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Piano players' fans crowd Topside Inn to pay tribute


Fred Loose's piano bar was covered with flowers yesterday, as more than 200 people jammed into the Topside Inn for a boisterous wake to honor the man who tickled the ivories and everyone's fancy there until he died Sunday.

An extended eclectic family of musicians, relatives, friends and bar regulars hoisted their glasses in tribute to the 70-year-old Mr. Loose at the Galesville restaurant overlooking the West River where he had played for more than 19 years.

"I throw the best wakes," said Elizabeth Kinzie, Topside's owner.

Earlier that afternoon, St. James Episcopal Church in Lothian overflowed as Mr. Loose's widow, Myrtle, led the many of the same people in clapping their hands as Mr. Loose's Dixieland band played "Just a Closer Walk with Thee." He was buried in the church cemetery.

Sonny Seixas, in whose Washington band Mr. Loose played more than 20 years ago, was present at the funeral. Robert Kinzie, Ms. Kinzie's father, flew in from Japan.

"Shut up!" Mrs. Loose snapped into a microphone in the restaurant. The crowd hushed to hear her talk about her husband.

"He brought happiness to everyone he knew, everyone he touched," she said. "I want to end my speech with his last wish: He gave one hell of a party!"

Bowls and platters of food people brought in filled several long tables placed where the Sunday night conga line usually took its first turn, often with Myrtle and a tambourine at the helm.

The clink of what's known as Ricke's toss -- the sound of empties hitting the bar's trash can as perfected by Mr. Loose's daughter Ricke Morgan -- punctuated endless remember-when stories. Mourners regaled each other with tales about Frederic DeTurck Loose, the way he hung his hat -- he wore dozens of outrageous ones -- and how the memories of all that would never be taken from them.

"He used to change my diapers on this piano bar," said Ann Clark of Annapolis, who waited her first table there when she was 2 years old and her aunt owned the restaurant. She said he used to remind her of that when the house was full. He played there with a drummer Friday and Saturday nights, then led the Topside Jammers band there Sunday.

Sunday night, with the restaurant packed and his wife and daughter there, Mr. Loose suddenly stopped playing, slid off his stool behind the mirrored piano bar and died of a heart attack. A retired federal engineer, he had long suffered from heart problems and was due to see his physician this week.

"Fred Loose and Bobby Swingle at the golden gates piano bar. Yes, we have something to look forward to," Patricia "Potzie" McCall of Shady Side said at the funeral. Mr. Swingle, who had been Mr. Loose's drummer and who gave Mrs. Loose away at their 1982 wedding, died two years ago.

Mr. Loose had let her sing "Your Cheatin' Heart" one night, even though she couldn't carry a tune. And then he thanked her.

"He was my therapist without even knowing it," Ed "Smitty" Smith, the Bladensburg man who is known as the honorary mayor of Galesville, said over a drink.

Kathleen Crandall, a former Topside worker, said Mr. Loose had set an enviable example with the gleam in his eye as he watched his wife dance and the way he sang with his daughter. "I thought it would be so neat, if I could grow old and my husband could look at me like that."

Ms. Morgan used to sing rounds with her father, and a tape they recently recorded is being edited.

There won't be any music at the restaurant this weekend, but Mrs. Loose, who acted as hostess, said she'll be back Memorial Day Weekend. Dick Sowell, trumpet player with Mr. Loose's quintet, said another piano player -- but not a replacement -- will fill in. The hunt for a piano player for Fridays and Saturdays continues.

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