WOODLAND HILLS, Calif. — Flamboyance and family. Muscles and manners. Frank Barbarino was a stand up guy, by all accounts. Hundreds of adult industry veterans, MMA fighters, bikers and law enforcement officials paid tribute to him on Monday night at the Hilton Woodland Hills, two weeks after the 57-year-old passed away.
As president of the FB Productions commercial printing company, Barbarino built his fortune supplying countless adult film box covers for nearly 30 years, while also serving mainstream Hollywood studios. A bona fide Italian stallion with pointed loafers and a million dollar smile, Barbarino drove fast cars and dispensed engraved rings to his "Bad Boys Club."
Yet, for all his achievements and fashionable swagger, Barbarino was most beloved for his generous spirit. His largesse was not only a tremendous financial boon to strangers and members of his inner circle alike, but also a source of deep emotional strength. That mythic stature inspired more than 300 people to fill a vast ballroom at the Hilton, celebrating his life.
Several speakers went to the podium to honor his memory, starting with David Wohl, a trusted advisor and longtime business associate.
“It seems like yesterday, he cold-called my office, looking for print work,” he said. “That smile, there was a look about him that just made you feel comfortable. Needless to say, Frank became my printer, and that was the start of our friendship. I think anyone who knew Frank, which by the way is everyone in this room, knew he would always be successful at whatever he did, because he gave everyone respect, love and kindness."
Burly MMA fighter Alfie Alcaraz spoke next. The UFC 22 fighter counts Chuck Liddel (who was in attendance) and Scott Adams among his peers, but considers his kinship with Barbarino to be truly peerless. Alcaraz praised the gentle giant for his big-hearted personality, valuable advice and unflinching loyalty.
He was followed by Robert Saunders, a regular at Powerhouse Gym in Chatsworth, where he befriended Barbarino. “Wow, you know, standing here looking out, you can just see how many lives Francesco touched,” he said. “As you all know, he’s truly amazing, he gives his heart and then some. With that being said, I’d like to raise my glass to the world’s most interesting man.”
Everyone did so, amidst hearty whoops and cries of “salute!”
Allen Gold, who previously served as vice president of sales for Beechum’s Cherry Boxxx Pictures, shared his own first impressions about Barbarino. Like so many others, Gold’s fascination was immediate, as he accorded celebrity-like status to a man whose flash and cash were spellbinding. He remembered how Barbarino wore “torn off jeans, pink shirt, believe me, he looked good in a pink shirt, he’s the only guy.” In lieu of a handshake, Barbarino gave him a surprisingly affectionate embrace, and the two became fast friends.
“I’ll never forget, two months later, he started talking about training, working out… because he was always fit,” Gold said. “And he says one day, ‘I’m gonna pick you up and we’re gonna go work out.’ Saturday morning, he picked me up, we went down to Powerhouse… the next day, I couldn’t even lift my shoulders up.” Barbarino lifted his sizeable wallet as effortlessly as gym weights, selflessly aiding Gold in the acquisition of a high-end car. “And then, we just had this whole car camaraderie. And then, a year later, Kevin gave me this ring. And I was like wow, and I noticed everybody started wearing this ring.”
That shining talisman granted Gold access to Barbarino’s exclusive “Bad Boys Club” brotherhood, an honor bestowed with as much reverence as a papal blessing.
“This ring, ever since Kevin gave it to me meant so much to me, because Kevin gave it to me,” explained Gold. “Now, it means so much more, because Frankie had one as well. It was a whole bunch of you guys who had it too.”
He stared into the vast sea of beatific smiles and pointed out that belonging to Barbarino’s tribe transcended the very firmaments of family. “We’re gonna miss him… rest in peace.”
One branch of that extended Barbarino family was painted LAPD blue, as Captain Maureen Ryan could attest, and not just because he helped raise more than $150,000 for the force. The commanding officer of the Topanga Division wistfully shared, “The first time I saw Frank he was walking down — we called it the ‘big hallway’ — with one of our volunteers. I was pregnant with twins and I saw him and I had the same reaction as probably every woman in the room, and it was ‘oh my, who’s that? He’s not a cop.’ And he had the jeans on, silk Italian shirt and he was suave and he had his pointed shoes. And I was like ‘wow those are some pointy shoes.’ And that’s how I met Frank. And I grew up working at a mom-and-pop Italian restaurant and I went to university in Rome, so I really like Italians.
“Everyone from the LAPD and everybody at Topanga, who so loved Frank, please raise your glass and say ‘salute!’” The crowd obliged. “Because, this man touched everyone in this room and beyond and I think right now he is in amazement at the impact his life had on everyone…. his accolades go on and on, but I would like to take a moment to thank somebody that’s so very special. His mama, who gave us Frank, who gave us Francesco — grazie mama!” Thunderous applause followed.
“Anybody that knows me, knows that I’m 100 percent Irish — I call it the Irish heart, but I have an Italian soul,” she said, before reciting an ancient Irish blessing and playing “The Prayer,” by Andrea Bocelli and Celine Dion. Not a dry eye was left in the room.
One of the most emotional tributes that evening came next, as Barbarino’s personal trainer Ronny Camacho said, “I was with him on Monday afternoon, I was the last person that saw him... he wanted us to celebrate tonight and I just want to tell you from the bottom of my heart to all the brothers that are here, and everyone that came to show their respect, we truly… truly appreciate it. And Frank, I love you, brothers for life. Everybody raise their cups. This is Patrón… because we know how we used to do it at the house! We love you Frank.”
The penultimate speaker was Sean Agahi. He offered a few words about Barbarino, the man who secured an elite American Express Black Card for him and with whom he survived a nearly fatal Lamborghini car accident in 2004. Lavish clothes, high-speed thrill seeking and effortless kindness once again dominated the narrative.
Beechum then gave brief closing remarks, thanking everyone for attending and inviting them to continue the merrymaking in Barbarino’s honor. The room remained packed beyond capacity for the next hour, amidst clinking glasses, frequent hugging and jovial gossip.
As celebrants wandered the opulent ballroom, XBIZ spoke with Beechum and others about their fondest memories of Barbarino.
Jerry E. of Elegant Angel stated, “I’ve known Frank for 20 some odd years. Not only was he like a mentor in business to me, but he became one of my major friends. And this is one of the saddest things to see him go. You know, I loved him like a brother. He helped me with so many things. And I’m really, really gonna miss him. He was the nicest, sweetest, shirt-off-the-back type of guy you’re ever gonna meet. I don’t like a lot of people and I don’t let people in, and he was just one of those people that I definitely let him and I’m so happy I did.”
Jules Jordan also worked with Barbarino in the past. “Frank did our printing,” he explained. “We printed with him in the mid-2000s and recently came back. We had a good history with him. And we recently came back to do business with him. He’s always been a welcoming, accommodating person. And I can’t say I know him as well as a lot of people here. But he’s always been a real standup guy. And just a great person to do business with.”
“He was always very friendly to me,” said parody porn director Will Ryder. “Always went out of his way to say ‘hi’ and he hung around with the big crew. And it was fun to see those guys making their way through Vegas as a group, going off to a fight or something like that. I wasn’t a part of the crew, but I certainly knew the guys in the crew. And they were all good guys. And Frank was a very nice guy to me. One fond memory, I remember I was in line at Las Vegas for something and he was getting whisked to the front of the line and he got out of the line just to say ‘hi’ to me, and then he was whisked back to the front.”
Camacho, surrounded by hulking fighters, stepped aside to reflect on the life and times of Barbarino. “I was his trainer,” he said. “He was my big brother. But as far as the industry, everyone he touched in the industry loved him. He loved the industry, he loved growing with the industry, but he was the most passionate, loving, caring… as you heard here. He’s one of a kind. But he really… he loved everyone.
“He’s just the kind of person that everyone wanted to be his friend,” he continued. “Everyone was fortunate to have him as a friend or brother. That was him. He embraced everyone. Doesn’t matter what ethnicity. He cared about everyone. He loved everyone. This is a reflection of him. He brought people together.”
As well-wishers slowly began to disperse, Beechum took a moment to express his deepest admiration for Barbarino. “He was my brother,” he said. “He was my best friend. And every day, we talked. There wasn’t a day we didn’t talk. And there ain’t nothing we didn’t do together. You seen me, you seen Frankie… you seen Frankie, you seen me.” He glanced about at the jostling crowd with a bittersweet smile. “The turn out was good, huh? 300 plus… easy 300 plus.”
That so many hearts had come together in nostalgic homage, spoke volumes about his grandeur. Salute, Barbarino.