The Loss of a Legend (and a Legendary Friend)

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This past week, I lost someone in my life whom I’ve always greatly admired– long-time producer on Broadway, Jerry Frankel. If you’re in the Broadway business, chances are you knew him. If you’re not, well, all I can say is he was a special person to many.

I started my business when I was relatively young, and I was lucky enough to meet Jerry early on in my career. We got to know each other, and, to me, he was a glowing reminder of how far heart, smarts, and guts can get you in this world.

He served as a mentor to me and had an incredible life history that was full of great advice. I cherished our breakfasts together and especially those where he would ask me about my business and then bluntly tell me when he thought I was going off the rails. This direct feedback always resonated with me as honest feedback is often hard to come by.

He knew me when it was just me and a handful of folks that made up my company. “How’s the business, Damian?” he would always ask because he knew I had a question or two ready to go for him.

More importantly, something I truly valued was how he would always include “how’s the family?” in our conversations. He had a genuine interest in my overall wellbeing, which is something I hope I can model after him.

In all the years of knowing Jerry, regardless of the question of the moment, his advice followed some core principles that have always stuck with me.

Do the right thing. No matter how high the stakes were in the moment, Jerry always treated my team with respect. Whenever someone needed help, he would be the first to say, “how can I help?” whether it was writing a check or making an introduction.

Don’t sweat the small stuff. Years back I was in an ugly court battle with a horrible landlord when Jerry pulled me aside and said, “Damian, settle. You will never get justice, and you’re just wasting your good energy with bad energy. Drop it and move on.” He had clearly been to this rodeo before, and I only wish I had followed his advice a year earlier. He was spot-on.

Believe in what you’re saying. Jerry had told me on many occasions, “Damian, you’re so full of hot air.” For the record, I don’t think I was! Even still, he pushed me to make sure that if I felt a certain way, I was also passionate enough to take a swing at it.

With Jerry, it didn’t take long to work with him before he treated you like family. So, there’s a lot of family he’s leaving behind. Today, I’m sending love to the entire Frankel family, but especially his beloved daughter, Jessica, and his long-time business partner, Jeffrey.

The spirit of Jerry will forever live on.

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