Sheela-na-Gig aka Jeanne Rathbone


Posted in Uncategorized by sheelanagigcomedienne on July 28, 2010

Saturday evening 24th July I went along to a brief firework display which incorporated Frank’s ashes. I had taken Frank’s funeral a year ago and he had requested that some of his ashes be made into a firework so that he could be sent of with a bang. His friend Mathew who was his next-of-kin contact for me had arranged for me, as Humanist chaplain at Kings College Hospital, to come to visit as Frank was dying. They wanted someone with a similar belief to be there with them as they said goodbye to him. We talked, they told me about Frank and his colourful life and I read the Brian Patten poem ‘How long is a man’s life?  I, too, held his hand. He died about an hour afterwards. This is always such a privilege and an emotional experience.

Mathew wrote the tribute for me to read at Frank’s funeral in Honor Oak Crematorium. Andrew from Uden the Funeral Directors was helpful as they lit over a hundred tea-lights in the chapel. We were the last funeral of the day. Frank’s friends and colleagues whom I met when we went back to the venue in a delightful room above the East Dulwich Tavern were a lovely, loyal, lively and artistic bunch.

Here is Mathew’s TRIBUTE TO FRANK.

Frank was born on July 26 1961 – in Hamburg, Germany. His father died when he was 13. He has one brother, Sven, who is younger, his mother Uli Simon (actress), and his aunt Lisselotte. His father ran the oldest theatre in Hamburg, the St Pauli Theatre.

So frank has always been involved in the world of theatre, and used to help out and take part in productions at Hamburg Ballet as a young boy. Absolutely loved this milieu all his life and clearly it was hugely influential in his personality, taste, skills, knowledge and career choices.

He attended Heinrich High School, Hamburg. He did a 3-year apprenticeship (tailoring and dressmaking) and a pattern cutting course at Muller and Sohn College Hamburg.

Then he decided to come to London around ‘85. This was where things were really happening in the fashion world, certainly in terms of street fashion – Vivienne Westwood, Bodymap, John Galliano, ID magazine, the Face etc etc. He was very good at networking and some of his friends in Hamburg were quite well connected with London ‘society’ too. Frank could merge seamlessly between the various British scenes and sets. And in some ways was more British than the British. He didn’t get the affectionate tag ‘ the Lord’ from some of his closer gay friends for nothing. Because of his height and thinness, he always identified with giraffes.
He knew a couple of models from Hamburg days, Linda and Marianna.  They lived in Putney at first,then Muswell Hill with Jane Dixon and Aaron who was studying fashion at St Martins. Lots of adventures there, including losing control rollerskating down Muswell Hill, then to a bedsit where he met Garry Page in Kings X which was really the area that Frank loved and always wanted to return to. He had rented a flat there for a while, before Mathew met him finally getting the housing association flat in North Clapham in ’95.

He went to St Martins to study Theatre Design in about 99-2000. There are be some of his alumni here. His fashion experience in UK included working for  Joe Casely-Heyford,  Duffer of St George, Georgina Godley,  Bodymap and   English Eccentrics.

His film work as costume supervisor and maker – includied  The Madness of King George III , The Crucible,  StarWars , Before you go, What a girl wants, Sylvia,  Thunderbirds,  King Arthur,  De-Lovely, Phantom of the Opera, Kingdom of Heaven and Harry Potter IV.

His theatre costume making included-  King Lear, The Caucasian Chalk Circle, The Designated Mourner,  La Grande Magia,  Oliver, Richard III, Volpone,  Pericles, Carousel, Wind in the Willows, Madness of George III, Moby Dick, Phantom of the Opera as well as lots of other theatre stuff in Germany too .

Frank was very multi-faceted: his theatricality came out at fancy dress parties and he certainly had a sense of the absurd when it would cause others amusement. On a more personal level – and particularly with me and close friends – he had a quieter more ‘introspective’, side – a side which I don’t think many of his work or social friends necessarily saw. I think this comes through from the more intimate pictures. And I believe this side to Frank is where his total stoicism came from during the last few years, months and days… He was always a generous friend whether materially or spiritually, and people were always enchanted by his total charisma and charm – tricky female actors in particular! – his exoticness, his trademark Frankisms (frivovolous, instead of frivolous etc) and his intuition in winkling out a child’s innate sense of enchantment . And as you can see he was a very handsome devil too. I was so lucky to share intimate time with him and I really value his love throughout all the ups and downs.

Frank had two gorgeous Burmese cats: Mr Blue and Mr Orange and a vast and eclectic collection of friends and colleagues from all walks of life and social strata – whether the lady at the till who invited him to her gospel church (he went) to famous actresses. He also loved flirting – in a non-threatening way. It was part of his charm and charisma. “

We met in the Holly Bush on Saturday and looked at some photographs some going back to 1909 of Frank’s family as well as some of his costumes and the many fancy dress parties that he so loved. Dave came with me and we all set off for the heath at about 10.45 with the firworks box and franks ashes in an urn. It was a delightful moonlit walk through the avenues of trees before we came to the clearing and sprinkled his ashes around a tree. The pyrotechnic show lasting two minutes was brilliant and as we applauded the shout went up ‘Here come the police, lets scarper into the trees’ I grabbed Mathew’s rucksack and we went off running although I was quite happy to do any explaining to the police. I expect they realised it was a one-off and they drove off.


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