Baltimore City Chamber of Commerce, he has held to standards set by his venerable ancestor, who died in 1983.

Today, Mr. Frisby will pay tribute to his grandfather in a lecture at the Baltimore Museum of Art titled "African-American Pioneer: Arctic Explorations."

The 2 p.m. lecture will be historical and anecdotal, says Mr. Frisby, a BMA trustee. For example, he plans to relate the story of his grandfather's first visit to Alaska during World War II, when he was circled by curious Inuits, who believed that African Americans "all had tails."

When he first heard of Mr. Henson, an African American, in sixth grade, the elder Frisby resolved to become the second black person to visit the North Pole. Then, it was a place as remote and mysterious as the moon. He first reached the arctic as a warcorrespondent for the Baltimore Afro-American newspaper, and made 26 more arctic explorations.

Herbert Frisby also headed the science department at Douglass High School for nearly 30 years and taught at Coppin State College. His collection of arctic artifacts, formerly displayed in a home-based museum called the Igloo, was donated to the Banneker-Douglass Museum in Annapolis. His grandson says, "he was just totally involved in science." Arne Lindquist, 50, talks about the actors in his theatrical company with the enthusiasm of a proud father -- even though fTC the performers are a generation older than he is.

Mr. Lindquist leads the "Senior Star Showcase" at Essex Community College, a group of senior citizen performing artists. The "Showcase," now in its 14th year, began after Mr. Lindquist's mother died. His father needed a distraction, so his son formed an informal 16-member group that sang around a piano.

Today the organization has more than 100 members and produces full-scale musicals such as "The Nicely Naughty Nineties," a show that's scheduled for January. And admission to the group is now by audition only.

"One gentleman loved Frank Sinatra," Mr. Lindquist recalls. "He said, 'I'm an engineer. But I wonder what it would be like to be Frank Sinatra and to perform on stage.' Now he has the chance."

If there is a down side to Mr. Lindquist's job as director, it is in maintaining his artistic objectivity.

"I go through all kinds of personal agony if someone doesn't come up to performance standards," he says.

Mr. Lindquist worked with the Goldovsky Opera in New York, sang as a guest soloist with major symphonies, and tours now, singing duets with his wife, Janet. He also teaches voice and acting at Essex Community College and the Peabody Conservatory.

But he seems to take the most pride in his work with the seniors.

"It's therapeutic for the members," he says. "And it's therapeutic to our audience, because when they see that we can kick up our

heels . . . they feel they can do it as well."

Carol Loyd

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