Excerpt: "[Frank] was prone to dramatic displays of emotion, from filling a lover's car with rose petals to denouncing his exes while …"
Frank Sheldon Tuttle was born June 8, 1985, in Biloxi, Mississippi.
His father, Eugene Tuttle, hailed from Jackson and came to Biloxi as an Air Force trainee. He liked the Gulf Coast town so much that after a tour of duty overseas and a subsequent honorable discharge, he returned to Biloxi and found lucrative work in construction.
Shortly after moving to Biloxi, Eugene met Delia Eleanor Rowell, a nurse at Memorial Hospital in Gulfport, and they married in January of 1985. After a difficult pregnancy, Delia stayed at home with Frank for a year, then returned to work. Delia also volunteers as Biloxi Little Theatre's piano accompanist and always encouraged Frank's interest in music and theatre.
In 1992, Frank's father purchased a trawler and set up a sport fishing charter business as a sideline. With dockside gaming now legal, Eugene devoted himself to marketing and expanding his sport fishing tours.
Eugene and Delia raised Frank in a small home in Biloxi's Back Bay and participated fully in community life. The family spent vacations traveling around the South by car. While visiting Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee, Frank, then aged eight, declared he wanted to be a musician just like Elvis when he grew up.
Frank excelled in elementary school, where his teachers found him boisterous but creative. He was reading at a 7th grade level in 5th grade, and Eugene and Delia briefly considered having Frank skip a year, but decided not to in the end for fear his social interactions would suffer.
By 8th grade, Frank had become more than a handful — easily distracted from schoolwork and prone to antics that won laughter from friends but disrupted the class. He was suspended for two days following a particularly elaborate prank in which he mounted a dummy dressed as principal Elinor Snowdon baring her breasts for Mardi Gras beads atop the school's entrance portico.
Despite such tomfoolery, Frank was extremely serious about music. He asked for piano lessons for his 10th birthday and practiced without fail or prompting several times a week. For Christmas in 1999, Eugene and Delia gave him an electric guitar with the stipulation that it would be locked away if his school antics caused any trouble.
Delia saw music as a healthy outlet for Frank's excess energies and talents. By contrast, Eugene thought strict discipline was the best way to solve the problem and routinely grounded him when he missed curfew or failed to do chores.
But father and son did share a common interest – boating. In the summers, Frank worked for Eugene on the charter boat, doing maintenance and learning to navigate the Gulf waters. He even toyed with the idea of studying marine biology in college.
But Frank's passion for music outweighed his academic zeal. In high school, he maintained respectable but unspectacular grades, preferring to focus on his band, the Flesh Zealots. The group was popular at school events, and Frank had his share of female admirers, some of whom he occasionally dated.
His only serious relationship was with the drummer, Phoebe Atwater, an eccentric straight-A student with lime-green highlights in her hair. When she broke up with him over Christmas break their senior year, he not only kicked her out of the band but spent the following semester composing malicious ballads about her ("Your hair/Is the color of the bile/That festers within your lair/Of hatred").
The romantic breakup signaled the beginning of the end for the Flesh Zealots, and by graduation, Frank's plans to tour the state with the band were in disarray. He had not applied to college and decided to take a year off to work on the boat and consider his options. But six months later, when family Christmas festivities disintegrated into a shouting match between Frank and Eugene, who had taken to calling his son a "freeloader," Frank decided the time had come to move out.
Frank left Biloxi on New Year's Day 2005 and headed to Oxford, where he stayed with a friend who was enrolled at Ole Miss. Easy-going and lively as always, Frank quickly made friends with other students and settled into life at Oxford.
He got a part-time job as a clerk at Square Books while continuing to pursue his musical interests by playing guitar with local bands. He also became interested in theatre and started composing music for local productions.
Although Frank had become a fixture in Oxford's arts scene, his personal life was unsettled. He dated erratically, and his relationships were often rocky. He was prone to dramatic displays of emotion, from filling a lover's car with rose petals to denouncing his exes while standing atop the bar at Proud Larry's.
In 2008, Frank settled into a relationship with Ellen Mayberry, a graduate student in history. Her calm demeanor was a foil for his rambunctiousness, and she persuaded him to focus his energies on applying to Ole Miss. Frank took several required general education classes but then dropped out, saying he preferred to focus on work.
In March of 2009, he left his job at Square Books for a part-time position as an assistant at the university's blues archive. Ellen grew impatient with his meandering and ended the relationship that summer. Frank rebounded in a succession of casual relationships.
Feeling embittered and exhausted, over the holidays Frank returned home for the first time since 2005. Although his parents were less than thrilled with his lack of career direction, the reunion was peaceful.
When he returned to Oxford in January of 2010, Frank heard about a part-time opening with Oxtales, then a fledgling theatre company with a flair for the unusual. Although he lacked stage management experience, Frank was hired for his broad knowledge of theatre and music. He kept his job at the university, but Oxtales became his main passion as he took on acting roles in addition to his stage management duties.
Frank quickly hit it off with Andrea Stover, another recent arrival at Oxtales. He was impressed by her nervy ideas, and his quick wit and spontaneity were refreshing for her. They became friends first, and later, lovers. But for once, Frank's partner proved more fickle than he. Andrea broke up with him in 2014, saying their monogamous relationship was stunting her artistic growth. She did allow for occasional renewals of their romance, which Frank accepted.
By then Oxtales' notoriety had spread, and in 2015 Frank was arrested along with Andrea and assistant director Dale King, in connection with several teenagers' involvement in the sexually explicit production "Snopes." Frank pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a fine and community service work. He fulfilled the requirements of his sentence in September of 2016 and continues to work as Oxtales' stage manager.