Monday, June 28, 2010

Whatever happened to Fred Robsahm

Once Fred Robsahm (64) was a movie star

Today he lives on disability in Lilliesand

By John-Arne E. Gundersen

When you love someone, you cannot just forget it. You take it with you. Otherwise, there has been no love,” says Fred Robsahm

He acted with Jane Fonda and shot his way through Spaghetti Westerns. He had found love, an Italian film diva and lived in a palazzo with it's own beach. Now he lives on disability in a one bedroom apartment.

“At one time he was blond, tall, macho action Italian film actor,” said his friend Benestad who made a documentary film “Natural Born Star” in 2002 on Fred's life. Now he and Fred stand outsde a small white house in Lillesand. On the entrance door a sign reads: “This is not here.” The sun shines through strips of blinds where it lights up a small living room that looks like a small cabin. Guy lines from the ceiling hold a tie he never uses, necklaces, sunglasses and a clock stopped at 4:22 p.m.

Fred sports black shoes, a black leather jacket and a black cap. His legs are thin as a boat-hook and a gray dangling ponytail dangles down his back. His face is framed by sunken cheeks and a gray beard while a chasm of a mouth holds only one tooth. Hard to believe the cowboy actor's onetime handsome face resembled Clint Eastwood.

64 year-old Fred laughs as he says, “I just stuff 32 years in each leg of my pants.”

He starts to tell his modest and slightly blurred life story. “S” drags out of his mouth, because his teeth were knocked out in the '90s and the new milk tooth, as he calls it is a bit loose.

Fred grew up in Lillesand and says her learned to row before he could walk. My real father, I was not very familiar with, but my stepfather told me, “Everything is possible, but you have to do it.”

Fred got his first berth in the steamer “Pelle” when he was thirteen. Later he passed the equator and dreamed of his own sailboat and drifting peacefully around the world.

Being at sea is the closest a human being can have to the illusion of freedom.

On holday with his mother in Rome in 1967, Fred met a producer in the yacht harbor and was offered a chance to appear in a Pepsi commercial. Tall, handsome and with blond hair he was given a role with Jane Fonda in “Barbarella”. Fred figuered he could purchase his dreamed of sailboat a little faster if he continued as an actor. So he shot his way through a career in Spaghetti Westerns and by the end a total of 15 films.

It must have been a good life?

“I do not know. I do know there was much hustle and glitter.

He was familiar with Leonard Cohen and The Eagles. He was offered the lead role in “Flashback” which came to Cannes in 1969. He sat through the pressure in the audience and waited for everyone to leave but the audience stayed and clapped.

Then came the winter of 1972. Fred recorded commercials in Milan. A friend gave him a mink coat for a debt owed. Fred wearing a mink coat won the heart of actress Agostina Belli. They were soon married and moved into a beachfront villa, a large swimming pool with palm trees, horses and 240 olive trees. “It was alright”, Fred said.

Fred and Agostina made a film together. They were in all the Italian tabloids. Photographers came bye in boats taking pictures from telephoto lenses.

But Fred was still dreaming of owning his own boat.

Fred and Agostina made a packed to earn money for sailing around the world on their own boat Seeing the world and meeting other people. Fred went to Norway and bought the cutter “Eye Seraeye” meaning “I am who I am”.

In the mid-80s Fred sailed it across the Atlantic alone.

Agostina would not leave her career. I wish I had someone with me as it was too good not to share it with someone. Fortunately I had my cat.

Two years passed and Fred flew home to try and repair his relationship with Agostina. Rubbing his eyes he said, “He never flown home.”

In 1986 Fred had not seen his mother in many years and visited her in Spain. A friend told him he should sail a boat back to Rome from the city where his mother lived.

Fred sailed back and moored the boat in Rome. He took a taxi home. Later 17 Italians were arrested as they unloaded fish boxes that were filled with hashish. Later that night Fred also was arrested. Fred was unaware what the boat contained he had just caught a ride home to Rome as a passenger. Fred was jailed and put in a wet damp cell with only a mattress and a hole in the floor. At night guards beat the bottoms of his feet. When they pulled him out of there they thought he was dead. He remained in jail for one year. During this time he saw pictures of Agostina in a magazine, by her side was another man named Rudi. Had he not been arrested that night he and Agostina may have been together yet. When the trial came up Fred was acquitted. Out of prison he carried with him more than what he went in with.

Fred and Agostina was finito. His boat had sunk in the Caribbean while he was in prison. In 1991 he caught the flu and it lasted too long and he went to see a doctor. It was not the flu but HIV. He obtained it in prison from a needle used to sedate the prisoners and only washed in a basin of water.

He bought a new sailboat and docked in Mallorca in 1992. He began to drink anything he could get his hands on. He developed liver failure and fell into unconsciousness. He was dragged off the boat in a hepatic coma.

Now living with HIV for twenty years he lives his life in voluntary custody. That's what he calls his apartment.

Side effects from the different drugs he takes affects the nerves in his legs. It burns and sometimes feels like a dog is biting him. He sometimes lies in bed for days trying to ease the pain. Instead of limping around town during the day I go out at night. He drives a scooter Benestad has given him.

He thinks everything looks brighter now. Thanks to the documentary, I see away out of this voluntary custody.

In his living room the clock from his boat is clicking. It and a piece of wood from the railing is all he has left from the “Eye Seraeye”. A picture of the boat hangs over the sofa. It shows good wind in the sails and young Fred standing with his hands on the helm, looking straight ahead at the horizon. On a yellow plastic plate across the table is written, “Remember to forget.” With only nightmares of the past pulling at him he looks ahead. That is where we live and that is where we will live the rest of our time.


  1. neiradaniel@hotmail.comJune 29, 2010 at 4:45 PM

    Even Benestad is not Freds son. The documentary called "All about my dad" is about his real dad, a celebrity transvestite in Norway. The documentary Benestad made on Fred is called "Natural Born Star". Its a very good but sad film.

  2. Thanks Daniel. My mistake understanding the translation. I've changed the noted error.

  3. I am a friend of Fred's, and want to update you. Fred has now bought another yacht and is about to start sailing again. The moment he bought it his voice changed and he sounds much happier. Fred is a wonderful man and anyone who has ever met him will always remember him as he once was. Best regards. David