By Yvonne Vávra
Even with a mask on, you can tell Frank Smith is smiling by looking at his eyes. It’s a bittersweet smile these days, because Frank — or Frankie the Doorman as he is known in the neighborhood — is making a big change.
He’s retiring on September 29th after 26 years at the front desk of 88 Central Park West on the corner of 69th Street.
Sit and talk with Frankie awhile and he’ll tell you some great New York stories in a style that’s as authentic as the content — hands rotating in circles to every word, an accent so unapologetically New Yawk it almost makes you fuhgeddabout the words.
On one recent shift, he came back from eating his daily baloney sandwich in the boiler room in his crisp white shirt and gold-buttoned suit to reminisce.
Black-outs, blizzards, births, deaths, fires and weddings, and ultimately a pandemic: Frankie was in the middle of it and ready to do his part. “I love helping people and always look to do more than just what’s expected of me. If you’re not willing to be proactive and try to be a problem solver, then this is the wrong business for you.”
However, working in the grand beige-brick apartment building overlooking Central Park also had its perks, as it made Frankie a doorman to the stars. He’s not revealing any secrets, as it is common knowledge that notable residents include Sting, Paul Simon, Robert De Niro, and Lorne Michaels: “He gave me 25 years of Saturday Night Live after parties,” says Frankie. “After my shift, I’d go up there, or I’d take the day off, go to the show, and then to the after-party. They would give me six tickets to take my mom and other family members. So one day, the driver asks me: ‘How did you get six tickets? I’ve been driving the guy for 38 years and only got two!’ I’ll tell you why, cause nothing ever happens when I’m at the door, that’s why.”
Frankie even wrote SNL history: “Back in 2008, when John McCain picked Sarah Palin as his running mate, Mr. Michaels was coming off the elevator, and I said ‘What a gift! Tina Fey is a dead ringer for Sarah Palin,” he recounts. “I’m even in her book ‘Bossy Pants’ on page three, and she talked about me on The Howard Stern Show.”
And then there was this time when Sting told Robert De Niro that Frankie does comedy at the Stand Up NY club on 78th Street and De Niro invited him to audition for his movie “The Comedian”: “I got the part as a cab driver. But, you know, when it was time to shoot the scene, it turned out I couldn’t drive, so they had someone else do it.” He did get the credit in the closing titles, though.
“I can tell you one thing: It’s hard to find better people than De Niro, Sting, Lorne Michaels, and Paul Simon. These guys came together and helped me when I was at my lowest point. Without them, I might be living on a bench over in Central Park now. They are very close to my heart, and I’ll be forever in their debt.” Frankie’s phone is full of pictures of celebrities hugging him. “There is not one person I can think of who I wanted to meet that I haven’t met. But the best one of all of them is Mila. Without her, I’d be dead right now.” A notorious bachelor for most of his life, Frankie tied the knot at 60 years old and married Mila, who has been working as a nurse for 33 years. “She’s a phenomenal woman, really turned my life around. I was 313 pounds when we met, but she straightened me out and helped me through a hip and knee replacement, a prostate operation, and a stomach reduction. She actually saved my life five times and slept next to me on a chair in the hospital for many nights. How do I deserve this girl? Now I’m 205 pounds, and people don’t even recognize me: ‘What happened to the fat guy?’ they ask.”
Frankie is stoked, as he says, to do his last evening shift on Tuesday. More than a quarter of a century he has dedicated to the tenants of 88 Central Park West so professionally that he even won the “Doorman of the Year” award last year. “I always came in early, always left late, and never turned down any overtime. Now I’m tired and looking forward to spending time with Mila in my house on Morris Park Avenue in the Bronx.” It’s the same house Frankie grew up and has been living in his whole life. One might doubt, however, his retirement is actually going to be quiet and restful, as his eyes light up talking about his plans to getting back into stand-up comedy, Open Mic Nights, DJ-ing, and doing his bits with Joe Causi on WCBS-FM.
“I’m gonna miss the Upper West Side and all the great shops and restaurants a lot. Over these 26 years, I’ve seen a lot of changes in the neighborhood and it breaks my heart to see all the businesses suffering from the pandemic. I’ll definitely be back with my family for the beautiful Halloween celebration on 69th Street if it’ll be possible to do it this year. So many nice things have happened for me in this neighborhood — who the hell would have thought a guy from the Bronx with dyslexia and 300 pounds to carry would experience that awesome of a life!?”
Good doormen are godsends. Well done, Frankie.
Godspeed, Frankie. We need a zillion more doormen just like you on the west side!
Congrats, Frankie! Enjoy your retirement.
THANK YOU very much for the kind words and happy retirement. I’m very proud of you and being part of your life success. We love you. MILA, JAMIE and ABBY.
happy retirement. I’m very proud of you and being part of your life success. We love you. MILA, JAMIE and ABBY.
One of my best friends….something else people don’t know about frankie, he is one of the most humble, intelligent, and giving individuals you will ever meet in your life time….there is no one like him he can never be replaced or erased…enjoy retirement brother you have earned it….God Bless you and the family….Glen Guy Iurilli
Happy retirement Frankie! You earned it.
Congrats to Doorman of the Year!
I’ve known Frank since 1983 when working together at the midtown employment agency Alyson Taylor.
As a 26 year old suburbanite from New Jersey Frank introduced me to life in the Big City along with a posse of new friends named Charlie, Dolci, Warren, and Cass.
I’ve moved on from those days of my youth but remain close friends with Frank and wish him congratulations on his retirement and all the best taking on new challenges and enjoying successes in the next chapters in all of our lives.
You, you’re are good, yes, you are, you have a gift my friend, eh!, you, you are good
I used to live across the street on 69 and his building was one of the best…in large thanks to his presence. All best wishes for a happy, healthy next chapter, Sir!
awesome profile! thanks
Good luck on your retirement Frank! We sure going to miss you! Thank you for always being a friend to Eric and I. Your summer party was always fun we enjoyed it very much.
Frank p.s 83 my buddy
I retired 3 years and my only regret is I didn’t do it earlier.
Retirement is the best thing especially for people like Frankie and myself who worked there ass off for are whole lives!
God bless and enjoy the rest of your life!
Thank you for being such a positive part of the neighborhood, and congratulations on your retirement!
I would love to sit down and have a cup of coffee with this man. I’m sure he has a pocketful of stories to share.
A quintessential New Yorker. Best of luck to you Frankie.
What a wonderful guy, they were lucky to have him.
I’d watch a feature-length film about this guy. More doorman profiles, please, WSR…and also some nanny ones!
Congratulations Frankie! Enjoy every moment! You deserve it!
Congratulations on your retirement! Enjoy!
Frankie, Uncle Joey and I are so happy for you with your retirement! We wish you much happiness, good health and happiness in your retirement years. You look terrific! You had a interesting and fulfilling career. I miss our phone calls and stories about your work life. We love you . Love, Uncle Joey and Debbie
I’ve known this man for 26 years and everyone, I mean everyone knows and loves him, I am so happy for him over the years, he found true love, he loves his animals and boy are they all adorable, the 3 cats and his dog and precious Mila and daughter are the best, she really loves that man! . I went to see him tonight for his last day, I couldn’t thank him enough for all the years of joy, laughs, advice and friendship. BTW, make sure you catch his act as a stand-up comic as he will for sure be pursuing this passion, he’s hilarious on and off stage. Love you forever Frank!
Congratulations on your retirement I know you will enjoy every minute.
Hi frank it’s your MTA bus operator who picks you up every Tuesday at Central Park west.I met you 6 months ago and it was a pleasure knowing you.It was a privilege picking you up and dropping you off for the last time.Thank you for always be polite and courteous.You are one of a kind.
Great article about the colorful career of an interesting doorman .Its almost like he lived a life within another life .I had the pleasure of knowing and reading this article because of my MTA M72 bus driver going from East to west ,who is also has a good spirit .
In the building where I work we also had a very great doorman retire by the name of ferrere Placide .He also worked his tail off for 34 years and deserves a wonderful retirement .Hopefully one day he can be interviewed and he can narrate his life story .
Wishing you happiness and good health in your retirement.
What a lovely story! Left me tearful. Happy retirement, Frankie. Well deserved.
Good Luck Frank ! I always knew you by your nick name. Sounds like it was a marvelous life .
Good luck on retirement!
Phyllis Terilli Walsh and family.
Love from my mom!
I had the privilege of meeting Frank
Smith in 1983. We worked at a NYC employment
agency. We’ve been friends ever since.I am
not at all surprised with the comments
People are leaving for Frankie Smith. No
One deserves the applause more than Frank.
Congratulations to Frank and Mila. We love you,Frankie Smith. Meg and Ron Cass.
Wow! What can I say? My brother has lived a very colorful life. He is a true New Yorker. He has always loved helping people, whether it was at the advertising agency, helping people get a good job, or helping various celebrities to feel safe and secure in their homes. Frankie is not a person that you would ever forget meeting. He’s funny and loud and has a million stories and jokes. People that really know him, know that he’s all that -and has a gigantic heart too. He is the type of person that would go to the ends of the earth for his family and friends, there’s nothing he wouldn’t do to help or protect them. He has worked so hard all these years, I’m so happy that he is retiring with his beautiful wife and family. I wish him good health, fun, laughter (and blasting disco music!) for the rest of his life. May he make a million more happy memories. Congratulations on your retirement.
I love you, Frankie!
Love Always, your baby sister, Kara
(and Tony, Eric, Jenna, Anthony and the pets too!)