The House Nostalgia Built: A Collector in Rifton | House Profiles | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine
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The House Nostalgia Built: A Collector in Rifton 

Frank Basile

Last Updated: 03/22/2016 9:15 am

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Basile did the wraparounds for two dozen of Jerry Lewis's movies on TV, in a Cinemax series called "Laugh a Lot"—Lewis was a perfectionist and consummate professional, Basile recalls—and produced a promotional video for Broadway hoofer Tommy Tune. When he was producing radio spots for Frank Sinatra promoting his concerts at an Atlantic City resort, one of the singer's road managers was behind bars, which slightly complicated things. "After recording tracks at the now-gone RCA studios on 44th Street and editing music and mixing, we had to call in the spot to some penitentiary and get it okayed by him. We would get his input after they summoned him to the pay phone," Basile says.

While working for the History Channel, Basile produced an interstitial—a short feature sandwiched between programs—series called "In Search of History," interviewing 65 celebrities about their favorite period of history. He's worked with a Who's Who of media and entertainment personages, including Oliver Stone, Loretta Lynn, Steve Allen, Mike Wallace, Raquel Welch, and Charlton Heston ("I went to his home and he pointed out a Ben-Hur sculpture given to him by Cecil B. DeMille"). Basile filmed students at the High School of Performing Arts for the documentary FameSchool, a collaboration with Fame producer David De Silva; produced in-flight shows, including an interview with Stephen Sondheim, for Continental Airlines; and shot commercials for several West End theaters in London. Involved with live theater in many capacities, he designed the pane projections for performances by Queen Esther Marrow and the Harlem Gospel Singers at the historic Ford Theater, in Washington, DC, which earned kudos for their beauty and power. His promotional instincts, the wit, grace and easy flow of his writing, are always spot-on. "Recently I wrote a radio spot for 'The Producers' and ran it by Mel Brooks. He changed one line, from 'No! It's Ishkabibble' to 'No! It's your sister Shirley.' I still think 'Ishkabibble' sounds funnier."

DEBORAH DEGRAFFENREID
  • Deborah DeGraffenreid

An Urban Education

A Bronx native, Basile attended the Bronx High School of Science and Columbia College, where he majored in urban studies. In the early 1980s, he produced his own weekly public-access cable show, featuring everyone from Curtis Sliwa, founder of the Guardian Angels, to Broadway stars to Times food critic Mimi Sheraton. Even after he had a day job, he tended bar evenings at JG Melon, a popular drinking hole on the Upper East Side. "Working at Melon's in combination with attending those two schools constitutes a triumvirate of a solid education," Basile says. Regulars at the bar included JFK Jr., Nathan Lane, and Sam Shepard. "Once I served Muhammed Ali a glass of milk and we chatted about the neighborhood," says Basile. "When he left a $10 tip, his then-manager Bundini Brown said 'That's too much,' to which Ali smilingly replied "Shut up' and left it anyway."

Eschewing the corporate world, Basile always worked as a "permalancer," which enabled him to oversee the execution of a piece and stick to his high standards. He relished the writing and planning as well as the layering and refining, a process that's akin to "a good cook knowing how much to caramelize the onions." In Hey Moe! Hey Dad!, that search for richness and polish led him to replace the piano music accompanying the theme song with a 16-piece orchestra. (The music was written by composer Steve Margoshes, a Drama Desk Award winner and frequent collaborator. Basile contributed the snappy lyrics.)

DEBORAH DEGRAFFENREID
  • Deborah DeGraffenreid

Looking back, the most satisfying moments of his career were getting the perfect shot in that one window of opportunity. Such a moment occurred back in 1983, when Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton exited the back door of the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre after a performance of Noel Coward's "Private Lives." The couple had just gotten back together, and an adoring crowd gathered as they slipped into a waiting limousine and drove off. "I got it on film for the TV commercial I was doing for the play and went to Sardi's afterwards, feeling very happy that one of the prickly roses excitedly thrown by an extra at Ms. Taylor did not hit her in the face," Basile recalls. "When the Tony Awards need obits, they come to me. I have a lot of footage."

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