Arden Frederick "Freddie" Sessler (1923 - 18 December 2000) was the brother of London restaurateur and club owner Siegi Sessler, and a long-term intimate of the Rolling Stones, particularly Keith Richards, for whom he supplied drugs. A teller of tall tales and raconteur, Sessler claimed to have met and become friends with a number of important figures in twentieth century music. He attributed his manic lifestyle of partying and drug use to being almost the only one of his family to escape extermination by the Nazis during the Second World War. Ronnie Wood described Sessler as a "sex-fuelled, vodka charged, coke mountain".
Sessler was born in Kraków, Poland in 1923. He was one of seven children. When he was aged 15, the entire Sessler family was sent to a concentration camp. According to Sessler, he eventually escaped and reached Russia, but the authorities sent him to Siberia. (One of his sons denied that this was true however.) Fortunately, as translators were needed, and Sessler spoke English, Polish, Russian, German and Yiddish, he was sent to London. Returning to Poland after the war, he found that many of his family were dead and that their home had been destroyed, so he decided to make a new start in New York.
Jazz and The Beatles
In New York, Sessler got a job as a waiter and claimed to have frequented Birdland. Sessler told Bill German that when he was working at Lindy's, he met Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and Billie Holiday and began to deal in drugs.
Sessler said that he got a job with Volkswagen and in 1961 was transferred to Germany where he claimed to have seen the Beatles in Hamburg when they were unknown, and to have become good friends with John Lennon. He claimed that that was how he met Eric Clapton and then the Rolling Stones.
The Rolling Stones
According to Ronnie Wood, Sessler loved being called "the ultimate Rolling Stones fan" and in his 70s, "the world's oldest rock and roll groupie".
Sessler was particularly close to Keith Richards and Victor Bockris believes that Richards saw Sessler as a father figure. However, Sessler's lifestyle was problematic for Richards when later he was battling drug addiction. Early in his autobiography, Life, Richards calls Sessler, "an incredible character, my friend and almost a father to me who will have many parts in this story" and Sessler appears many times in Life. The relationship between Sessler and Richards was volatile however. According to Ronnie Wood, on one occasion in New York, Richards was threatening Sessler and shot his gun through the floor of a hotel room.
Glenn Hughes of Deep Purple and Black Sabbath remembered "I was also friends with Ron Wood and the guy who carried the Stones' pure pharmaceutical cocaine in the 60s and 70s, Freddie Sessler... I remember he put a huge mound of glittering, thick cocaine on a plate for me once" and Iggy Pop described him as "the kind of guy who can make a party happen". According to Ronnie Wood: "Freddie's real claim to fame was that he'd spent decades providing pharmaceuticals to everybody who was anybody in rock. I'm talking about a man who showed up with milk bottles full of high quality Mallencrodt and Merck." "Merck" cocaine was his specialty but, as Marilou Regan notes, Sessler claimed never to have been a "dealer" or "pusher", and never to have charged anyone anything for drugs, and he never had anything to do with heroin.
Julia Phillips, in You'll Never Eat Lunch in this Town Again, remembered going backstage at a Stones' concert: "There is a smelly Israeli [sic] named Freddie who seems to be very important to everybody. He carries two medium-sized bottles filed with rock cocaine."
Sessler lent his name to the slang used by the Stones. The drugs he supplied were known as "Sessler’s Helpers" and his coterie of groupies, who changed from tour to tour, were known as the "Sesslerettes".
Sessler was involved in a number of dubious business ventures, including his Miami Venom Institute which used diluted snake venom to treat serious illnesses. One patient was the by then penniless Ronnie Lane of the Small Faces who was suffering from Multiple Sclerosis. When his Miami institute was closed down by the FDA, Sessler opened the Fairfield Hospital in Jamaica. He claimed that he made a fortune from selling aglets, another selling lightbulbs to the Empire State Building and that he had been involved with the Amphicar. Nothing ever worked out in the long term however and he said "I been a millionaire eight times, and I been broke eight times!"
Sessler was married three times. He had three sons, all of whom are deceased. His son, the rock group manager Jeff Sessler, was married to the American actress and singer Mackenzie Phillips from 1979-81.
Sessler died on 18 December 2000 (Keith Richards' birthday), aged 77. He is buried at the Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles. Letters to Sessler from Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood were sold at Auction by Bonhams in 2013.