BWW Review: Tripping Down Memory Lane With TERRIE FRANKEL ~ From Stage to Screen

BWW Review: Tripping Down Memory Lane With TERRIE FRANKEL ~ From Stage to Screen

From the desk of Herb Paine, BWW Senior Contributor, Phoenix/Metro Region....

High on land once owned by Lucille Ball is a grand home that boasts a panoramic overview of Sedona, Arizona and the red rock wonders that contribute to the town's lure. Its inhabitant is TERRIE FRANKEL, a woman who, by virtue of her theatrical accomplishments and zesty personality, is a legend in her own time.

As I was in the area, reviewing movies at the annual Sedona International Film Festival, I arranged to meet with Terrie. The result was a fascinating trip down memory lane ~ a road that took us from Chicago to Vietnam and from Hollywood to Sedona. And, all along the way, as she shared her recollections with infectious enthusiasm, what shines through is her abiding love for the business and a passion to give back.

Terrie is in every respect a hostess with the mostest, gracious and ebullient, presiding over a spacious home called Seven Arches that is not only a virtual museum of show business memorabilia (including a Wall of Fame and Lucille Ball's piano) but also a living record of a remarkable life in the theatre. After a comprehensive tour, we sat down to talk about her experiences and accomplishments.

So, how did her journey begin? Terrie speaks with reverence and affection about her father's influence and encouragement of her career in entertainment. He propelled Terrie and sister Jennie (identical twins) into the spotlight at a very early age. If dad was a stage father, he certainly had a receptive audience. The twins' bright personalities and talent led them from one gig to another until they landed their notable engagement as Wrigley's Doublemint Twins in the late '60's. (Remember, "Double your pleasure/double your fun....")

The experience was a springboard to bigger and better things.

Terrie's portfolio expanded big-time. As Helen Reddy once observed, "Terrie Frankel is one of the most underrated songwriters in the US...Together with her late twin, Jennie, they wrote many wonderful songs as well as books and lyrics for several productions."

Terrie recalls with awe at how dangerous and yet uplifting it was to be in Vietnam during the war. In November and December of 1968, Terrie and Jennie performed (singing and accordion-playing) for the troops with the USO -Hollywood Overseas Committee. They did over 36 shows around South Vietnam, including DaNang, Pleiku, Dalat, Cam Ran Bay, Phu Bai, Phu Loy, Natrang, Hue. Where shows like Bob Hope's needed electricity, theirs didn't, and so their tour took them, along with celebrities including Joey Bishop and Tippi Hedren, to many remote locations where the dangers were greater. Albeit they were well-protected by their escorts, it took a lot of grit and dedication on their part.

In recognition of her USO service and her continuing support of veteran causes, Terrie has been inducted as an Honorary Commander of the 944th Aeromedical Staging Squadron at Luke Air Force Base (Arizona). It is an honor which she proudly displays.

We talked too about her years in Hollywood as a producer, screenwriter and composer. Posters of films that she either co-authored or collaborated on in the early '80's hang on her walls (Lunch Wagon, High Heels, The Journey of Natty Gann ).

However, it was her one-woman tribute to Dorothy Parker, the illustrious journalist and poet of the early 20th Century, that says a lot about the values that make Terrie tick. Parker was, in addition to her other credits, an activist for civil rights and an outspoken feminist, who paid the price for her views when she was blacklisted in the midst of the 1950's Red scare.

As Terrie recalls, she felt driven to honor this hero. So, she developed a one-woman musical tribute, entitled Room Enough For Two - The Life of Dorothy Parker. She muses that, given limited finances, she did the show for one night only at L.A.'s Groundlings Theater. Not one to give up, she's hoping that the show might enjoy a revival as a feature film. As she played one of the songs from the show, Opening Night on Broadway (about the cast of a Broadway musical anxiously waiting at Sardi's for the opening night reviews), I could hear the lilt in her voice and see the pride in her eyes.

As we were wrapping up, I noticed an accordion that her husband had given her as a birthday gift. Without a lot of persuasion, she removed it from the case and regaled us with a medley that included, of course, the Doublemint gum jingle and America the Beautiful.

The lady still has it! Charm, memories galore, an insatiable desire to share her stories, a portfolio of accomplishments as deep and wide as her charitable heart, and an abiding devotion to her sister who died eight years ago. Sedona is better for having her in its midst.

Photo credit (herself at Lucille Ball's piano) and a bundle of thanks to Terrie Frankel.

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From This Author Herbert Paine