Co-wrote ‘100 Things to Do Before You Die’

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

Dave Freeman, an advertising agency executive who co-wrote “100 Things to Do Before You Die,” an adventure-seeking and often unconventional travel guide that personified the way he lived his life, has died. He was 47.

Freeman died Aug. 17 after falling and hitting his head at his home in Venice, said his father, Roy.

Published in 1999, “100 Things” was one of the first contemporary books to create a travel agenda based on 100 sites and then market it with a title that reminded mortal readers that time was limited.


The “100 Things” approach later swept the publishing industry, said Neil Teplica, who wrote the book with Freeman.

The title meant “you should live every day like it would be your last, and there’s not that many people who do,” Teplica told The Times. “It’s a credit to Dave – he didn’t have enough days, but he lived them like he should have.”

Subtitled “Travel Events You Just Can’t Miss,” the book grew out of the pair’s now-defunct travel website, which Freeman often said was ahead of its time. Online from 1996 to 2001, it showcased festivals and events, often in a feature called “The Coolest Place on Earth Today,” which became a primary source for the book.

“This life is a short journey,” the authors wrote. “How can you make sure you fill it with the most fun and that you visit all the coolest places on earth before you pack those bags for the very last time?”

Freeman had visited about half the sites in the book. He preferred to travel alone because he could cover more territory, said his aunt, Barbara Freeman.

The book’s listings were adventure-based, but “it wasn’t just physical adventure, it was cultural adventure and spiritual adventure, such as a voodoo pilgrimage in Haiti,” Teplica said.


Together, the authors had visited almost every site in the book, which included the familiar (the Academy Awards ceremony, the running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain) as well as the more exotic (the National Hollerin’ Contest in North Carolina, Australia’s Nude Night Surfing contest).

One of Freeman’s favorite lesser-known events was “land-diving on the tiny island in the Pacific called Vanuatu… . Tribesmen climb up homemade towers … and it’s sort of like the original bungee-jumping,” he said on National Public Radio in 2001.

Another favorite was Las Fallas, a festival in Valencia, Spain, that features huge papier-mâché and plaster statues that satirize local political figures and celebrities. “Secretly, they’re full of fireworks and dynamite… . At the stroke of midnight, they light them all on fire in a huge, loud … pyromania display,” he said on NPR.

Freeman brought an off-kilter sensibility to the book by insisting on irreverent graphic icons. He especially enjoyed the logos that stood for “potential to see blood,” “dangerous,” “down and dirty” and “religious fervor.”

“We would try to have odd combinations of logos, such as ‘gluttony’ and ‘Grandma approved’ on the same thing,” Teplica said. “The icons gave the book a lot of life, and people really reacted to the categories, which are kind of a snapshot into Dave’s brain.”

Critics said the graphics made the book fun to read.

David Stewart Freeman was born Feb. 21, 1961, in Whittier. His father worked in the packaging industry and his mother sold real estate.

After graduating from USC in 1983 with a bachelor’s degree in urban planning, he joined an ad agency in Newport Beach.

In 1986, he moved to New York to work for Grey Advertising.

On Sept. 11, 2001, he was eating breakfast in his sixth-floor New York co-op when the first plane hit the north tower of the World Trade Center. From the roof of his building, he saw the second plane crash into the south tower, just blocks away.

Deeply affected by the terrorist attack, Freeman decided to move back to Los Angeles in 2002 to be near his family.

He joined the ad agency TBWA/Chiat/Day as the founder and director of “the disruption consultancy.” His team tried to help clients look at existing accounts in new ways, his father said.

His friend Cyndi Yee called Freeman “amazingly fabulous at what he did, which was living big, but also as a business strategist and cultural anthropologist” who lectured on lifestyle trends.

According to his father, Freeman was famous for saying, “ ‘We’re going to the future. Do you want to come along?’ It always made everybody laugh.”

In addition to his father and aunt, Freeman’s survivors include his stepmother, Barbara, and a sister, Virginia Freeman Robb. His mother, Anne, died in 1995.

Memorial donations may be made to the children’s charity Room 13 International in care of Barbara Overlie, TBWA/Chiat/Day, Dave Freeman Memorial Fund, 5353 Grosvenor Blvd., Los Angeles CA 90066.