Nastasi was born in Detroit, Michigan on January 7, 1923. As a youngster he
attended Santa Maria Catholic School. “The nuns were our teachers,” recalled
Nastasi. “They saw that I could memorize real fast, so they would give me a
lot of extra things to do. They said, “Frank, you’ve got to memorize these
three pages.” And I carried on from there.” By the time Nastasi was a senior
at Detroit’s Northern High School he was performing stand-up comedy at
nightclubs in and around Detroit. Nastasi attended Wayne University, where he
earned a bachelor’s degree.
In the early 1950s WXYZ-TV’s programming director Pete Strand hired Nastasi
for a new children’s show, Tommy Twinkle. Nastasi played Mr. Purdy,
bookkeeper to Mother Goose.
Nastasi’s next show was Barnaby Bear, the saga of a retired Circus
bear turned newspaper publisher. The program was very popular, but was cancelled
after six months because the sponsor, Sara Lee bakery, couldn’t bake enough
cakes and pies to meet the demand the show created.
On Wixie’s Wonderland with Marv Welch, Nastasi played Gramps, the
resident animal expert. “I would
sit on a park bench and show the kids animals,” remembered Nastasi. “And being a history buff, I would tell historical stories
about the Presidents and such. Every day was interesting. Marv and I had a lot
In addition to Wixie, Nastasi was also the puppeteer on Soupy Sales’
show for one week a year, when regular puppeteer Clyde Adler took his summer
vacation. It was while Adler was on vacation that Pookie the Lion found his
voice. Clyde had made Pookie a mute, whose only means of communication was a
shrill whistle. “One day I was doing The Pookie Players,” reminisced Nastasi.
“I had been trying out different voices for Pookie, but none of them seemed
right. One day during The Pookie Players sketch I used a hip, laid back kind of
voice. When I was finished I went up to Soupy and said, “That’s the
When Wixie’s Wonderland ended it’s run Nastasi moved to New York
City, where he earned a master’s degree in dramatic arts from New York
University and appeared in a handful of Broadway and off-Broadway productions. In 1964 he caught up with his old buddy Soupy Sales and
became a full-time puppeteer for The Soupy Sales Show. Nastasi also made
a comedy record with Sales and appeared with him in the movie Birds Do It.
the 1970s 80s and 90s Nastasi continued working off-Broadway, and had minor
roles in a few motion pictures and made for TV movies. He also liked to perform
at New York City’s Lambs Club,known as America’s oldest professional theatrical
club. In a 2003 interview Nastasi said, “I work if I want to, but do it at my
died after a short illness on June 15, 2004. As a young boy he originally
wanted to be a pro ballplayer. “They wanted to send me to the minor leagues.
I could play better than most of the salamis on the field, but the scouts
wouldn’t look at me because I was only 5’5”.” Nastasi may have been
short in stature, but he was tall enough to portray a manic 6 foot tall cream
pie wielding dog, tall enough to be seen in the third balcony in the largest
Broadway theatre and tall enough to win the hearts of millions of television
viewers through his work on The Soupy Sales Show.