Voices of Black Los Angeles: He’s a survivor who plans to hit it big

Frank Cooke, 37, had dreams of great wealth.
(Steve Fontanini / Los Angeles Times)

This story originally ran in 1982 as part of the “Black L.A.: Looking at Diversity” series. We have preserved the original text in order to provide an accurate account of the work in print.

Frank Cooke, tall and bearded with deep-set ebony eyes, strides with the confidence of a man who believes times are good. And if your reality does not coincide with this vision, then he figures that’s your problem.

Because, at 37, Cooke has plans, big plans.

Cooke, a confirmed bachelor, says he already has his real estate license and is taking classes in foreclosure. Ultimately, he wants to be an actor who is also an attorney.


Right now, he is a bus driver with a high school diploma.

It doesn’t matter. Cooke says he will get where he wants to because he understands the all-encompassing truth about American life: “Money. That’s all it’s about—money,” he says.

Even if his dreams of great wealth seem unlikely, he does grin like a man with an ace up his sleeve. Cooke is a survivor.

Making it in America? ‘Money. That’s all it’s about — Money.’

— Frank Cooke

Backs gun ownership

He says he went to jail while in the Army rather than fight in Vietnam. But, he is a hawk on gun ownership. His bright orange baseball cap reads “NRA FREEDOM.” He says he is a member of the National Rifle Assn. and a registered Republican. He is also a bit of the street philosopher.

“Hmph—times are tough? Times are good. You know I just came off a three-day fast, like the Muslims do. I’m trying to lose weight. And like I read on the back of this guy’s T-shirt, it said, ‘No Pain, No Gain.’ That applies to a lot. ‘Cause the name of the game now is money. How can I get more money? How can I do best with the money I have on hand?

“I had an appraiser class. The guy is a senior appraiser in Inglewood, and you know he told us early in the class that you haven’t even begun to see prices jump off yet. You know Dr. George? Yeah, the man on TV. One day he sewed it all up. He went on to explain that Southern California has what they call a Mediterranean climate, and therefore everybody wants to be here.


“I’m renting. I’m cheap; I pay only $187.50. I got into some decent landlords before they went crazy, like the rest of the landlords. I have a real estate license and a salesman’s license and I’m taking a foreclosure class at West L.A.

In the summer of 1982, The Times published a series on Southern California’s Black community called “Black L.A.: Looking at Diversity.”

Oct. 4, 2021

“I had a professor tell me one time, he says, ‘Everybody, I don’t care what color you are, you’re a slave.’ A lot of blacks in the class got pissed! But he said, ‘You’re a slave to this economy. If you miss work for two months,’ he says, ‘you’ll be out in the street.’

“I want to get back into education and get a degree. I would like to major in acting with a minor in business and combine that into law. What’s the grand plan? In books I have to read, and in this life, I see among people who make the most money—salesmen, attorneys—life is nothing but an act.

“I’ll tell you what, if my past track record had been groomed in another direction, if I didn’t have to go in the Army, if I had went through college, gotten a master’s degree or law degree, which is almost a prerequisite, I feel it would have been possible for me to be President of the United States.

“Twenty years ago you wouldn’t say it would be possible for a black man to be mayor of the third-largest city, but if you’re betting on governors, (Mayor Tom) Bradley doesn’t look like a bad bet.

“You know how good an actor you are, OK? How well you can charm the folks. That’s what I think it’s all about.”