LETTER: Lou Frillman is no victim and my husband is no villain
Editor's Note: The following letter is in response to an incident that took place during the 34th District Democrats meeting June 13. That coverage is here.
I’m the former Chair of the 34th District Democrats, and I’ve read Lou Frillman’s deceitful retelling of the events in which he excuses himself for his own abhorrent behavior but thinks someone who stood up to that behavior should stay home. I’ve also read Phil Tavel’s exaggerations and utter fabrications, which go well beyond Lou’s own claims and admissions. For candidate Tavel, that looseness with the facts and willingness to speak out on the basis of here-say alone - to the absurd extreme of claiming that his factually inaccurate rendition of events is the one true side of the story - should be disqualifying in the mind of anyone considering voting for him. Here’s what actually happened.
Steven and I arrived at the Hall at Fauntleroy at about 6:40PM. On our way into the hall Lisa Herbold greeted us and gave us each one of her campaign stickers. I checked in and was saying hello to people around the room, eventually running into Lou Frillman. As I shook his hand, he spotted the Herbold sticker on my shirt and wouldn’t let go of my hand, pulling me uncomfortably close, close enough to smell the alcohol on his breath. He gripped my hand tightly and refused to let go, saying “why don’t you come over to the progressive side?” to which I laughed and replied “I’m already on the progressive side, Lou. It’s your candidate who chose to participate in a questionnaire from an anti-homeless activist who’s repeatedly affiliated himself with the alt-right.” Lou became visibly enraged, making an unsubstantiated claim that my candidate used “dirty campaign tricks,” finally letting go of my hand.
To be clear I don’t care in the slightest who Lou or anyone else supports, and Steven cares even less than I do. Steven attends meetings, helps put on our events and fundraisers, and constantly steps up to volunteer whenever and wherever help is needed. His involvement in our annual fundraiser helped us raise more money in the last 2 years than in the prior 4 years combined. He does this not because he wants a particular candidate to do well but because he wants to help enable the important work of the 34th District Democrats. It was only that initial interaction with Lou that had anything to do with our support of different candidates, and even then it was only Lou who was angry that we weren’t on the same side. After that he made it entirely personal with his use of vitriol.
Apparently Lou spent the next hour or so stewing over our interaction and twisted it in his head to make the spurious claim that I’d said Tavel was backed by Nazis. Anyone who knows me knows that I choose my words carefully, and also that you won’t find me drunk at a public meeting. The word Nazi was used exactly twice in our exchanges that night, and both times it was used by Lou Frillman. And then there’s candidate Tavel himself, who has claimed publicly that he was called a Nazi (he wasn’t), that wine was thrown (it was water), and that the incident was about politics (it was personal and about hate speech hurled at a minority in a fit of rage). Sorry Phil, you seemed like a nice guy, but if you’re going to misrepresent what transpired for personal or political gain, or to attempt to smear another candidate or the 34th District Democrats, well you’ve already lost this one. I guess third time isn’t a charm.
Just before 8PM Lou came over to my table and shouted loudly and angrily “If you’re going to call somebody a Nazi you better mean it,” then quickly scurried off to his table. It’s a long stretch from pointing out a candidate’s willingness to participate in a questionnaire from a wretch who has affiliated himself with the alt-right, thus helping legitimize him, to saying that person is backed by Nazis. What I was pointing out was a curious flaw in judgement on behalf of candidate Tavel, not in any way implying that Tavel was affiliated with the alt-right himself or that they were backing him. This was the ONLY time I heard the word Nazi uttered aloud at the meeting (though the word would soon get posted to my Facebook page, again by Lou Frillman). I walked by his table on my way to get some more water and leaned in to Lou to say “Don’t put words in my mouth, but to be clear I mean every word I say.” Lou became doubly enraged, and immediately said “You’re a fucking ______.” I saw the shocked and embarrassed look on his wife’s face when he said it, and I just shook my head and walked away.
Once seated I shared what had just happened with Steven and another member at our table. Both were understandably appalled by what Lou had said. Lou has tried to distance himself from those words, claiming publicly that he used a different term, but unfortunately for Frillman the credibility of his statement was undercut when his friend Marcee Stone-Vekich volunteered the word in a Facebook comment, despite the actual word never having been reported anywhere at the time. Lucky guess or Freudian slip? I’ll let the readers decide. She then tried to justify Lou’s use of the slur by saying she’s “a universalist when it comes to saying ______.” How classy and inclusive.
Shortly thereafter, Lou found a post on the “Safe Seattle” Facebook page which was poking fun of the availability of Herbold campaign signs (Herbold is a favorite target of the page admins) and posted it to my Facebook page, with the text “I guess your gal is supported by Nazis too”. The first comment on that post from the page admins themselves was a doctored image of the original photo with the tagline changed to be disparaging. The intent was and is pretty clear, at least to anyone capable of basic critical thinking.
Like nearly every other gay person, Steven has endured homophobia repeatedly through his life. In every other situation it’s been a fleeting thing, where someone drives by and shouts a slur and/or throws something and they’re gone. But this was different. Now he was stuck in the same room as the aggressor. A room he’d known for years as a safe space. I suspect sitting there, having to see Lou, who’d just hurled a homophobic slur at his husband, was a contributing factor, because everyone who knows Steven adores him and knows him to be very easy-going. He’s not one to lose his temper, and certainly not in public. But, as someone else who was there Wednesday night said the next day, “spouses can be protective.”
It’s important to note that Lou Frillman has a habit of becoming publicly intoxicated, and in more than one instance this has led to very aggressive behavior in the 34th. For Frillman, of all people, to characterize having water splashed in his face - in a hall where the temperature was stifling to begin with - as “violence” is particularly ironic given his history of threatening physical violence against people in the 34th District who don’t agree with him. The first such incident was 10 years ago, also at a primary endorsement meeting, when Lou threatened the Parliamentarian. The worst was when Frillman threatened to fight a guest at a 34th District fundraiser, which required the intervention of the Sergeant at Arms and nearly led to his expulsion.
As the votes in the District 1 endorsement vote were being tallied Steven went to get another glass of water, and on the way to the bar leaned in to Lou and said “You’re a real piece of ____, aren’t you Lou?” Lou responded by flipping him off with both hands as he returned from filling his water cup, saying “fuck you” as he did so, and that’s when the water was tossed directly into Lou’s face and gaping, swearing mouth. Steven proceeded to leave the hall so that the ensuing confrontation wouldn’t disrupt the meeting, and Lou followed him outside. That confrontation took place out front of the hall, with Lou calling Steven a “coward” and Steven calling Lou a “bigot.” Lou was later asked if he’d like to have the police called, and in a moment of lucidity chose to go home rather than call the police and risk them discovering for themselves that he was drunk and disorderly in public.
Lou Frillman is nothing if not a narcissist and he simply won’t be capable of stopping himself from trying to have the last word, so you can expect to hear from him again. When you do, keep in mind who you’re hearing from: an entitled old man with a history of threats of violence against those who don’t agree with him, who in a moment of blind rage chose to hurl a homophobic slur against someone he wasn’t able to cajole into changing sides on a vote. And that’s the full and complete truth of the matter.