Child Star: The True Frankie Lymon

Child Star: The True Frankie Lymon

April 27, 2016

By Austin Smith in Art

If you have ever watched "Why Do Fools Fall in Love", or sat in a 50's style cafe, you have already heard the question stated over and over already:
"Why do fools fall in love?"

Well, who knows?  I just like the song, the movie, and especially the true history around Frankie Lymon.

 The movie involving Frankie Lymon isn't as bad as the initial reception has permanently labeled it.  While it is a fun to watch dramatization of true events, it does not do the job of accurately covering a main point in Frankie's life.  

What is entirely missing from the movie is the dichotomy between Frankie's appearance as a 13-to--14 year old and the partnerships he ensued with multiple adult women.  The actor who portrayed Frankie was 25 at the time of filming.  

Gregory Nava, the director to "Why Do Fools Fall in Love", said to SFGATE in 1998 that,
"We had to fudge a little on the age situation..."

The fact that the director chose to "fudge a little" is exactly how the movie resulted in being a monumentally skewed biographical piece with cookie-cutter rise-to-success plot lines.  

In 1967, after thirty-three days in rehabilitation, Ebony magazine's Art Peters interviewed Frankie (at the age of 25).  Peters included all the gritty details in his story, unlike how director Gregory Nava chose to "age up" Frankie's appearance in the film.

"Frankie confesses that he passed most of his sweethearts off as his mother or older sister to avoid possible scandal."
-Peters. A. (1967, January) Comeback of a child star. Ebony, 42-50. Retrieved from     http://books.google.com

In the movie, just as it happened in life, there are three women who believe to be Frankie's legitimate wife and are each laying their case to claim the Frankie Lymon estate.  All three women fight over, through dramatized flashbacks, who really seduced and is legally married to Frankie Lymon.  

These flashbacks also so happen to show the rise and fall of Frankie Lymon from his career highlight with, you guessed it, Why Do Fools Fall in Love, to his lowest point as a heroin addict who struggles to maintain his vocals onstage.

The three women on the poster of the movie are the actresses who portray the three believed wives to Frankie Lymon.  All three of the women started dating Frankie when he was only 14 years old.

All three women began their fight in 1981 after "Why Do Fools Fall in Love" reached the Top Ten.  The first court proceedings, would decide years after Frankie's overdose in 1968, who the legal owner to his estate is.  In 1989, reversing a previously made court decision, the New York State Supreme Court awarded the Lymon estate to Emira Eagle, now legally Emira Lymon.

In the same Ebony article, written by Art Peters in 1967, there is clear evidence to support that fame didn't bring the first of older women into Frankie's life.  

Frankie himself shared how early in his life older women had made themselves available.  He would go on to say that at 10 years old he made good money bringing white men visiting Harlem to prostitutes, and that he made commission for every customer that he brought to prostitutes.  Then he mentions that sometimes the prostitutes considered him cute and that,
"Sometimes they'd pay me off with something extra.  I learned everything there was to know about women before I was 12 years old."

Peters. A. (1967, January) Comeback of a child star. Ebony, 42-50. Retrieved from                                                    http://books.google.com

Frankie Lymon (assumed age 13-14) image source

Frankie Lymon (assumed age 13-14) image source

Now that all that is out of the way finally, here is track one to side A of The Teenagers Featuring Franking Lymon showcasing the saxaphone solo in "Why Do Fools Fall in Love".

A post shared by Austin Smith (@kfinewhatever) on