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Authors: Nigey Lennon

Being Frank

Dedication and Acknowledgements

© 2003 Nigey Lennon
Illustrations © 2003 Suzy Beal
All rights reserved
First printing 1995
Second printing 1996
Second edition, first printing 2003
Printed in the United States of America


To Eric Weaver, and to Frank Y. Zappa (1940-1993), without whom... Something/anything, late as usual.


Being Frank
was originally published, the book has had a profound effect on many aspects of my life, For me, the best part of writing it was being contacted by John Tabacco and Patrice (aka Candy) Zappa, becoming friends with them, and subsequently working with them both on musical collaborations. I was also delighted to get to know Mrs. RoseMarie Zappa, Frank's mother. Her appreciation of the book is priceless to me. I owe debts of gratitude to many people whom I probably wouldn't have had the pleasure of knowing if the book hadn't brought us together. I thank David Walley for his friendship and constantly stimulating ideas, and for having the guts to be the first to stick his neck out on the subject of Frank Zappa (and to take the heat for it!). Greg Russo never ceases to amaze me with his voluminous store of Zappoid minutiae and his generosity in sharing same. Juha Romppanen, in the process of requesting my input for his own forthcoming Zappa tome, raised many interesting questions that led me to rethink my own ideas. Gerry Fialka, John Scialli, and Andrew Greenaway (he of the Idiot Bastard Son website), in various ways, have provided a most gratifying cheering section. In a magnanimous spirit of pro bono, Greg Sandell kept my website going for several years, for which I finally have a chance to thank him publicly. Many thanks are due, too, to Glenn Bartz for his subsequent help with the site. Ken Boor of the L.A. Type continues to contribute his inspired ideas, brilliant design, and wry humor to the existing site (
) as well as to both editions of this book. And Lionel Rolfe, the czar of Literary L.A.., has been extremely understanding, caring, and supportive through both editions.

Musically, my heartfelt thanks to Paul Adamy, Mark Berman, Ray and Nina Marchica, Joe Meo, Ed Palermo, Jay Rozen, and Jimmy Carl Black for their sweat and inspiration while performing with the Lennon-Tabacco-Zappa band at the 13th annual Zappanale festival in Bad Doberan, Germany, July ‘02.

Last but definitely not least, muchas gracias to Eric Weaver. If I were to enumerate everything I'm grateful to him for, I'd have to add another signature to the book. My condolences to all those whom I may have inadvertently or deliberately left out.

Cover and guts layout:
The L.A. Type
'Pataphysical layout suggestions:
Aaron Silverman

Cover photo © 2003 Phil Stern
Author photo © 2003 E. Ellery Weaver

California Classics Books
P.O. Box 29756, Los Angeles, CA 90029
[email protected]

Table of Contents



1.   Meet Mr. Honker

2.   The Short Hello

3.   The Unbearable Lightness of Berkeley

4.   Ride My Face to Seattle

5.   For
I Learned to Play Stravinsky??!

6.   Positively 57th Street

7.   My Continuing Education

8.   The Young Person's Guide to Explosives

9.   Home, Home and Deranged

10. Statement of Earnings

11. No Commercial Potential

12. Use a Typewriter, Go to Prison

13. Goodnight, Boys & Girls


Author's Update


ime and those waves again. It only seems like yesterday (and it probably was if you're dealing with the Zappa zen/beatnik time-is-all-and-in-everything concept) when I first had the pleasure of meeting Nigey Lennon. I further aver that it scares me to acknowledge that it's been thirty years since I encountered her while she was in residence under Frank Zappa's Bosendorfer piano in Laurel Canyon in the hills above Hollywood, California. Happily, and as it was supposed to happen, this is precisely the subject of the book you are holding in your hot little hands, and is a memoir of that bittersweet time when she, the red-haired waif, encountered the only Frank Zappa, a man who needs no introduction, as an imperssionable young girl. [NB. Not to make too fine of a point, but if Zappa needed any introduction at all, you certainly wouldn't be perusing these words in the first place as this is the new millennium and people are lucky if they remember what happened last week if not thirty years ago, but then again biography and memory is getting to be a lost art … but that's a subject for another forword for another Lennon book.] On this auspicious occasion, she wanted me to remind you of the fact that dreams do happen, though sometimes you're not sure who is dreaming what or how it's going to turn out.

There a few ways to approach the information and observations contained in this book; many ways in which to read this book, to process the information contained herein. On the one hand, it can be appreciated solely as a piece of hot rock and roll gossip about a legendary sixties musical iconoclast. On the other hand, and more constructively I think,
Being Frank
can be viewed as a cautionary tale, a cinema verité. rock-and-roll moral fable, an historically accurate emotional portrait of one of America's most enigmatic modern musicians during an important transitional period in his life when he was free of the emotional/financial baggage of the original Mothers of Invention and could do as he creatively wished. It gives early testimony to how Zappa would be continually creatively conflicted by straddling the zones between classical and contemporary pop music, and how and why he ended up tap-dancing on the edges of both though ultimately never being satisfied with either position.
And if you've got eyes to see it and the mind to accept it, this is the Frank Zappa that Nigey encountered so long ago and far away during her period of residence under the Zappa piano. The learned reader must be cautioned that of course none of these events fit into the standard Zappa myth. I say sucks to them, get a life!

Ever since
Being Frank'
s initial publication, controversy was attached to this book by those in the frank-zappa universe as well as by others who live in the real world (or think they do). They say that what you are reading is all lies, that Frank Zappa never had a girl guitar player in his band, much less one with whom he was intimate with for an extended period of time. I sympathize, having been in that position with
No Commercial Potential
, my biography of Frank Zappa which has been in print lo these thirty years. Controversy has also swirled around my own book, strangely, believe it, voiced by some of the same people, but at least I had the personal experience to back it up, the interviews from the master's lips, scrupulously un-edited in some cases to allow points to be made. Frank might not have liked what my book disclosed and thought I had some kind of axe to grind and spent most of the Seventies denigrating me and the book, but even his close friends admitted that indeed it was accurate, and presented a human being in a human universe. And since I'11 assume I'm among friends here, I'll admit that it tickles my fancy that with all the post-modernist bullshit that has been laid on Zappa's head posthumously, all those guys still have to read my book first to get themselves fixed whether they want to or not. And that even at this late stage, even Frank by this time (if he gives a rat's ass about such things wherever he is), has grown to accept that my portrait is far better than others.

The same is true here; Nigey obviously has her own unique view, Moreover, if you read our books in tandem, you'll begin to get a three-dimensional picture of Zappa in his early formative years, comparatively speaking to time and those waves, you understand: mine, hers, his, and most especially yours.

It is hoped that our books (Nigey's as well as mine) will make you eager to re-experience the music of Frank Zappa with new ears and points-of-view; if not new, then at least nuanced ears; if not nuanced ears, at least with an altered perspective from which to view Zappa's emerging project-object since his work rests within a larger framework of time and those waves (can't get away from them!) though perhaps we will not be able experience it in this time and space if you're following me. l am making no brief for any kind of revisionist thinking, or any other
kind of thinking save to remark yet again that what makes Zappa such a quirky individual and his music so irresistible (once having experienced Zappa one is forever after spoiled) is precisely what Nigey has patiently and passionately documented, and that between the two of our books is a valuable portrait of one of the more intriguing and enigmatic cultural figures of the Twentieth Century, god help us all.

— David Walley
    Author of
No Commercial Potential: The Saga of Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention

What I Did On My Summer Vacation,
Or How I Met Nigey Lennon

Actually summer had nothing to do with meeting Nigey Lennon. Her book,
Being Frank: My Time With Frank Zappa
was given to me as a Christmas gift. Little did I know it would be the gift that kept on giving! I was so fascinated by Nigey's musings about Frank and her relationship with him, that I had to contact her and meet this interesting and highly witty lady. I was given her phone number and alas only reached her answering machine. I left a message saying who I was and asked if she would like to meet, Nigey responded immediately, and in January 1997, Nigey and her then husband Lionel Rolfe, another wonderfully talented author of several books about the Los Angeles literary scene, came for dinner at my place. When she appeared at the door with her shiny red hair and dark glasses, I felt like Frank would soon come in behind her. He almost did, in the form of a wonderful photo by photographer Phil Stern which Nigey had put into a burgundy frame. I look at it and burst into tears — it was still hard to not be upset over his untimely passing. She hugged me and said she understood. After that meeting, things just jelled rapidly. Nigey listened to a recording of my singing and asked if wanted to record a few songs on her up and coming CD
Reinventing the Wheel
. Well how could I turn that down! Finally in February of 1998, we went into the studio and the rest is history.

Nigey is one of the few people that knew Frank and was close enough to know him well and could tell me about my own brother. As I have stated in my book and the forward to Greg Russo's book
Cosmik Debris
I wasn't allowed to hang with Frank and so any information I could glean from someone about him was a special treat for me. I envy anyone who was close to him during the '70s, '80s and at his time of death.

The one thing I can say about Nigey is this: Nigey knows.

— Patrice “Candy” Zappa
    Author of
My Brother Was A Mother

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