It’s early on Super Bowl Sunday, a gray and drizzly day in Atlanta. Colony Square in Midtown sits largely empty but for the broadcast booth high in one tower, where Frank Ski is spinning old-school tunes. In between songs he reads a promo reminding people about the station’s “Free Money Kitty” cash giveaway, but there’s no hint in his voice about what he’s really excited about.
His official return to the V-103 morning show.
“I’ve learned a lot” since he last helmed the A.M. shift. “I’ve matured out a lot. I’m more relaxed. For me it was really time to press the reset button.”
He’s back in his former saddle as of Monday morning. As AJC radio and TV reporter Rodney Ho was first to report, Ski’s move follows Ryan Cameron’s Feb. 2 departure. Cameron left to become a partner at a new Atlanta-based branding firm called Rakanter.
Ski left his longtime post in 2012 to embrace other opportunities. He worked for a couple of years at a Washington, D.C. station, signed on with Atlanta’s Bounce TV as on-air talent and did some consulting. But Atlanta wouldn’t let him go. Not long after he signed off in 2012, other area stations got in touch. Within a year, he was having quiet conversations about a return to V-103, and indeed he made a soft return as a weekend host in April 2016.
Spending time in other markets served as a professional palate cleanser.
“West Midtown wasn’t here five years ago. The BeltLine wasn’t here. There’s so much new development,” he said. “Some people people feel that Atlanta has changed for the better. There are a lot of people who feel that Atlanta has not changed for the better.
“What I realize about Atlanta that I was too connected to before: Atlanta is a city with a bunch of dreamers,” he continued. “All these people came here for a better life. People get here and it’s spread out, public transportation is terrible, there’s crime. We’re living in communities where people don’t speak to their neighbors, kids don’t play outside. We’re all on these individual islands.”
Once he’s back in the morning groove, Ski has these and other topics in mind to discuss. Atlanta has a new mayor, Keisha Lance-Bottoms, of course. How’s the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium working out? The Braves’ new home, SunTrust Park? How will Atlanta tackle homelessness, affordable housing and other community topics?
“The city has some issues that need to be addressed,” he said. In the five years since I’ve been gone Atlanta has changed a lot.”
He’s changed a lot, too. In June 2017, he and ex-wife Tanya Parker publicly discussed their divorce for the first time. They married in 1995, when he was working for a radio station in Baltimore. From the moment he went on air in Atlanta, Ski shared much of his personal life with listeners, but had kept the split private.
“Telling the kids was the hardest thing I ever had to do,” he said. “I cringe about that day. On the one hand they were old enough to understand. On the other hand they were too young to control their emotions. It was a very difficult thing.”
On the day after Thanksgiving 2017, Ski and Dr. Patrice Basanta-Henry exchanged vows at The Estate in Buckhead. Rev. Gerald Durley officiated. The ceremony included a moving family celebration, where the couple and Ski’s sons, Jarrett Rodriguez, Franklin Rodriguez, Blake Rodriguez and Harrison Rodriguez each poured a glass of sand in different colors into a box, creating a beautiful symbol of unity.
During the reception, Ski toasted his bride, who was featured on the cover of Georgia Trend’s 2017 “40 Under 40” issue, took an undergraduate degree from Howard University and a masters from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore before earning a medical degree from Morehouse School of Medicine and then completing her residency and fellowship at Emory University.
“Married life is good,” Ski said. “God gave me somebody busier than me.”
His funny, inspirational remarks during the reception seemed almost like the rough draft of a future radio bit.
“Atlanta is the worst place to date in the world,” he said. “If you’re single in Atlanta and you find somebody … marry them! Atlanta is the worst!”
He’s looking forward to dispensing his daily “Inspirational Vitamin,” given his experiences.
“Going through a divorce and having children will educate you very fast,” he said. “I used to blame women for relationship problems. Now I don’t.”
Although his return to his former slot is a time of celebration, terrestrial radio is a challenge for any host these days. The industry (not unlike the newspaper business) has gone through seismic shifts in recent years, as services like Pandora, Tidal or Spotify give listeners a reason to skip the dial in favor of streaming. Ski mused that his kids queue up their personal playlists while driving around instead of tuning in to hear their dad.
“My kids don’t listen to the radio. In their cars they have Bluetooth hooked up to their phones,” he chuckled. Instead of sounding defeated, though, he welcomes the findings posed by his unofficial focus group.
“That’s the challenge, bringing personality back to radio,” he said. He realizes Monday morning’s show will probably be a little different with well wishers calling in, but he doesn’t want to dwell on himself.
“I kind of just want to get in there and start working,” he said. “I want to get back to business.”