Joe Frank - Reading radio dramatist Frank's vivid collection of eight short works of fiction is like watching eight people take a wrong turn into a dark and threatening neighborhood

Joe Frank, The Queen of Puerto Rico: And Other Stories, William Morrow & Co., 1993.

A debut short fiction collection by the popular radio dramatist features a surrealistic world populated by characters with jobs, not careers, with no real purpose and only vague realizations.

The first collection of short fiction from the "dark knight of the airwaves with a captivating, completely original approach to story telling" (Los Angeles magazine). Radio dramatist Frank has achieved a cult following with his mesmerizing evening broadcasts from KCRW in Los Angeles and on NPR.

A teenage boy visits a Caribbean island with his parents. He watches the pink lady in a bar. He meets her on the beach. Brief monologue about driving through the countryside against the sounds of a racing car. He meets a man in a bar who invites him to a beach house. He gets stoned and drunk and winds up in bed with the man. A man in a hospital imagines he is in a resort. The man follows the boy to the airport, later calls him and sends him letters, invites him to visit and becomes the queen of Puerto Rico. He wears his grandmother's necklace, think s of the pink lady. He writes the man and asks for money. The man goes to the hospital. Later he drops out of school and returns to the island. More scenes of a confused man in the hospital. The boy gets a job on the island, begins wearing makeup, becomes the pink lady. Breakfast in the hospital. - wikipedia

Frank, best known for his evening radio dramas broadcast over NPR, presents seven short stories and a play--the radio origins of which lend a compelling voice to his portraits of modern urban loneliness, fear, and alienation. In ``Tell Me What to Do,'' a New York executive has a fleeting affair with a woman in his office, is later abandoned by his wife, then finds himself alone and unloved before he quite knows what hit him. The protagonist of ``Fat Man'' sidles through monotonous days and fantasy-filled nights, having somehow failed to make the transition from cynical college student to productive adult. In the title story, a young man's fate is unveiled while he's on vacation on St. Thomas, where he becomes infatuated with a local prostitute but falls unwittingly into bed with a homosexual seducer. Though hardly optimistic by any reckoning, Frank's tales nevertheless mesmerize the reader as they open doors to intensely private moments of self-contemplation, unacknowledged despair, and desperate, surreal fantasy. Wandering among strip joints, liquor stores, and anonymous hotels, watching TV, joining religious cults, and sometimes playing a little guitar, his characters play at picturing themselves as heroes in a novel or wondering about their shrinks' private lives while the seconds of their existence tick slowly away. ``A change has come over the world,'' states a character in ``The Decline of Spengler: A Radio Play,'' the most abstract and, in the end, the least affecting of the pieces presented here. ``Dark thoughts are born. Dark deeds ripen in the midst of their vapors. The eye of God no longer shines on us.'' Fortunately, as Frank proves here, we humans can console ourselves in these dark times with the magic of a story spellbindingly told. - Kirkus Reviews

Reading radio dramatist Frank's vivid collection of eight short works of fiction is like watching eight people take a wrong turn into a dark and threatening neighborhood. In this world, the consequences of an action or a chance encounter are always troubling and unsatisfying. ``Tell Me What to Do'' portrays an adulterous couple who cram an entire affair into one week, only to have their lives become empty and spiritless; in ``Fat Man,'' a kleptomaniac gains weight as insulation against his feelings; a couple's dinner conversation becomes more and more disturbing as the woman reveals herself in ``Date''; the title story chronicles a vacationing teenager's seduction by an older man in St. Thomas and the impact it has on the boy's life. Retreat and remembrance are key acts in these jarring, unsettling tales, most of which start with a wide-angle view of the world, then narrow everything down to unfeeling sex, mindless repetition of desultory actions,stet comma and death. Still, they provide little moments of recognition that make even the bleakest stories involving. Sharply observed and simply told, these are disquieting portraits of desire and unfulfillment. - PublishersWeekly

Joe Frank has been called "the apostle of radio noir." In this first collection of stories, he takes us on an obsessive, violent, and sexual odyssey in which individual lives become emblematic of a larger spiritual crisis. He also captures on paper the same eerie speculation and humor he delivers in his late-night monologues on National Public Radio. We meet characters who have jobs, not careers, who lead lives of half-steps, of rootlessness without cause. Frank's narratives result in a kaleidoscopic sense of time, wherein entire lives pass with a few brief moments of inchoate realization. Moments of comic lunacy blend with scenes of great poignancy and terror. In the novella "Night," the protagonist wanders through a series of odd jobs, through prison, to Vietnam, to become the right-hand man of a television evangelist, and without any more purpose approaches his own death. In "Fat Man," a college student travels across the country stealing brownies from roadside Howard Johnsons and then spends the next year returning them. "Date" encapsulates a woman's entire life in her boyfriend's suggestions for her personal ad. "The Decline of the Spengler" is a wildly inventive radio play in which the narrative of a funeral is melded with the dreams of a playwright slowly slipping into madness. In their desperation, the characters in Joe Frank's world, such as the "Fat Man," can only dream of meaningfulness: "You know, when I think about myself and the life I've led, I feel self-loathing, shame, and disgust. I'm a waste and a failure. But when I imagine myself as a character in a novel ... well, I think I'm pretty interesting, kind of off-beat, intriguing, entertaining." For years, Joe Frank's broadcasts have invited millions of listeners to the strange world of his mesmerizing stories. In this, his first book, Frank effortlessly segues to the printed page and imparts a new resonance to his narrative inventions.

Reading radio dramatist Frank's vivid collection of eight short works of fiction is like watching eight people take a wrong turn into a dark and threatening neighborhood. In this world, the consequences of an action or a chance encounter are always troubling and unsatisfying. "Tell Me What to Do" portrays an adulterous couple who cram an entire affair into one week, only to have their lives become empty and spiritless; in "Fat Man," a kleptomaniac gains weight as insulation against his feelings; a couple's dinner conversation becomes more and more disturbing as the woman reveals herself in "Date"; the title story chronicles a vacationing teenager's seduction by an older man in St. Thomas and the impact it has on the boy's life. Retreat and remembrance are key acts in these jarring, unsettling tales, most of which start with a wide-angle view of the world, then narrow everything down to unfeeling sex, mindless repetition of desultory actions,stet comma and death. Still, they provide little moments of recognition that make even the bleakest stories involving. Sharply observed and simply told, these are disquieting portraits of desire and unfulfillment. - Publishers Weekly

"You know, when I think about myself and the life I've led, I feel self-loathing, shame, disgust," says the grossly obese main character of the story "Fat Man." "But when I imagine myself as a character in a novel... well, I think I'm pretty interesting, kind of offbeat, intriguing, entertaining." This self-description of the title character in "Fat Man" might apply to many of radio dramatist Frank's characters. "Tell Me What To Do" traces the emotional dance of a couple in a continuing affair whose need for self-protection keeps them distant from each other. The parallel narratives of "Night" focus on Kevin, an ex-con Vietnam vet working for a New Age guru, and his mother, a stripper. When combined with Frank's surprising plot twists, the result is a collection that's "kind of offbeat, intriguing, entertaining." For larger public libraries. - Lawrence Rungren

One afternoon in 1987 I felt compelled to look at the radio that for years had been mumbling to itself at the periphery of my attention. The impulse had nothing to do with the sense of an "electronic hearth" that made families in old magazine illustrations stare dreamily at their consoles. There was nothing cozy about discovering National Public Radio's "Joe Frank: Work in Progress."
First, there was the voice. It had something in common with the standard announcerly voice of God-Orson Welles or James Earl Jones-but this is the voice of a rogue announcer: Smoky, inward, urgent, it seems to speak from deep within a self-induced trance. Hearing it is like coming into possession of the car radio in Jean Cocteau's film "Orpheus" that issues bulletins from the kingdom of the dead. Frank's voice can confer a sense of portent on anything.
Admirers of "Work in Progress" may have their reservations about a book based on the program, for language is just one of the show's resources. Experiencing it through a text, fans might argue, would be like curling up with the score of a symphony. A given episode might be a radio play, a short story, a sequence of narrative fragments or the improvisations of a panel of "critics" who "clarify" the meaning of it all. Aside from Frank's voice, the texts are enhanced by a repertory group of actors and an eclectic range of musical scores.
But Frank's first book, "The Queen of Puerto Rico"-a collection of seven stories and a play-should reassure anyone who wonders if his words can perform unaccompanied. In the opening story, "Just Tell Me What To Do"-a narrative of a woman scarred by incest and of the lover who finds her passivity irresistible-Frank attempts an understated rendering that ends up reading like a summary. Otherwise his style has the spareness of the oral tradition, an eye for the emblematic or oddball detail, and a narrative authority that invests freakish events and aimless lives with a sense of inevitability.
If there is a presiding spirit in these works, it is Poe's "Imp of the Perverse," the demon that makes us act against what we believe are our natures and intentions. In the title story a young man, on vacation with his parents in Puerto Rico, falls in love with an unapproachable woman dressed in pink. He dedicates his future to finding and winning her, but on his last night in Puerto Rico he gets stoned and ends up sleeping with an older man.
The incident, he thinks, is just an unpleasant detour from his quest, and he reconsecrates his memory of the Pink Lady by adorning himself with pink jewels. Later, after he has started to wear pink earrings to match the jewelry and has begun to notice the amorous stares of other men, he never quite renounces his search for the Pink Lady-his real and ideal pursuits advancing in perfect parallel.
The protagonist of "Fat Man" is the Imp embodied. In college he developed a reputation as a wit for periodically stealing brownies from every Howard Johnson's between the campus and his hometown and then, when his dorm room began to stink from trunkfuls of stale chocolate, driving back across the country and smuggling the brownies back onto counters. When Howard Johnson's went out of business, he liked to think "he had played his small part in the decline of a great American institution."
The brownie caper seems to have been a defining episode in his life; he can no longer bridge the gap between the world and his smirking aesthetic distance. Having never worked a full-time job, he tries to sleep away the morning hours with their sounds of people going to work. Learning that his mother has been hospitalized after a suicide attempt, he imagines the anecdotes he will tell about it. Obscenely fat, he maintains an aesthetic distance even from his own condition:
"You know, when I think about myself and the life I've led, I feel shame, loathing, disgust. . . . But when I imagine myself as a character in a novel . . . well, then I think I'm pretty interesting. . . ."
These stories can read like a Baby Boom take on film noir. The characters often seem to have lost their sense of direction in the '60s and, like the loners and petty criminals of noir, lead seedy lives at the margins of cities. They are prone to wearing sunglasses at night, and their laconic, hardboiled dialogue tends to be peppered with the jargon of therapy.
Like Edward Hopper and the directors of film noir, Frank can make urban loneliness and desolation compelling. There is a plangent moment, reminiscent of Hopper, in "Tell Me What To Do" when a man in a bar leaves the woman he is beginning to fall in love with and goes out to make a phone call; when he looks at her through the window, he sees her as "the kind of woman you see sitting alone at the end of a bar when it closes down."
The book concludes with "The Decline of Spengler," a radio play that describes one man's search for an idea of the sacred compatible with the modern world. But in this vision of the 20th Century, divinity and evil blur and fuse, and all discourse veers toward the trivial-as when a panel of monks, discussing the modern meaning of the Resurrection, gets sidetracked into a discussion of wash-and-wear cassocks. The deity of such a world is the Imp of the Perverse. - Barry Schechter

Joe Frank, "a radio artist" on KCRW, is better known for performing his stories than for writing them, and indeed these eight tales share the kind of confiding, expository tone that might be enhanced by inflection, dramatic pacing and voice.
Oral literature with an urban setting, they recount facts in staccato bursts, intercut narrative with asides, or juxtapose italicized subplots whose connections or relevance are not always at first clear.
Frank tells about his characters rather than attempting to submerge himself into their points of view. There's a distance, a cool, objective and observant eye at work, that, in the best parts of this collection, is most effective.
"Tell Me What to Do," the opening story, concerns the adulterous relationship of two co-workers, as viewed from the male point of view. Subtly, inexorably, the affair--and with it, the man's life--veers away from the control he initially assumes he exerts, and ultimately he finds himself alone, lost, without mooring.
"He took a deep breath and plunged into the street. Three blocks away, gasping, he stopped under the marquee of an X-rated movie house. His clothes were drenched. He watched the rain slanting in the wind. Traffic moved slowly along the avenue and he heard the distant siren of an ambulance. He thought: I do not want to go home and ducked into the theater."
In "The Queen of Puerto Rico," a young man on vacation with his family at a hotel in St. Thomas fantasizes about a mysterious woman with all pink accessories, a woman, he's told, who's "a washed-up hooker." Incrementally over the next few years, without ever consciously making a clear choice, he allows circumstances to act upon him until ultimately he assumes a role parallel to hers at another hotel on another island, becoming a painted, created character who attracts the stares of a man seated at a nearby table.
Frank's men and women tend to drift through their lives, surprised at where they find themselves. Rarely self-reflective, they deal on a surface level, navigating the turns of their fate without much reference to an eventual destination.
The narrator of "Fat Man" aborts one fairly promising career start after another until, almost by default, he's turned into an obese fast-food junkie without the energy or motivation to change direction.
Kevin, the itinerant pool man in "Night," experiences a long slide into dissolution and despair that seems to parallel his physical environment:
"You didn't need to be a religious zealot to believe in impending disaster. The world seemed poised on the edge of an abyss. Tremors were recorded every week and a major earthquake had been predicted. When fires started they spread quickly, fueled by the Santa Ana winds. The fires burned off the brush on the hillsides, and when the rains came, the rocks and mud, without roots to hold the earth in place, collapsed in avalanches. A few months ago, on the Pacific Coast Highway, Kevin had sped through a torrent of falling stones and had watched in his rearview mirror as a mountain of rubble rose behind him."
Finally, after a series of increasingly disastrous mistakes, "it occurred to him that he was slowly withdrawing, that the death he had wanted was in him, and he didn't care."
While Frank's fiction is not uniformly successful--"The Decline of Spengler," an exercise in surrealism, left this reader more confused than provoked--it is never uninteresting. He paints a human landscape that is bleak and isolated, but he does so with a vivid language that fairly shimmers with suppressed intensity. - MICHAEL DORRIS

It was the most awful, the most horrendous, the most punishing experience of our lives. And by virtue of that, we felt triumphant… We thought, ‘It doesn’t get any better than this.’ We felt as though we were on a euphoric drug: our hearts full, our souls, as though for the first time, alive.
—Joe Frank, from “Ascent to K2” (1996)

The artist and his medium were locked in a decades-long dance of death. While still in high school, having already weathered surgery for clubfoot, Joe Frank developed testicular cancer and had to undergo painful cobalt radiation treatments. He would spend the rest of his life in and out of treatment for various severe medical ailments, including bladder cancer. He also endured a kidney transplant. Long spells of medically and chemically induced quarantine provided Frank with ample time to ponder the alienation he felt from the world of the living, and ultimately translate much of that uncertainty into groundbreaking radio fictions—with topics including a very ill-prepared expedition to K2 and an imagined dinner conversation with Hitler, Pol Pot, and the other bigshots of evil. For Frank, illness was a kind of muse, giving him the raw material from which to sculpt something new in a venue that had never seen the likes of him before.
And radio obliged him, recognizing in Frank a fellow death-defier. The once-dominant AM/FM bands—pulsing technology that made a plurality of music and voices (and advertising) instantly available to anyone with an antenna—barely survived the takeover of television in the American home in the 1950s, and was squeezed dry by corporate consolidation of once-independent stations through the ’80s and ’90s. The freewheeling New York station WBAI, Frank’s first home for his surrealist aural delights in the late ’70s, remains on life support today: its workforce gutted, its broke noncom owner, Pacifica Foundation, having just lost a $1.8 million lawsuit brought by the Empire State Building over unpaid rent.
And yet when the Internet, and its endless possibilities for transmitter- and static-free idle distraction, came along to deliver the final blow, radio did not kneel at its feet but rather absorbed it into its very DNA. In podcasts and streaming audio, the medium has mutated into another, more economically viable and (in some ways) accessible form. The next generation may never know the thrill of turning the dial late at night to search for signs of life, bypassing the bleeps and yowls of static like aliens desperately trying to make contact from another world. But podcasting does ensure that all the weirdness of this world can be instantly summoned from the void of cyberspace, for those who want to hear it.
Podcasting began in earnest in the mid-2000s, shortly after Frank was fired from his longtime post at Los Angeles public radio station KCRW, where for two decades he had commandeered the airwaves at night with his weird and grandiose visions of comic nihilism. Although Frank would create a few bits for KCRW’s podcasts in the final decade of his life, his output had already slowed down considerably due to his health. Frank died this past January, at 79, after yet another protracted medical battle—this time with colon cancer. His decades of cutting-edge, surrealist pieces (he hated the term “radio drama,” and any other phrases that would have made his work easier to categorize) would have to live on via his website, and in the station presets of the memories of his fans.
Joe Frank: Somewhere Out There, a new documentary that premiered on March 22, 2018, at the Sonoma International Film Festival, aims to increase the signal of Frank’s afterlife. Its primary audience, though, is likely to remain those who were tuned in years ago. Made with Frank’s widow, Michal Story, as associate producer, and featuring several interviews with Frank himself, the film is a cycle of praise from the artist’s friends and admirers (the latter of which include Harry Shearer, David Cross, Alexander Payne, and Grace Zabriskie) interspersed with a generous selection of clips from his work.
Director D.P. Carlson, a Chicago-based filmmaker and audiophile whose previous films include documentaries about KISS guitarist Paul Stanley and the ’80s-era power-pop band The Bears, makes the talking-head portions overlong and somewhat rote. But the clips speak for themselves, the same way Frank did for all those years: conjuring a world of despair and grim humor, of horrors and deep, uncomfortable revelations. Carlson accentuates them with lo-fi digital scrapbook imagery, doodles of volume levels and other things for the eye to focus on while the mind wanders, hypnotized.
I had a peculiar, Frank-like experience with Somewhere Out There: hours before I settled in to view my screener, I had to give a presentation I desperately did not want to give. As I spoke, my desire to be anywhere but there manifested itself in a persistent, oddly violent fantasy. Gouge my eyes out with a spoon, I thought, over and over. Just scoop them right out and plop them on the floor.
Lo and behold, as I watched Carlson’s film later that night, Frank himself vocalized this exact nightmare. But he goes further, deeper into a vivid chasm of harmful thoughts that welcomed him like an old friend. He ponders what it would be like “to have a spoon dig deep into my eye sockets, severing arteries and veins, my eyes being gouged out of my head while I screamed in agony until they fell to the floor with a wet, plopping sound.”
In the piece, Frank (or a version of him) is recounting how, as a boy, he would torture himself with dark visions of being imprisoned by Nazis, who would give him a kind of Sophie’s choice: volunteer for the eye-gouging or consent to having his parents “beaten to death with rifle butts.” It seems like the sort of thing that would be too bizarre and unsettling to be accessible. But that’s the magic of Frank’s best work: they’re oddly abstract visions that somehow still communicate intimate shared thoughts and anxieties. And when you consider that Frank’s parents were Jews who had fled to the U.S. from Nazi-occupied Poland, only for his father to die when Joe was five and his mother to struggle with severe depression, it takes on the feeling of a man reckoning with his demons by giving them a voice—his own.
But by barely featuring Frank until close to the end, the film muddles both the timeline of his life and the chance to have its own subject lend that distinctive voice to his own story. Frank’s pathways become murky: he had dropped out of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop because he hated focus-grouping stories with classmates who had no life experience, yet once he found his career, he spent so much time and energy making radio that he admits he gathered little life experience himself. He refuses, in the film, to name any radio hosts who inspired him, determined to be an orbit of one, and some of the only influences he confesses to of any kind are Kafka and Dostoevsky. The film also paints a specific, somewhat unfortunate picture of Frank’s fans: white, middle-aged men in counterculture circles, and women who could apparently think only of bedding him and becoming fodder for some of his randier tapes.
The image of Frank that emerges strongest in Carlson’s film is that of a mercurial obsessive. He would park himself in KCRW’s studios long into the night, fine-tuning segments until a producer could yank the tape from him and stick it on the air. He frequently partnered with actors to improvise little scenes (again here, he hated the terms “script” and “line readings”), but would also secretly tape-record phone conversations with friends, collaborators, and lovers, then use them as part of new pieces. Every relationship in his life was potential radio fodder. And Frank topped all that off with a rather fierce sense of ownership. The film includes a clip of him spitting fire at fans who would mail him their short stories in the hopes of getting him to read them on the air, without revealing how much of his anger is an act:
I’m the author of the material here. It is my work, promulgated by me. It’s my show, it’s not your show. And I’m not here to read your stories. I am not a mirror; I am a source of light. I am not a reflecting surface; I am heat. My purpose is not to vibrate with your experience, but rather to resonate with my own.
To resonate with one’s own experience: such a simple desire, yet one that will always be corrupted somehow. In 2008, Frank superfan Andrew Hearst discovered that Martin Scorsese and screenwriter Joseph Minion plagiarized large portions of one of his stories for their 1985 comedy After Hours. (Frank allegedly settled for an undisclosed sum at the time.) Carlson doesn’t dig into the episode in Somewhere Out There, but it’s essential to understanding Frank’s strange legacy in the art world: the way he seemed to command all the ideas and none of the power. Frank’s “Lies,” broadcast in 1982 on NPR Playhouse, tells of a naive man lured across town by the promise of sex with a kooky woman he’s just met. As the evening progresses, the woman relates several outrageous stories from her life that may or may not be true, but the man, himself recently separated, comes to accept that the both of them are complicit in weaving together the shared fantasy of a one-night stand. “I’m not sure if you’re for real or not,” he says to his companion at the end. “Well, I’ll never tell,” she replies.
After Hours essentially steals this entire piece, including specific jokes, and uses it as the first act of a dream-logic narrative in which its hero (Griffin Dunne) inadvertently becomes the villain to an entire New York neighborhood over the course of one night. The film imagines the woman’s troubles as little more than the first warning bell for the man to flee from, just like all the other crazy, hormonal ladies he meets that night—a mindset later confirmed when the woman (played by Rosanna Arquette) commits suicide shortly after he runs out on her. Scorsese and Minion didn’t want to have to deal with too many depressive loners in their surreal New York odyssey, so they whacked the most compelling one. They did not understand, as Frank did, that surreal odysseys are almost always undertaken by depressive loners. It’s all the blank space in the mind, all that contemplation of otherworldly things, that allows the strangeness of our world to float to the level of conscious thought.
Frank may not have been much of a podcaster himself, but today’s grand buffet of sonic choices includes more than a few of his disciples. Ira Glass, who is interviewed in the film, had his first paid job in public radio as Frank’s production assistant during a short stint at NPR, and has often credited his former boss with expanding his concept of what radio could be. This American Life sometimes feels like a sanitized version of one of Frank’s programs. The variety-show format will often follow a deeply reported investigation with a spoken-word essay from a comedian, describing some absurd incident that may or may not have happened to them in exactly that way, and Glass will connect everything under the umbrella of a single theme, so no one story has to feel like it’s twirling in the void. And Frank’s heavy reliance on drone sounds in his mixing was undoubtedly an influence on Radiolab, whose creator, Jad Abumrad, had followed in Frank’s footsteps at WBAI and pushed his intricate editing and mood-conjuring to new, Pink Floyd-esque heights.
So it was that mere days after Frank’s passing, Radiolab and On the Media dropped lengthy remembrances of his life and work into their feeds. Appearing on Abumrad’s show, Glass marveled at a piece where Frank had once left the microphone to fix himself a cup of tea, while On the Media host Brooke Gladstone remembered how certain pieces of his (one that described trying to go to the bathroom while wearing a chicken suit, for example) had often felt too naughty for radio, when in fact there was nothing explicitly vulgar about them. And millions of listeners, in all likelihood more people than had ever before heard an original Frank broadcast simultaneously, could instantly eavesdrop on this Holy Trinity of public radio as they mourned their shared sensei.
The bard of the loners has an audience, somewhere out there. - Andrew Lapin

Joe Frank has a  30 year career of creating spellbinding radio story stories unlike anything you've ever heard. His work is dark, disorienting, often hilarious and has inspired people like Ira Glass, David Sedaris and screenwriter Charlie Kaufman. On this episode, Joe Frank created his first work for KCRW in 10 years. Dreamers is a contemplation of time and mortality. It includes stories about a family's tragic visit to Palestine and a man who attends a dinner party after learning he might be dying.
Dreamers was written and produced by Joe Frank and features Joe Frank and Larry Block. It was mixed by Ray Guarna.

The Believer - Interview with Joe Frank

Joe Frank (1938 - 2018) began his radio career in 1976 at WBAI, Pacifica's New York station, and served as co-anchor of NPR's All Things Considered in the show's early days.
At WBAI, he hosted a Saturday night show called In the Dark , where he experimented with live free-form radio featuring his monologues and actor improvisations that evolved into his trademark sound and sensibility. Over the course of the next four decades Frank produced over two hundred radio programs for KCRW in Santa Monica, and NPR. Frank was also a performer, playwright and author of The Queen of Puerto Rico and Other Stories , based on his radio work.
Throughout his career, Frank was honored with many major industry awards including the 2003 Third Coast's Lifetime Achievement Award, a George Foster Peabody Award, and an Emmy. Over the years Joe’s distinctive approach to making radio has inspired producers around the country to experiment with and stretch the medium beyond traditional boundaries.