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Outstanding Alumnus Remembered: Exemplifying the Spirit of Santa Monica High School

By Jeffrey Bell-Zekas

Frank Constantino was an example of what any school could wish for in the way of a scholar and thespian. Frank and I met the first week of 7th grade, in homeroom, which happened to be the Lincoln Junior High School boys’ locker room. Frank had just arrived at Lincoln, and in his eyes there was a gleam which I had never seen before in anyone’s eyes.

“Hey, Jeffrey Bell, you really stink!!! You need to wear deodorant, in case no one ever told you!”, Frank yelled, in his satirical and typically outspoken manner, “By the way, did you read this week’s New York Times article, about the atrocities in Vietnam?” Frank was not one to mince words.

“Thanks Frank, I’ll take care of it”, I said dryly, “and I’ll read the article.” With my reply was born a very peculiar friendship.

Shortly afterwards, I nominated Frank for homeroom president (after all, no one else wanted the position), and became one of his “groupies”. I followed Frank from class to class, along with Doug "Ox" Ford, Bill "Bones" Shaman (‘72) and Jim "Steb" Stebinger ('72), listening to his discourses on politics, geography and world news. He was Socrates, spouting wisdom beyond his years, and we were his acolytes and critics. Frank was both witty and insightful; he was well-read, and a satirical observer about a myriad of subjects. His persona was a curious mixture of Robin Williams and Albert Einstein.

Over the next 6 years, through Lincoln Junior High and later at Samohi, I watched Frank become more melodramatic, more involved in school activities, and more serious. He won the Optimists' Club Oratorical Award and received first place portraying Edgar from "King Lear" at the 49th Annual Shakespeare Festival. Though we were no longer close friends, I followed Frank’s antics at Samo: playing Hovstad in "An Enemy of the People" and Karl in "A Raisin in the Sun"; gaining academic honors as both a Delian and foreign language Scholar of the Month; his involvement in the student House of Representatives, and his joy of being “in the spotlight”

You see, Frank had touched me, as he had many others, with his zaniness. But beneath that crazy, animated facade, there was a sensitive, beautiful human being. Frank never talked about his parents’ divorce, about being raised by a single mother, or about the pain and loneliness of being different.

Frank had high ideals, which he held for himself as well as others. He was a brilliant scholar, and he was the first to let you know it. By the time graduation came around in 1972, he had “found himself” in drama, and announced his plans to become a great actor. But beneath that brilliance was a gnawing insecurity.

A decade after graduating, I heard that Frank Constantino was dead. I was told he died in an accident. I suppose I’ll never really know what happened to Frank.

But every so often, I’ll hear his laugh, or hear his voice, mocking me: “Jeffrey Bell... Don’t be afraid to get out there!!! Get out there, and LIVE!!!”.

I hear you, Frank, and I wish you were here with me now, so I could tell you how much I miss you.

Good luck, old friend, wherever you may be... I love you, Frank.