Angelo J. Falanga

Biography

By Labor Day 1995 Angelo J. Falanga had been living in Brooklyn, New York for three months with his maternal grandmother, helping as she recovered from open heart surgery. Celebrating the holiday, a block party had been organized by too few of the neighbors to bother getting a permit to close off the street. Mr. Falanga was cooking chicken using a barbecue grill wheeled up onto the concrete in front of his grandmother's stoop when a neighbor sat down in a beach chair set up behind him. That neighbor was Frank A. Stokes. What began with a one hour conversation once the chicken was cooked would be for Mr. Falanga fifteen years of work and friendship with the late composer and bandleader. Stokesified! is Mr. Falanga's memoir of the experience, based on more than 20 hours of interviews he recorded beginning in 2001. Angelo J. Falanga studied Political Science at California State University, Long Beach. He left college for a job on the NBC game show Time Machine while studying comedy writing with Get Smart writer Dee Caruso at UCLA. Mr. Falanga worked from 1985 to 1992 for the late lighting designer Wally Russell as a personal assistant and in the stage management of the Los Angeles Opera while Mr. Russell served as the company's Technical Director. (See The Wally Russell Foundation and The Wally Award, bestowed for excellence in lighting design) Angelo J. Falanga lived and worked in Germany from 1992 to 1994, traveling throughout the continent during these years. For Mr. Stokes, Angelo J. Falanga assisted in the home studio where three albums were produced and with the booking then staging of live performances while managing Mr. Stokes' web presence, also serving as a photographer and videographer. Angelo J. Falanga now lives and works in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Smashwords Interview

Why Frank A. Stokes? - Erik B in California / What were your first impressions on hearing Frank's music? - Geri T in Florida
I've decided to take these two questions together because they both go back to the day I met Frank. Obviously, if Frank had lived, and it's also heartbreaking that his wife is gone, but, I fully expected to spend another 20 years going wherever the journey was to take us. It all goes back to that first day, Labor Day 1995. There was a sort of block party. Frank was taking antibiotics for an earache. He had to avoid the sun, but his wife said, "I paid the money, you better go out there." I was cooking and hoping to keep an eye on my Grandmother. I was in Brooklyn with my mother to help out after my grandmother had heart surgery, and she was diabetic, so we didn't want her eating anything that would hurt her. Of course, hours later she grabbed a hot dog and passed out for 10 minutes, but, I was cooking in front of her stoop with a row of beach chairs and umbrellas set up behind me for the old ladies. Frank sat down behind me as I was cooking. Aside from his long hair, very unusual for the back end of Bensonhurst, I noticed his two large teardrop shaped turquoise earrings. I knew he wasn't a hippie, but I didn't know much about Native Americans. First off, he liked my cooking. In the book I describe how an hour long conversation led to my 15 years working with Frank. Going into the conversation I had the advantage from my background of knowing what Frank was talking about. I had spent five years working in the management of the Los Angeles Opera while my sister was a drummer in a female power trio playing in Hollywood. I hadn't been in New York in twenty years and the early part of Frank's career was before my time, Frank was ten years older than me, but, I knew the jazz Frank was into and I knew the underground he had been part of. As he spoke I noticed the difference in the way we traded stories. I could feel myself pressing as I talked about my days at the Opera and at a game show before that. Frank was a great natural storyteller. There was no boasting, no pumping himself up as he spoke. Eventually, Frank invited me up into his place for the first time. When he pulled out a CD-R from the recording studio of what would be the Present Tense album Frank said, "You probably won't like this." Frank had spent one day in a studio in Staten Island with a pickup band that had barely rehearsed. Somehow he created a compelling, cohesive, beautiful sounding record. It was vibrant and full of energy. Without vocals it was clear the songs were telling stories. From the moment I heard that record I knew I couldn't just leave him there. I had to do everything I could to help.
Just what function did you perform for Frank? - Geri T in Florida
Sometimes it's what seems like the smallest things you do actually matter the most. When I worked for the Los Angeles Opera the day would start at 5:30 AM when I picked Technical Director Wally Russell up from his home on the Palos Verdes peninsula. I'd drive him the 30+ miles through L.A.'s morning freeway traffic to work days that often ended with the same drive back to Palos Verdes after 11:00 PM. No matter how busy my day was, I knew, and everyone around Wally knew, that the time Wally got to sleep in the passenger seat on the way home was incredibly important. With Frank it was the same principal in a much more personal setting. I did everything I could so that Frank and his wife could use the time they had to make the music and raise their daughter. They didn't have a dishwasher. The rowhouse Frank lived in had been built in 1904. It hadn't been modified for all the modern conveniences. Ask any player of a stringed instrument how they feel about doing dishes. No bassist wants to get their hands wet and soften their skin. Frank's wife worked long hours. When I first got there what you'd see in the sink looked like a mountain of dirty dishes, and the kitchen attracted roaches. Turning that situation around and keeping things clean for the rest of the time I was there mattered. Next there was Frank's web presence to create, back in the days of 56k connections that made uploading a 10 minute song an all day challenge, sometimes a multiple day epic struggle because with rowhouses on Frank's block and the next one over it meant the phone lines were strung over backyards that were entirely sealed off. It took years for the situation with the phone lines to improve. Frank's first website was on a now defunct site called zebox. The greatest success on the web was getting over 20,000 people in its heyday onto Frank's MySpace page. Twitter came toward the end of Frank's life. There are a few tweets, and Facebook was also something he used later. Frank didn't find out his father had passed until well after it happened. Weeks before Frank died he got photographs of his father, seeing the man's face for the first time in decades. Frank had me scan the photos and post them on his Facebook page. It was eerie to know him so well and see how that whole process just seemed to weaken him. Throughout my time with Frank there were mailings to be printed and sent seeking gigs, seeking exposure for the records, and sometimes it worked. Frank was watching a show called LXTV when he heard his song, 'Let's Dance Again.' Frank had his iPOD connected to the TV. He pulled it's plug and the song kept going. It was coming from the TV show. In the studio in his music room Frank knew exactly what he was doing. He would need me to lift equipment at times, read dials that were too far away, or push buttons that would be out of reach. I would take the still pictures and shoot the videotapes of the rehearsals at The Music Building and the performances. Only a small fraction of what was shot made it to Frank's YouTube channel. I would carry his gear but never his bass, not until that last year. As for writing the book, it took almost five years before I felt comfortable enough to ask if Frank would let me write about him. Parts of the story were very difficult for Frank to go over. I'm amazed by his honesty, and his strength.
Read more of this interview.

Where to find Angelo J. Falanga online


Videos

The Awakening
Studio recording of Frank A. Stokes' theme song, The Awakening, from the album Walk With Me, combined with performance footage from S.I.R. Studios, Manhattan, March 17, 2007. Native American dance performed by Wayasti Richardson. Video produced by Frank A. Stokes, edited by Randy Whitehead.

Books

Stokesified!
Price: $5.99 USD. Words: 157,890. Language: English. Published: February 8, 2014. Categories: Nonfiction » Biography » Native Americans
Frank A. Stokes (1954-2010) said "Stokesified" to describe how any sound he heard he made his own. Raised in Brooklyn NY, he saw the rock and roll shows of Alan Freed and Murray The K. Playing in the 1970's CBGB's underground, emerging after meeting Jaco Pastorius as a jazz composer on fretless bass and recording, Frank Stokes honored his Native American heritage by offering each note as a prayer.

Angelo J. Falanga's tag cloud