(Originally posted on my site's guestbook on August 17, 2010.)
I had the pleasure of interviewing Frank in February of '09. I have to admit, I went in prepared to dislike him for all the giant boobs he's given to girls out there in LA like Heidi...but Frank was so much more than that plastic surgeon. The events he had for inner city and at risk youth at his Malibu Ranch were life changing. He also donated his time and work to removing gang and prison tattoos from people who learned their lesson and wanted another chance.
Frank just celebrated his 50th birthday. He lived with his mom and lots of dogs on that ranch. One of the dogs, a border collie named Jill, was with him yesterday when Frank's jeep left the road and went over a cliff in Malibu. Jill survived, but Frank did not. I'm glad I knew him. I'm so sorry for this needless tragedy.
Here is the story I wrote about Frank for Fido Friendly Magazine:
Dr. Frank Ryan and his Bony Pony Ranch by Laurie Jacobson
Dr. Frank Ryan is a successful plastic surgeon in the epicenter of beauty -- Beverly Hills, California. So what's he doing that attracted Fido Friendly's attention? Plenty -- enough for two people. "Well, I am a Gemini - the twins," Frank says. "Maybe there's something to that."
The professional side of Dr. Ryan is truly something to behold. This plastic-surgeon-to-the-stars is something of a celebrity himself. He can be seen all over the tube with KIIS front man Gene Simmons or The Girls Next Door, giving advice on CNN and walking the red carpet on Entertainment Tonight. He's developed his own skin care line and he hosts his own radio show titled Sex, Drugs and Silicone. His book of the same name is soon to be published. And have I mentioned that he's handsome, soft-spoken and utterly charming? All of this, by the way, is entirely earned. He put in hard work at great schools, a brilliant post-graduate career and numerous prestigious fellowships. Dr. Ryan is more than a master of media; he's the real deal. But it's not his whole story, not by a long shot.
It begins as most stories do, with his mother. "She was a young widow. Dad died when I was three. In 1964 or ‘65, single working moms were unheard of in Ohio. She was a nurse in a pediatrician's office. Every female in my life worked as a nurse in a hospital or doctor's office. That's why I became a doctor." His mom's nurturing of kids and young people made a particular impression on him. "The Head Start Program was new and Mom went downtown to the inner city of LA to sign up, even with all she had to do. After school I'd go to Grandma's, so the support of an extended family really helped. Mom also took in unwed teenage mothers. Connie...Debbie...my whole life, there was always someone living with us."
While at the UCLA Medical Center completing a fellowship, Dr. Ryan looked for a meaningful way to help kids. "I'd just moved back here from Missouri where I'd done my residency and I was kind of the young-surgeon-about-town, going to Chamber of Commerce mixers. I went to one and was chatting with a lady who worked at an Optimists Youth home. I really wanted to get involved, but I wasn't sure what I could do for kids as a surgeon. The next day, I had this epiphany about tattoos. I called and asked if the kids had tattoos they wanted removed and she said that was much needed. You can do all you want with rehabilitation - school, computer classes, anything, but if there's a big gang tattoo on a guy's neck, nobody's going to give him a job. And then he goes back to the gang because no one will hire him. So it's essential to do that." In the last 15 years, Dr. Ryan has removed some thousand tattoos free of charge from former inmates and gang members, helping them to take back their lives.
About that time, Frank bought a 26-acre ranch in Malibu. "I thought it was a great place to relax, hang out, be with nature and animals. The area was rural and a bit run down, which I loved. I bought it from Dwight Yoakum, the country singer. He had a thoroughbred breeding business with 30 horses and a bunch of dogs...seven of them. Some he found, some he adopted, I don't know how he got half of them. When he left, he wanted his coonhound, but not the others. I volunteered to keep them and they all lived out the rest of their years here. They had the greatest life and they're buried on the property.
We always had dogs when I was growing up -- a German Shepherd, Duke and a beagle, Candy. Beagles are wanderers and we always had to make sure the door was closed or she'd get out. Dwight's dogs were wanderers, some were pointers off in the hills hunting. I always wanted a dog like Lassie that would sit when you told her to sit. I wanted the smartest one out there. So I did my research and found that border collies and standard poodles are considered to be very smart. Standard poodles just don't fit with the whole ranch thing, so border collies it is. We have two, Jill and Kelly, and boy, it's shocking how smart they are.
After a year or so on the ranch, a light bulb went on for the good doctor: have kids out to the ranch. Frank founded Bony Pony Ranch, a non-profit organization to help at-risk and underprivileged youth excel beyond their current situations.
"Kids started coming to the ranch in 2001. At first I had a whole itinerary planned: from 12-12:15 introductions; 12:15 to 1:00, we'll meet the animals. I quickly realized kids didn't want that; they wanted to have fun." The Foundation has created an atmosphere where young people can maximize their talents and achieve new goals, a place where they're exposed to new role models and mentors who can provide a positive influence.
"We have leadership programs to teach them about nature and fun. Some do chores to learn about responsibility. I don't know if you realize, just the respect that I'm showing them by having them at my house is huge. These inner city kids we rarely interact with are sitting right next to me at lunch having bar-b-que. Sometimes we purposely have "unformed" days when we tell the kids to just come out. We'll hike, use the trampoline, petting zoo. Other days we'll have specific programs set. They love it when celebrities join them - athletes, rappers like Eve, Melanie Brown from the Spice girls. And the honorary board boasts names like: Madonna, Paris Hilton, Lionel Ritchie, Renee Zellweger and Mickey Rourke.
Frank has rescued all manner of beast and fowl. Currently on the ranch are two horses, two mini donkeys and mini horses, two potbellied pigs, four alpacas, five pygmy goats, two geese, a bunch of chickens and one really special cat.
"I have an ostrich that eats out of our hands. I adopted a baby buffalo, now a full grown buffalo. His name is Tonka and he comes when you call him. He loves to be raked; it's like a massage for him. I'll bet you've never raked a buffalo before. He lives with a longhorn steer named Spot. They joust about and chase each other around, kicking up dust in a pasture."
Frank rides his horse over the rough terrain, Jill and Kelly running alongside. He shakes his head at the bright shiny houses going up in the area. With the success of the ranch, Dr. Ryan, the Media Master started a line of clothing, called BPR for Bony Pony Ranch.
Overseeing all of it is Frank's mom. Now 80, she lives in the guest house on the property. She sits on the porch, the border collies snoozing at her feet, and she likes what she sees. And that is as it should be for it all began with her.
Causes Laurie Jacobson Supports
Southern Poverty Law Center Brady Campaign to Control Handgun Violence NARAL Habitat for Humanity San Francisco AIDS Foundation