The Candy Butcher

A Biography of Frank Ray Perilli

Non-Fiction - Biography
242 Pages
Reviewed on 01/29/2024
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Author Biography

William Karl Thomas was born 1/25/33 in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, a small Gulf Coast town in which Tennessee Williams lived and wrote about in his works. In 1951 Thomas married his former high school teacher and, after a four year childless marriage, was divorced.

His checkered background began in 1951- 1952 as a nightclub pianist in New Orlean's French Quarter, in 1953 serving a year as a military correspondent in a combat zone in Korea, and finishing his 4 years in the Air Force while serving in El Paso, Texas; Cheyenne, Wyoming; and Oxford, England.

His screen writing collaboration with Frank Ray Perelli began in New Orleans in 1951 and led them to the West Coast where, in 1956, Perelli had begun to manage the then unknown Lenny Bruce. Bruce admired Thomas's multi-talents which led to collaborating in a variety of capacities including comedy writing, screen writing, album cover photos, cinematography, theatrical booking, publicity, and more in a collaboration that lasted ten years until Bruces' death in 1966, as chronicaled in Thomas' memoir, "Lenny Bruce: The Making of a Prophet."

Thomas spent twenty years mostly in Hollywood as a screen writer, cinematographer, industrial film producer, photographer, journalist, and public relations executive. He currently lives in Tucson, Arizona, where he occasionally teaches writing and film production at a local community college, and continues work on a variety of book, film, and media projects.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Steve Leshin for Readers' Favorite

The Candy Butcher: A Biography of Frank Ray Perilli by William Karl Thomas is a personal account by a bonafide friend and fan of the man better known as Frankie Ray. Trying to write the biography of a relatively unknown showbiz celebrity is no easy task, yet the author does a pretty good job. The reader follows young Frankie from his early life in Chicago into the world of aspiring actors, singers, comedians, and movie makers and shakers in Hollywood. Born in the early 1920s, young Frankie, after nearly dying from a burst appendix, grew up in a poor, tough Chicago neighborhood. He was influenced by his parents, relatives, and childhood friends. He even knew Al Capone’s brother, who took a shine to the kid, which probably saved him from a few bullies growing up. The author freely uses imagined conversations and dialogue to introduce the reader to this extraordinary yet obscure individual who had a talent for impersonation and grew up to know so many celebrities in show business.

Frankie Ray was an accomplished comic who could do convincing impersonations of 1930s movie idols like Edward G. Robinson, James Cagney, and Humphrey Bogart. His good looks led him to try the nightclub circuit in cities like New Orleans, managing nightclubs near Bourbon Street. Frankie, with a dimple on his chin to go with his good looks, was a favorite of female showbiz types like the exotic dancers he met, including an intense relationship with one of them, and later romances with known Hollywood stars like Doris Day and Hedy Lamar. In addition, he wrote screenplays and took bit parts in films. Frankie also did odd jobs for Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and others. He even helped Lenny Bruce when the controversial comic began his career, becoming his manager and mentor. The Candy Butcher, a reference to a job Frankie did growing up, is well written and the reader will experience Frankie’s world as he interacts with many well-known celebrities of the time. For anyone interested in finding out more about Frankie Ray, I would recommend The Candy Butcher. William Karl Thomas presents an informative and entertaining tribute to his old friend.