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April 12, 2016

Adult Industry Celebrates Life of Frank Barbarino

CHATSWORTH, Calif.—A standing-room-only crowd of family and friends paid tribute to Frank Barbarino Monday night in a moving memorial at the Hilton Woodland Hills. The gathering brought out multiple generations of adult industry professionals to celebrate the life of the beloved owner of FB Productions, one of the leading destinations for commercial printing and packaging in all of entertainment. They remembered Barbarino as a charming, larger-than-life personality who was “kind to a fault,” had effortless style and brightened any room he entered with his easy smile. More than 300 porn business moguls, producers, directors and performers shared roundtables with UFC fighters, Hell’s Angels and law enforcement officials in honor of someone they said was a fiercely loyal, humble man who touched lives everywhere he went. “I think anyone who knew Frank knew he would always be successful at anything he did because he always gave everyone respect, love and kindness,” said Dave Wohl, a confidant of Barbarino for more than 30 years who was among the first to walk to the podium to share a remembrance.  Wohl worked closely with Barbarino for two decades at FB, helping him navigate the company through tough times in the mid-90s en route to turning the Chatsworth-based operation into one of the two go-to places for adult industry box covers to this day.  “Frank gave his all to everyone he ever met,” Wohl continued. “You want to find somebody to ever say something bad about Frank? Good luck, because you won’t. Just look at everybody is this room. “From his former employers to all his competitors past and present, to all the people who ever worked for Frank—vendors, customers, friends and lovers—everybody loved Frank. Why is that? Simple. He was always there for them. In time or in money, everybody knew Frank would help. “…There was nothing he wouldn’t do to help everybody. He loved his family. He cherished his parents. He was very proud of his brothers. He was caring to others to the end.” Barbarino died on March 28 at the age of 57, but his presence was felt Monday as those who knew him best recounted numerous stories of his selflessness and generosity.  “I haven’t slept well for a while and I’m sure a lot of people in this room haven’t slept well either,” Wohl continued. “A couple nights ago I was dreaming and I dreamt about how I’d never met an angel, and then I started dreaming about the good times I had with Frank. “And then sitting at the church at the funeral [on April 8] listening to the priest. And the priest told us all there, ‘God has a reason. God has a plan.’ Well you know what, I think I have met an angel. It was Frank Barbarino.” Darren Roberts, the former CEO of AVN, and Kevin Beechum, the head of K-Beech Productions, hosted the gathering inside the Grand Ballroom that was decorated with heart-shaped wreathes of white flowers and poster-sized portraits of Barbarino.   Beechum, who was Barbarino’s best friend of 25 years, called each of the speakers to the microphone, including Alfonso “Alfie” Alcaraz, who fought in UFC 22 and is a former national kickboxing champion. “As I look around the room, I am amazed and flattered that we’re all here together,” Alcaraz began. “There’s some beautiful people here, all of us, very blessed to have known him.” The Vegas-based Alcaraz, a college wrestling teammate of Chuck Liddell, the former UFC champion who was also in attendance, recalled Barbarino was the guy who “brought the brothers together” and made sure they came to hang with him at Cheetah’s in Vegas. “If anybody ever showed up it was because of Frankie,” Alcaraz said with a grin.  “Frankie’s smile, his friendship, his class—unsurpassed. Some of the advice I asked him for was perfect for me and my situation at the time, relationship-wise and everything else. Love you guys and I’m very proud to be a part of this. Very proud to be a part of Frankie’s family.” Robert Saunders was one of many at the gathering who met Barbarino at Powerhouse Gym in Chatsworth, where he was a popular fixture. He recalled seeing him greeting everyone at the gym like old friends. “Everybody in the gym is going up and hugging this guy and he’s kissing them on the cheek. I’m thinking this guy’s either running for office or he’s a don, I don’t know what,” Saunders said, drawing a round of laughter. Saunders later became close with Barbarino, calling him “truly amazing.” “The guy’s nothing but heart. He’ll be there for you on a moment’s notice,” Saunders said. “And I miss him and I love him. The more I got to know him, he knows something about everything. I don’t care what it is. So to me, he is the world’s most interesting man.” No one would disagree with Saunders’ sentiment for Barbarino, who was born in Sicily, Italy, and raised in Monterrey, Calif. Barbarino founded FB in 1989, cultivating a client base that not only included adult film heavyweights but also A-list cosmetics companies and major Hollywood studios. Allen Gold, the former vice president of sales for Beechum’s Cherry Boxxx Pictures, remembered his first impression of Barbarino, watching him hop out of a sports car with his signature crisp, dress shirt. “I thought who is this guy, an Italian movie star or something?” Gold joked, noting their initial greeting was anything but typical. “Kevin introduced me to him and the connection was weird. He didn’t even shake my hand, he hugged me and he had just met me. And it was a hug. It was real.” Gold said Barbarino helped him secure an exotic car that he wanted by fronting him a cashier’s check that he paid back a couple days later when he his bank opened. “Who does that?” Gold asked. Gold said that being part of Beechum’s notorious “Bad Boys Club” that all carried the same custom-made rings meant even more knowing Barbarino was also in the fraternity. “It’s like a brotherly love. It’s almost better than family,” Gold said. “I’m going to miss Frankie. This is amazing to me, the people that have come out. He probably knows. I want to thank every one of you.” Barbarino had a taste for the good life, driving fast cars, wearing designer clothes and racing power boats with Beechum in the Florida Keys, among other indulgences. But he also always gave back to the community. He had been one of the top boosters for the Topanga Division of the Los Angeles Police Department for many years, winning a Volunteer of the Year Award in 2014 for his philanthropic efforts. Barbarino’s impact on the LAPD was so strong that Maureen Ryan, the commanding officer of the Topanga Division, took the podium Monday night. “I’m honored that I was asked to speak a little bit,” Ryan said. “I didn’t know him a drop in the bucket compared to the length of time everybody in this room knows him and the depth, but myself and our officers have been recipients of Frank’s kindness and generosity for many years.” She said Barbarino had accepted her into the brotherhood “as a sister, I guess.” “And I was the recipient of the double kiss on the cheek. The hug and the double kiss, which is a true Italian trait,” Ryan added. “And that’s where it’s been for over a year. Frank served on our board of boosters for six years as vice president. And he almost singlehandedly raised over 150,000 dollars for our station to benefit the police officers that work there.  “He all the way to his very end was there going above and beyond, out of his own pocket. I’ve heard stories and know of one, last Christmas. The man was amazing as you all know—kind to a fault, generous to a fault.” Ryan gave special thanks to Barbarino’s mother who was in attendance, read an Irish blessing and then recited a passage in Italian in honor of his mom. Then she played a song called “The Prayer” by Andrea Bocelli and Celine Dion before taking her seat. Barbarino had a profound influence on Ronny Camacho, his private trainer and nutritionist who, fighting back tears, said he was the last person to see him.   “For those that don’t know for the last year and a half I spent every single day with Frank…every day,” Camacho said. “He always used to call me his little brother. And he never said, ‘I got your back.’ He would say, ‘I got your back, your front, your everything. As long as you’re on this earth, I’m your guardian angel. And so are my brothers.’” Camacho continued, “He taught me so much. He taught me about family. He taught me about brotherhood. He taught me about loyalty. He taught me how to love.  “… I’m sharing this because I know right now he’s smiling down on everyone that showed up here. This is exactly how he would want it. And, he did everything on his terms, everything. And I did not know that was the last time I was going to see him.  “But before he left me he gave me the tightest hug and the kiss that all you know and he said 'I love you.' It’s been an emotional rollercoaster but right now he would look at me and would say, ‘don’t be a pussy.’ And as sweet as he was he was also one tough son of a gun, don’t let the smile fool you. And we know that. The people close to him know. This is definitely a celebration he would’ve wanted with everyone here.” Sean Agahi said Barbarino invited him to stay at his home just two weeks after they met. “He was humble about what he was and who he was, and I think that permeated through his whole life,” Agahi remarked.  In a surprising gesture, he said Barbarino even helped him get the invite-only American Express Black Card shortly after they came out. “Kevin told me about a month later that wasn’t my card. That was Frankie’s account and I better pay it. … I paid that before I paid my mortgage,” Agahi joked. It was Agahi who was in the Lamborghini with Barbarino when they survived a near fatal accident in 2004, when they were driving home after an evening on the town. “We almost lost him that night,” Agahi said, his voice shaking. “What touched me was the first words he spoke when he woke up at the hospital were ‘how’s Sean?’ That’s who he was. He gave a shit. He cared about his brothers. Cared about his sisters, cared about his family. … “Kid Rock has a song and in the song he says, ‘I’ve been around. I’ve seen some things. I’ve slept in dumpsters. Got high with kings.’ I see my life like that and he was one of the kings.” Beechum wrapped up the evening with some remarks of his own, reiterating what a “loving, caring person” Barbarino was. “There was no better than him,” Beechum said, encouraging everyone to stay, listen to the music and share a toast to their friend. “Frankie was the best person I know, we all know… I love you brother and I’m glad everybody showed up.”  For additional coverage, click here.

 
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