Speeches and regalia: Zappa fans celebrate rocker

For Baltimore musician Warren Cherry, Frank Zappa was an inspiration — an artist who stubbornly went his own way and fought to protect artistic freedom.

Sunday, Cherry and several hundred other Zappa fans went to Highlandtown to pay homage to the late rocker.

"I've been a fan of Zappa since I was a teenager," says Cherry, 57. "He was just such an iconoclastic guy, and so unique. I mean, my gosh, just with the way he looked, with the hair and the goatee. I was an outsider, I was an artist, I was a musician. … He was our hero."

There was a lot of hero worship going on in Highlandtown Sunday afternoon. A crowd massed at the corner of Eastern Avenue and Conkling Street to cheer as a bust of their hero was unveiled, to rest forevermore atop an imposing pedestal outside his hometown's newest library. Most, it seemed, were wearing T-shirts adorned with Zappa catch phrases such as "Are you hung up?" "You are what you is" and "The world's most plentiful ingredient is stupidity." Though smaller than the 5,000 people organizers had expected, the audience made up in enthusiasm what it lacked in size.

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