Frank had a stellar career as movie star, modeled as the Marlboro Man, and directed a passel of plays back in the day. He lived in New York, and Los Angeles, and hobnobbed with friends and neighbors such as Jack Palance, Dennis Weaver, and Tyrone Power.
I met Frank when I was a hotshot real estate agent. I had listed and sold properties for his daughter, and then started working with Frank. His family, most living in Santa Cruz, wanted Frank to sell his ocean-view condo in Santa Monica and relocate to a similar property closer to loved ones.
Although Frank and I had fun looking at property, he wasn’t ready to make the transition. By the time he was ready, I was long gone – off to Costa Rica with Prince Charming to live out our days in wedded bliss. We all know how that turned out! Will I ever let go of the “happily-ever-after” fantasy? Probably not!
Years later when I came limping back to Capitola, a charming little seaside town just south of Santa Cruz, I called Maria, Frank’s daughter and my good friend, looking to rekindle my sister-friend network. I grabbed her out of The Hat Company, her fab shop downtown, and we went next door to El Palomar for our usual Cadillac Margarita.
We got caught up on the last few years since I had been absent and she stopped mid-sentence. “Hey, do you know how to give shots?”
I cocked my head, “Shots?! You mean like shots of tequila? Of course!”
“No. Shots of insulin. You know, like with a needle.”
“Ummmm, well, no, I mean, I dunno, um maybe. What do you mean?”
“Well, my dad has developed diabetes and his eyesight is failing. He can’t see well enough to administer the shots himself, so we need to hire someone. Interested?”
And so, I added yet another skill to my resumé. Yup, shot giver. After a few sessions, I got the routine down and it only takes a few minutes. I go twice a day – Nine in the morning and five in the afternoon.
Frank, being a well-mannered sophisticated man, offers me coffee before we sit down to business. Over coffee we exchange stories. He is fascinating and I look forward to hearing the details of his career spanning over sixty years in the entertainment business.
As Frank and I spend time together we reminisce about our lives. When he got out of the Army, like many World War II vets, he was starting civilian life wide open to possibilities. He spotted an advertisement in the newspaper, “Acting lessons in exchange for office work.” He took it! He tried out for Off-Broadway plays such as The Silver Tassie at Carnegie Hall to gain experience.
He secured his first professional job in the cast with Dennis Weaver and Jack Palance. To earn additional money he got a modeling portfolio together. The jobs for male models with rugged good looks were plentiful and the money started rolling in.
Although Frank was born and raised in the Bronx, and New York was his hometown, the movie industry was calling him to Hollywood. He gave up his Greenwich Village apartment, where he lived with his beautiful wife, Gretchen, and newborn baby girl. They packed up his old Nash Rambler Station Wagon and set out for Hollywood. Or bust!
By the way, it was Gretchen who got him into radio.Shortly after they married, Gretchen was listening to the radio, called the station and said, “My husband has a better voice than your guys. You should have him on the air!”
“Oh yeah? Send him in!”
And so he added radio announcer to his growing list of credits. Once they got settled in L.A. he registered with booking agents and was hired to appear in popular TV shows such as Wagon Train, Have Gun Will Travel, Peter Gunn, and The Untouchables.
With the arrival of more babies (they came regularly every two years), Frank embarked on a new career which would provide a steady income for his growing family. He became a public speaking trainer and taught classes in performance for camera manners for Cal-Tech for twenty-eight years, all the while still writing and directing for the entertainment industry. He is still, to this day, a member of The Director’s Guild, his proudest professional accomplishment.
Although he retired in 1999, he continues to perform if there is an audience. I can attest to that! On occasion, during my visits, he recites from memory, some of his favorite limericks. He tells me he only recites the clean ones for me. What do you think?
There was a young man from Boston, Mass. Whose balls were made of brass In stormy weather they clashed together And lightening shot out of his ass!
Well, there you have it – Fun with Frank. One of my favorite things at Frank’s house is his framed plaque, EGBAR. When I asked about it, Frank smiled and said, “Everything’s gonna be alright.” I wonder if there’s a limerick for that? I might have to make some tee-shirts.