From Paul “Big Bear” Swanger (former wrestler “Concrete Cowboy”)
6 October 1935 to 8 September 2011
Friends, what can we have in life as precious as our friends? Our health? Yes. Our family? Yes. Tonight my very dear friend Bill Apter called to inform me that our mutual dear friend Frank Talent had passed, just weeks after his beloved wife Gussie passed away. Frank died at 7:55 PM in his bed with his family by his side. His nephew Eric told me that Frank died with a smile on his face.
My mind immediately went back through the years to 1977-78 when I first met Pennsylvania Assistant State Athletic Commissioner Frank Talent, I had no idea that we would form a lifelong bond of friendship.
“Thank you for calling, now don’t hang up, your call is very important to me. At the tone leave me your name and number and a short message and I’ll get back to you.” How many times I called and heard Frank’s distinct voice on that out going message? And, you know what? Frank’s message meant that everyone was important to him.
Frank was raised in an orphanage, Saint Joseph’s, thus his love of children. Frank umpired youth baseball games and at one someone grabbed a woman’s purse and ran but Frank quickly pursued and caught the thief. Frank was in his umpire gear at the time!
A real hero, Frank also worked in Philadelphia’s City Hall for 38 years where one day he responded to a call for help, delivering a baby in the hallway. Frank was Assistant Athletic Commissioner for 38 years, presiding over boxing, wrestling, and roller derby. This was where I met Frank as I stepped into the wrestling ring. Frank asked me to meet him at his home where I became his chauffer/body guard as he appeared at so many block parties and playgrounds in the guise of Batman. This was something we repeated many times with Frank in many different guises, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, Gizmo, and more.
Frank was on radio, wrote columns for newspapers, appeared on TV, was friends with everyone, he introduced me to Frank Rizzo, Joe Frazier, Mayors; Ed Rendell, Wilson Goode, Milton Street, and so many lawyers and judges, plus then District Attorney Lynne Abraham, Chubby Checker, and Fats Domino, and our dear friend Irv Homer. No celebrity came to Philadelphia that didn’t first coordinate with Frank Talent.
Frank was a very important man yet a very humble man who never lost sight of his own honest, humble beginnings.
Life is the flash of a firefly in the night.
It is the breath of the buffalo in the winter.
It is the little shadow
which runs across the grass
And loses itself in the sunset.
Mark Twain once said “Let us so live, so that when we come to die, even the undertaker will be sorry.” He must have known Frank.
Walk well your eternal walk with our Savior my friend, I shall grieve my loss but not as long as I shall honor and hold dear the joy and honor of having a friend named Frank Talent. Alani Cha, So Tah.
”I was saddened when I returned home this evening to find that Frank Talent had passed away.Frank was always fair and quite the character as most will agree. He loved the sport of pro-wrestling and the Philadelphia pro-wrestling and boxing scene won’t be the same without him to say the least, he was always a pleasure never a chore to deal with. He told me a bunch of great stories over the many years I’ve known him and will never be replaced.”
“VERY SAD NIGHT TONIGHT: Frank Talent has passed away today. He played a HUGE part in the Philadelphia wrestling scene. He was even at my first WWF event in 1983 that I attended and I worked close with Frank when I ran ROH in Philly.
He was a commissioner for the state and often got in the ring and went into business for himself just to entertain the fans. I used to see him as a kid when I was 10 at all the WWF events. Then when the NWA would run Philly he was always backstage. He was such a nice guy. Like he went out of his way for the kids. So friendly and NEVER in a bad mood. He did all of the early TWA shows for Joel Goodhart and early ECW. He did CZW and was just a true gem. He also LOVED and I mean LOVED giving locker room speeches to the guys. I even had him put into a few ROH spoofs that Doug Gentry filmed and I still have them on tape. They were classic…I remember we had Spanky rib him too. EVERYTIME Frank would see me he was always so nice to me. I often would imitate his voice just to pop everyone around me. I will NEVER forget the sound of his voice. This is a really sad day for wrestling fans in Philly. The shows will never be the same without watching Frank come out to ringside and talk to the fans. This one really hit me hard. RIP Frank Talent you will be missed by everyone in the wrestling business.
o ”We lost a good friend.”
o Bay Ragni (Chubby Dudley)
o Here are my memories of Frank Talent……….
o Frank was a person, who loved the sport of professional wrestling as well as boxing. He was part of the PA Athletic Commission for many years, which was technically a job, but I think he did it more out of love of the business, and getting to be around the shows, the workers, the crew & the crowd. Many times while I promoting L.A.W. shows through the Philly area, Frank would go to the vendor tables and buy a bunch of wrestling figures, and give them out to kids in the crowd just to see those kids faces light up.
o Frank always loved to put himself over as well, he needed to make sure he gave a locker room speech before each show, where he put the promotion & the workers over, then he would leave the locker room and go to the timekeepers table, and wait n hope for his spot where he could be part of the show…………or at times, he would just take the mic and put himself into the show.
o My three favorite memories of Frank are, one show we could not find a doctor to work our show, so lied to him and told him April Hunter’s mom was a doctor. We had her sitting ringside with Frank, and they had a blast together. The whole show, we were all paranoid that he would find out the truth and possibly shut down the show, but he never found out and years later after I stopped promoting, I told him the truth and he still didn’t believe me.
o “The Wrestler” was filming at the arena, so I called Frank and said…..Frank, my wife’s biggest celebrity crush since she was a teenager is Mickey Rourke, can she come down and meet him. Frank met her and my father in law at the arena, brought her right in to meet him, where he posed for pictures with her, gave her a crew t shirt & a towel he used & signed for her. All thanks to Frank.
o Last great memory, My wife wanted to re-new our wedding vows, and mentioned it to Frank. He had us come down to city hall, where he had a judge close off a courtroom and had us renew our vows, where Frank was my best man. He didn’t have to do something like that, and honestly when he said it, I figured he was blowin smoke, but he was legit.
o A legit real friend, good person, and always a character
o RIP Frank……..I’m honored to have known you.
• Sal Corrente:
• “When I worked for the Crockett’s in that area of course he was always around and I remember him coming to some of the Joel Goodhart autograph sessions back in the day. The one moment that really stands out for me was when he told Ric Flair that Connie Selecca was doing a personal appearance very close by and Flair told him to try and get Connie who Frank had been speaking to to walk him to the ring for $10,000.00. I remember Frank running over there as quick as he could but Connie had already left.”
o From Missy Sampson:
o “Frank Talent is as much a part of Philadelphia wrestling as any promoter, wrestler, referee or manager. You always knew he’d come in the back door about five minutes before belltime and insist that you couldn’t start the show until he gave his 4 minute locker room speech. The one most wrestlers could recite verbatim since you heard it every show. I used to try and act busy and get out of it by telling Frank, “Yeah Frank I know, watch my language, no spitting and I’m not bleeding.” He’d inevitably make me go listen to it again anyway. He was someone who wanted all of us to prosper and succeed and would always do whatever he could to help out wrestling and the wrestlers. He loved wrestling and those of us involved in it. So much so that he’d give you his cell phone number and tell you if something happened or you needed something to just call him. He was a caring and giving man who will be missed. RIP Frank. Thanks for always having our backs!”
As a New Yorker living in Philly for the past 18 years I had the pleasure of knowing Frank Talent. I always enjoyed being around him as he was a real “character,” and I love characters. The memory I have that stands out about Frank is how he would come into a dressing room, yell out, “I need to have a meeting,” and all the wrestlers in the room would stop what they were doing and go to where Frank was about to hold court.
He tried to be a “hard ass” with them, telling them what they could and could not do and how they could be tossed out of Philly if they were out of line during a show. Everyone listened in silence as Frank bellowed the orders, only he would end it always with a smile, handshakes, and a laugh. His “hard ass” routine never worked as we all knew it wasn’t the real Frank Talent.
Earlier in this column, my dear friend Paul Big Bear gave his memories of Frank. When Frank found out that Paul and I sang together in an act we did at Senior Homes and Night Clubs, he would always come to me at the wrestling shows in Philly and say, “when are you gonna put me in that act?” I’m sorry we never did!
A great guy — Frank Talent will be sorely missed by all of us and I’m sure that stretches way far beyond Philly!