Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Frankie Flowers (Frank Ferragine)- Canada's Weatherman!

     In short, it takes somebody really impressive to have me get up at 4:00am on my Christmas holidays. Not to mention, it takes somebody really impressive for me to talk my photographer Victoria into getting up at 4:00am as well to take photos. Needless to say, Frankie Ferragine (also known as Frankie Flowers), a special live viewing of Breakfast Television Toronto and a tour of the Breakfast Television studios was enough to get us up. By 4:30am, we were on the 401 heading to Toronto, music blaring to keep me awake, with the recurring message from my mother in the back of my mind. "Make sure you meet Kevin Frankish. His suspenders are sexy!" Okay mom...
     We were to be at the studios for 7:00am, but when I arrived in Toronto I came to the startling conclusion that I really didn't know where the Breakfast Television Studios were. I pulled out my phone and went to the ever handy Google to help me as fast as possible. Luckily, my decision to park under Toronto City Hall at Nathan Phillips Square was smart, as the studio only happened to be about one kilometer away. The problem is, when it's freezing, a kilometer still sucks. With the thought of meeting the hilarious television hosts, and Canada's favourite weatherman in person, I hustled as fast as possible. That wasn't the only thing keeping me driven. This may seem juvenile, but upon my research for the Frankie interview, I noticed some of the amazing guests Breakfast Television had on their show. From Hilary Duff to the Right Honourable Mr Stephen Harper, the Prime Minister of Canada, on their show within the weeks prior to my arrival, I was very curious as to who else I may be able to meet. I did in fact meet someone I thought pretty cool, but that comes later.
     After getting to the studio and being given seats right near hosts Kevin Frankish and Dina Pugliese, Victoria and I came to a conclusion that surprised us both. The studio was nothing like we expected. It was a large room, rather empty, with only about fifteen people on the floor working. They were all working extremely hard, and the dedication and passion for their jobs was evident, but we both just expected more. More people, more cameras, more, I guess.
Hosts Dina Pugliese (left), and Kevin Frankish (right)
Photo by Victoria Alexander

     After having the chance to see "holiday outfits for the whole family" from lifestyle expert Shoana Jensen and "last-minute gift ideas for the techie" from the shows' Digital Media Correspondent Winston Sih, someone pulled up a seat beside us. After learning that the university I currently attend (Wilfrid Laurier, Brantford campus) happened to be her alma mater, I found out that she in fact was a recurring guest on the show (although, not today). Her name was Christina Cravero, the author of the successful fashion blog titled "The Style Mogul." We discussed our respective works, and made sure to "like" each others pages on Facebook. While chatting with Christina, another guest came on the show, who looked oddly familiar. Victoria felt that way also, and she's normally better at noticing those things than I am. When I asked Christina, she told me it was none other than Brad Smith! The bachelor from Canada's most recent season of, well, The Bachelor (also, coincidentally, their first season)! As it happened, I knew a fair bit about Brad already. Not from watching the show (not saying that I haven't seen it... guilty confession), but from the fact that I had been asked to interview him before, and I had found his dad, Larry Smith, interesting in himself. The Honourable Mr Larry Smith is currently a Senator for the Government of Canada from Quebec, a former Canadian Football League Player (as was his son Brad), and the former Commissioner of the whole Canadian Football League. But, it was Frankie I was there for, and I decided to post on Twitter about just that. Evidentially, a smart move.
     Having not yet actually met Frankie, I saw him hurry into the room where Dina was filming segments from his upstairs domain. He came over and introduced himself, and apologized. A rather odd start to our meeting, until he explained why. In all the busyness of his early morning, it slipped his mind that we were coming today! Until, that is, he happened to check Twitter and read the post I had made only a few minutes earlier. We spoke in quite tones as the commercial break was ending, and then he suggested we head upstairs to his weather fortress (my term, but feel free to use it, Frankie). Excitedly, Victoria and I hopped in the elevators and away we went.
Frankie shows us the green screen he films in front of.
Photo by Victoria Alexander.

     Now, everyone I've interviewed has been extremely welcoming. From Prime Minister Paul Martin, to my hometown mayor of Ingersoll Ontario, Ted Comiskey. But, some people just go that extra mile during interviews, Frankie included. I had the chance to look at some pictures hanging around his office of candid Breakfast Television memories (such as a Toy Story themed Halloween costume shot), learn the history of the building in which they filmed in, get a detailed weather report for the upcoming few days of my hometown, have the chance to meet everyone behind the scenes and to have them explain their roles to me. It was an interviewers dream, to really have the chance to be fully emerged in the experience. Not only that, Frankie happened to be one of the most photogenic people in the world. Big smile, nice outfit, and an eagerness to take as many candid photos as possible. One with him open-armed at the green screen, or presenting fake weather in front of it in a style reminding me of Wheel of Fortune's Vanna White, one of him and I pointing to the Breakfast Television logo, or one of me in front of the screen database with tons of different news networks on behind me. After the whole tour, we sat down at his computer and I had the chance to learn all about a job I sincerely, no word of lie, considered at one point. A television weatherman.
As I sip my coffee, Frankie shows me the weather report.
Photo by Victoria Alexander

     Two generations back, Frankie's grandfather made a long trek from Italy, to England, finally settling in Canada. Fellow Ontarian's (well, Canadians) will agree with me, we're all about our farms. Near Bradford, Ontario, you can find several of those, one of them being the long maintained Ferragine property. As a child, Frankie was responsible for packing heads of lettuce, as everyone was part of the work. It wasn't just vegetables that were sold though. At one in the morning, then and now, Frankie's father would be awake selling flowers. Loving his work, and sincerely loving the people he had the chance to communicate with. These passions, flowers and people, would be passed on to his children- Frankie and little brother Tony. At a young age, Frankie developed a motto- "wild about weather, passionate about plants." After all, these two "made the perfect marriage." He realized from a young age that without truly learning the weather, you truly couldn't master the art of gardening- his passion. Therefore, he learned all he could, with such individuals as Bob McIntyre from CTV guiding and inspiring him. Initially doing some spot work on television networks, he soon solidified himself as a recognized weather personality and gardening expert, and as the years progressed, even developed a fan base as the Breakfast Television weatherman.
     If a career as a weatherman came as a surprise to everyone, including Frankie, the so called "mild-celebrity" he's developed has come as an even bigger shock. Be it pumping gas, coaching his tyke hockey team or walking down the street, he's recognized as "that weather guy" or "Frankie Flowers", a welcomed shock. This made me wonder, was it all good attention? I mean, even I've became angry at the occasional weatherman for getting the reports wrong. Although the majority of the attention was positive, it wasn't always. One of the issues I voiced, getting the weather wrong, was something he was stopped for every now and then. The response to this from Frankie surprised me. To him, they had every single right to criticize him for messing up. "People can pick on me, people can tease me. If I got it wrong, the have every right." It goes to show how seriously he takes his job. On the other hand though, he jokingly reminded me that he had an Italian father, and was used to being given a hard time for just about everything, so it didn't get to him too often. The times when people complain about the weather as if he could change it though, that gets pretty old.
     This goes hand in hand with the very early mornings, lack of sleep, not being able to see his children off to school, and general lack of his ability to have a social life at night. Ever the optimist though, Frankie told me the joys of no lines at the bank, no lines at the coffee shop, no traffic and how his "mild-celebrity" can be used for charitable reasons- such as awareness for Ewing's sarcoma, a form of cancer that very much effected Frankie's life.
Frankie discusses the life and memory of his brother, Tony Ferragine.
Photo by Victoria Alexander.

     The younger brother of Frankie, Tony, grew up to become his best friend. Yet, in 1998, disaster struck the Ferragine family. At only 22 years old, Tony was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma, and passed away. Breakfast Television has given Frankie a platform for advocacy and awareness for families such as his own who have lost someone, or are fighting battles with cancer. Something he is forever grateful for. Flowers may have become his trademark, and I see constant videos of him explaining the benefits of home gardening. His third book for example entitled "Power Plants" written with Bryce Wylde (which comes out later this year), explains just how much homegrown plants can help you as an individual. But, after meeting with Frankie in person, I see just how much he's using his appearance to benefit a wide-range of things. He truly is a great guy. 
     His brother taught him many things, one of which was to live each day to it's fullest, with no regrets. It's Frankie's sincere belief that he is now living everyday for two, himself, and his brother. The future of television personalities are never guaranteed, but he tells me he does have some goals in mind. First, hoping to maintain the balance he has of being on television and his work at the Bradford Greenhouses. Second, motivate as many Canadians as possible to garden, and third, create something he will be able to pass down to his young children. To me, he already has something he can pass down. His incredible personality, dedication to his work, and love of life in general.
     Frankie told me "if interested, I should keep in touch." Don't worry Frankie, I will be.
Frankie and I fool around in the Breakfast Television Studios.
Photo by Victoria Alexander.

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