Frank Campagna Jr., known as Frankie or Frankie 45, in deference to the Dallas punk band he fronted, Spector 45, committed suicide more than five years ago. Just a few months later, Spector 45 bassist Adam Carter also took his life. Foundation 45 is a nonprofit organization ran by the Deep Ellum Community Association (DECA). At 6 p.m. every Monday night at Life in Deep Ellum, Foundation 45 offers free counseling aimed at artists and musicians. They also have a suicide hotline, 1-800-273-TALK. For those who need help but don’t want to talk, text is available at 741-741.
“You don’t necessarily know when you save someone’s life,” says Anthony Delabano, surviving member of Spector 45. Last weekend he took over the reigns of Foundation 45, which has been run mainly by DECA so far. “It’s very hard to have real data on that unless someone comes out and tells you. You just have to go out and try to help and it’s exhausting.”
“I put together events to help raise money for it,” says Frankie’s father, Frank Campagna, artist and owner of Kettle Art in Deep Ellum. “But I don’t want to be the lightning rod. I’m not a counselor and I have suffered my own losses. I never wanted to be in charge, but I want to make sure that resources are available. Anthony didn’t want it either, but now he’s on a mission.”
After Campagna and Carter passed away, Delabano lost three more friends to suicide. “They came to all of our shows and had 45 stickers,” he says. He points out that many potential victims of suicide are shy, ashamed and need help very quickly.
Within days of Frankie Campagna’s death, a memorial was hosted at Club Dada, where he worked as a bartender. The event raised a significant amount of funds. “We didn’t know exactly what to do with it or how,” Delabano says. “We had people who stepped up to the plate who did know. They may not have been as connected to the music community, but they did set up the counseling services.”
The new 45 stickers have info for a suicide crisis line. Foundation 45 is now in a rebuilding phase. Delabano is looking for people to help with a website, a video campaign aimed at getting artists and musicians to talk about their experiences to help raise awareness and public relations.
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“We need people to know about it,” Delabano says. “We are marketing towards artists, musicians and Deep Ellumites. We need people to know that it’s okay to come to us; we’ve been there, we understand. Real talk is one of the focuses. This isn’t a counselor wearing glasses while you sit on the couch and talk. We don’t want to have any barriers when it comes to therapy.”
Delabano remembers Frankie Campagna as a very proud individual. “He would have wanted to talk to a friend,” Delabano says. This was the idea with the licensed counselors they use, who have experience working with troubled youths and people from the street — one with tattoos.
“It’s really hard with musicians and artists,” Delabano continues. “Some of us are prideful and don’t want to talk about it. Frankie only opened up about it once.” He also says that Frankie once walked in on a friend with a shotgun in his mouth and pulled it out. “I want this therapy to be a place where people hang out to talk to friends. You don’t have to wait to be suicidal to go there.”
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Delabano admits that Foundation 45 does not have a lot of money. “The counseling is not cheap,” he says. “But we do expect to grow.” They have a team looking for corporate sponsors. Last year, a Frankie 45 retrospective was released to raise funds. Foundation 45 is also planning annual fundraising events.
One of them is Art of the Guitar. With artists doing artwork on donated guitars that are auctioned, it was another memorial event at Kettle Art. Now they are planning to bring it back on October 21, Frankie Campagna’s birthday. They are also planning a music festival for next summer called For the Love of 45.
“I’ve worked with nonprofits before,” Delabano says. “But I’m a surviving member of the band. This one was really hard to work with for a long time because I just wasn’t ready. It just sucks. I love my friends. But after I saw three more people that I knew die, I have to help some people.”
“If you’re an artist or musician and feel like you are out on a ledge artistically, that’s great,” Campagna says. “But if you’re out on a ledge emotionally, it’s probably a good idea to call someone.”