Jack Frankel, Ex-University President, Aspiring Actor at Age 61
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ As a founder of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, scientist- univers ity president Jack Frankel helped send man toward the stars. Now at the age of 61, he’s on his own trek to stardom.
Frankel quit his job last year as president of California State University at Bakersfield to become an actor. He now has a small part in a low-budget horror film, his first role in a feature movie.
Frankel - who holds a doctorate in quantum mechanics and metallurgy and did pioneering research in the 1950s on manned space flight and atom-powered aircraft - insists he made the career change ″because it’s fun.″
″I was essentially at the top of my profession. I started out as a graduate student at Berkeley and ended up as president of a university. I suppose I could have become president of a larger university, but it struck me that I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life doing this,″ Frankel said recently. ″I realized that when I retired I’d have to live very frugally. I needed some other source of money.
″A very good friend of mine at Bakersfield was a professor of drama and he said, ‘Why don’t you make commercials? Everybody who goes into commercials makes lots of money.’
″I figured, how many more years do I have to live? Actuarially, maybe 20. So I thought I might as well try it.″
Frankel, who lives in suburban Northridge, joined an actors’ workshop at the Santa Monica Playhouse, sent resumes to producers of commercials, auditioned for unpaid roles in neighborhood theaters and regularly has scanned Drama-Logue, a show-business weekly, for ″actors wanted″ ads.
″I realized that acting was about as different from academic life as you could get,″ he said. ″You don’t have to be terribly intellectual to be an actor, but you do have to be in very good touch with your feelings, which I wasn’t. I had been living essentially using the thinking mode and the sensing mode.
″The hardest part of acting for me is letting go, being uninhibited. That’s the opposite of everything a college administrator learns-particularly a college president. Everything teaches him to conceal what he feels, not to react, not to be quick on the trigger, to be patient and calm under stress.″
After small stage roles and commercials, Frankel won a a part in ″The Tomb,″ a horror film to be released this summer starring Cameron Mitchell, John Carradine, Mamie Van Doren and Sybil Danning.
The movie is about an Egyptian vampire princess awakened by an earthquake.
″I’m a professor of Oriental languages who stumbles on the key to this monster woman,″ Frankel said. ″She tears my heart out with her fingernails.
″It’s a very good scene, one of the high points of my career.″
He said the assistant director knelt beside him with a bottle of stage blood, ″spraying it on my face so you get the impression that blood is spurting out of my chest.
″We had to do five or six takes because he missed me on the first take when I threw my head back to scream, and he hit the director instead because I hadn’t told him my head was going to move.″