Obit: Frank Santos, R-Rated Hypnotist, Dies

Courtesy of the Providence Journal

Comedy hypnotist Frank Santos, 60, remembered

6:20 PM Tue, Sep 22, 2009 | article by Donita Naylor



Frank Santos SrCUMBERLAND, R.I. — Frank Santos, who billed himself as the R-rated hypnotist and always had a following, died Tuesday morning in his sleep, his son by the same name confirmed Tuesday. He was 60.

Rhode Island magician Bruce Kalver said he sold Santos his first book on hypnosis, for $2, when Kalver had a magic shop in the 80s. “Two months later he was booked at Periwinkles,” Kalver said Tuesday.

It wasn’t quite that quick. Santos was working at Big G Supermarkets and saw a hypnotist perform at a company party, Michael Janusonis reported in a story about the entertainer in 1990. Santos took classes in hypnotism, opened a hypnosis center in Cumberland and put together an act, which quickly packed rooms.

“We all started doing comedy at the old Periwinkle’s at the old Arcade,” comedian Charlie Hall said Tuesday. Although Santos had a following that jammed the club, “the genius of Frank was that he knew that he wasn’t the star of the show.” Audiences loved seeing their friends on stage, singing as if they were Madonna or Mick Jagger. “He got people to laugh at themselves,” Hall said.

Hall said he never really believed in hypnosis before working with Santos. “But to see these body builders from Johnston coming out of the men’s room wearing nothing but pantyhose made me a believer,” Hall said. “I guess it worked.”

Hall remembers Santos as “the sweetest guy in the world. He never had any ego,” even though his “was the biggest money-making act in New England”

Comedian Frank O’Donnell also opened for Santos at Periwinkles in the 1980s and has performed with him every Friday night for the last year at Twin River’s Catch a Rising Star Comedy Club. He said he’s done close to 100 shows with Santos and “I’ve never seen the same show twice.” The two Franks performed at colleges together, as recently as two Fridays ago at Tufts.

Frank Santos’s last promo reel.

The news hit hard at Catch a Rising Star. “We’re all really shaken by it,” said their boss, Jim Wright, general manager for the company’s five comedy clubs. “Frank spent his life bringing out the inner performer in each of us,” Wright said Tuesday. “His was a singular and unique talent that touched countless lives, and we are all blessed to claim him as one of Rhode Island’s favorite sons. He will be truly missed. ”

Wright also said Santos was the busiest performer he’s ever known, often performing an 8 p.m. show in Saugus, Mass., and “driving 80 miles an hour” to make the 10:15 show at Twin River.

For many years Santos was a regular at The Riviera in Las Vegas, where Steve Schirripa of Sopranos fame booked him two or three times a year. “Frank was a very dear friend of mine,” a saddened Schirripa said Tuesday from the airport in Los Angeles. When Schirripa had book signings in Rhode Island, Santos would always come see him, and when Santos traveled to Las Vegas, Santos would bring food from Providence “and coffee syrup for my kids when they were little.”

“He was very liked,” Schirripa said.

Wright said he doesn’t know what they’ll do with Santos’ regular Friday night spot, or who will perform on New Year’s Eve, for which Santos was already booked. He said he’s thinking about a remembrance in Santos’ honor.

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