Home Celebrity Remembering Frank DiLeo, “Uncle Tookie,” A Great Friend and Music Biz Genius

Frank DiLeo died a year ago today, August 24th. But really, he died on March 21st, after open heart surgery at Cedars Sinai Hospital left him in a permanent coma. He never woke up. What should have been relatively common surgery turned into a nightmare. Some time during the night after the surgery, Frank had another attack or a stroke. He lost too much oxygen, unattended, and had no way of fighting back.

Frank was a famously colorful figure in the record business. His success with Michael Jackson on “Thriller” and then “Bad” probably inflated him beyond anything normal. I didn’t know him then, I met him later. Nevertheless, he was the architect of those triumphs, and Michael knew it. Over the years as a long line of swindlers and con men worked their way through Neverland, it was always Frank to whom Michael turned. In the winter of 2008, Michael was already calling Frank after many debacles. By the spring, when the London concerts were announced, it was Frank who Michael wanted by his side. If they’d gone to England, Frank was going to be right there.

Sony is about to release the 25th anniversary edition of “Bad,” complete with a Spike Lee documentary. Frank was working on that project when he got sick in February 2011. He knew more about “Bad” then almost anyone except for Bruce Swedien. He used to talk about the outtakes from “Bad” all the time. One song you’ll hear in the boxed set, “Don’t Be Messin’ Around,” was his favorite. I’m just sorry he doesn’t get to see all the hoopla and receive the accolades. And I’m told there are still unresolved issues between him and Sony regarding money. (Isn’t that always the case in the record business?) As much as Michael was a genius, Frank was the one who knew how to execute the singer-performer’s dreams.

It’s a terrible thing to lose a friend; I’ve thought about Frank every day since he left us last year. He had already lost his own friend, Michael. He was with him in the hospital room when Michael was pronounced dead. It broke his heart. Even through their times apart, Michael was the highlight of Frank’s professional life. Once Michael died, Frank was a little lost, I think. Like Michael, he always expected to reclaim their glory days. I know they’re together right now in heaven–Frank chomping on a cigar and getting ready to celebrate Michael’s birthday on the 29th. And they’re free of the burden of re-creating the most successful star-manager combo since Colonel Parker and Elvis.

Rest easy, Frank.


Share and Enjoy !

Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.
18 replies to this post
  1. Yes, Michael took Frank with him and , in a strange way, Elizabeth Taylor. And the rest of us just wishing that it wasn’t so, that we could warn him somehow. A loss that has made life soooooo dreary. I think Di Leo had more character than Tom Parker, I wish Frank could have managed Elvis.

  2. William, he’d already had 3 heart attacks.
    He had very good care. What’s sad is that he hung in there for quite a while because he loved life so much with a strong will to live.
    His body gave way. :(

  3. Hello Roger. I met you at Frank’s funeral (Manika’s dad). We loved Frank, and we really miss him. He was a special, warm individual who cared about people from his heart. He was much too young to go. Take care, my friend.

  4. Your tribute to Frank DiLeo was beautifully written Mr. Friedman, and I think
    you are right: Frank and MJ spend a lot of time together in Heaven.

  5. Roger, thank you for this beautiful tribute to Frank. I’ve always admired him as I loved Michael and was so sorry for the loss of both of them! I know he stood by Michael through the toughest of times when few others did and Michael knew he was always there for him. Please answer if you can — Is there any plan to release the book Frank was ready to publish about his relationship with Michael? I haven’t heard a word and was so looking forward to reading it. If anyone knew Michael, Frank did!

  6. Roger, it sounds like from your words that the hospital was negligent in Frank’s care. Am I reading too much into your words in the first paragraph? How could he have been left “unattended” in a place like that after open heart surgery?

  7. Lovely tribute Roger. Didn’t Frank talk about writing a book? I would have loved to read it. He probably had great stories about working with his friend MJ and the music business in general.

  8. Wonderful article, just my opinion, the greatest star-manager combo, INCLUDING Elvis and the Colonel. The fan community is REALLY looking forward to BAD25. Thanks for the tribute.

  9. I had no idea that Frank died due to negligence of medical staff. That’s horrible. It’s also similar in the way that Michael died. Being left unattended. So sad.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.