“I love the jungle. I am most comfortable in the jungle’

Seeking redemption, Frattini returns to popular survivalist show, somewhere in the South China sea

Mon, 05/20/2019 - 10:00pm

Strength. Determination. Redemption. 

Each of these words describes the thoughts and emotions of Charlie Frattini and his time on the upcoming season of Naked and Afraid XL, a popular survivalist reality television series that drops strangers into the jungles of various countries and leaves them to fight for survival. 

For Frattini, the territory is familiar: Not only has he already competed in this series twice (once on Naked and Afraid and again on Naked and Afraid XL), but he spent time in the jungles of Panama and Philippines as a U.S. Marine, from 1979-1985. 

Coincidentally, this season’s competition takes place in the South China Sea, an area near the Philippines. 

During the series, which starts airing next month, Frattini returned to the Naked and Afraid XL competition for its fifth season in search of redemption after a way-too-early exit during the show’s third season in 2017. 

Presently, Frattini maintains a full and busy schedule: he is the general contracting manager for Phi Builders + Architects in Rockport, running for a seat on the Select Board in Thomaston and is now in charge of building the new Rockport Library.

That’s on top of his filming his appearance on the fifth season of Naked and Afraid XL and his personal life, which includes restoring an old sea captain’s home in Thomaston.

With his busy schedule, how is it possible for Frattini to juggle it all? 

He sacrifices his sleep since, as he says, there will be time for that when he passes away. 

“For now, there are things to be done,” he said. “I’m not going to be here forever. I want to get the most out of my life and make a difference in people's lives in the process.” 

Although his schedule his clearly jam-packed, Frattini, who says he cannot sit still for long, insists he can sit take on more tasks, if the right opportunity comes along.

“It may seem full to some, but I have room for more,” he said. “I’ll just shift some things around and I will find time to fit it all in.” 

The former New Yorker wound up in Maine after visiting his wife’s family in Milo over Thanksgiving dinner. As the couple passed through Thomaston during a scenic drive along Route 1, the couple knew they had found their home. 

Speaking of his time in the Big Apple, Frattini is one of only a select few who have participated in changing the New York City skyline. He has assisted in the construction of airport runways, viaducts, infrastructure and high-rise buildings throughout New York City – and done it all ethically, morally and with integrity, he notes. 

“I am proud that I have taken the time to build each of my structures properly,” he said, and laughed, “None of my buildings have fallen down!”

Frattini said he worked hard to properly and safely construct new buildings.

He is proud to state that no employees during his career, which spans over three decades, has been seriously injured or killed while working for him, an accomplishment he is proud of since high-rise construction is a dangerous profession. 

“I worked hard to maintain safety for my men and that has paid off,” he said. 


Building on Reality Television

Not only does Frattini know his way around a construction site, he is also familiar with reality television. 

The Thomaston resident spent time on Sell This House: Extreme (A&E Network) and as a host on Construction Intervention (Discovery Channel) before testing his survival skills on Discovery Channel’s Naked and Afraid and Naked and Afraid XL.

Frattini’s reputation in the New York City construction industry landed him his start on reality television after the Discovery Channel approached him to submit a demo tape for a hosting role on Construction Intervention.

At the time, Frattini said he was serving as a senior executive while building the second largest project in New York City at the time, behind the World Trade Center project, and had a camera crew follow him around for a day to see what his life was like. 

After being impressed by his work, the Discovery Channel signed him for an 11 episode season of its new show Construction Intervention, that only lasted one season. 

“I never was shy and being in front of a camera came naturally to me,” Frattini said about the transition to suddenly doing his job with cameras around. 

Frattini enjoyed his time on reality television as a contractor, but said he experienced much greater joy assisting people less fortunate, and those who had been swindled by other contractors. 

Frattini said he would step in, right the wrongs and help the sellers finally sell their properties. 

“The gratitude they expressed through teary eyes was infinitely more satisfying to me than making a rich man richer,” he said. “TV gave me the opportunity to do something most people never get the opportunity to do nor do they want to do. I got to change people’s lives. I did not get paid a lot of money to do TV work, but I was compensated with the happiness of knowing I made a difference.” 

Through his time on the construction-related shows, including one called Homeowner Justice that was filmed but never aired, Frattini learned how some contractors will take advantage of homeowners, a fact that pushed Frattini to ensure he always advocate for the homeowner in every circumstance, even if he is not on the project himself. 

“I will even fight my own company in defense of a homeowner being wronged,” he said. 


Naked and Afraid

The first time Frattini appeared on Naked and Afraid was in 2015 when the show shipped him off to Colombia as a contestant on its show featuring but two competitors. Frattini returned to the series to compete on the “XL” version of the show in 2017 as part of a larger group of competitors competing over a 40-day period in Ecuador’s Amazon basin. 

Frattini found his motivation to compete on the show through his desire to prove to his sons he is type of man he says he is, which is largely thanks to his time in the U.S. Marines and as a way to prove he is as tough as his 90-year-old father. 

“I am both physically and psychologically tough and I can do things which are extremely difficult and things most people cannot nor would not do,” he stated. “The Marine Corps has given me the leadership skills needed in life and as a result I am proud I am capable of leading people to complete tasks they do not want to do nor feel they are able to do and have them be proud of their accomplishments.”

On top of proving himself to his sons, Frattini challenged himself to achieve the same level of strength maintained by his father. 

“My dad is my hero. I admire him and only hope to be as strong a man as he is,” Frattini said. “His toughness is never ending even in the face of constant pain. I love that man and know I will never be as strong a man as he is, but I can try.” 

Competing on the season was a come-full-circle moment for Frattini, who enjoyed watching the Naked and Afraid series long before competing on the show. 

Frattini, in fact, recalls the moment he went from viewer to contestant. 

“The minute I took my clothes off in the jungle and the thorns on the jungle floor were hurting my feet, that was when my fate was secured, accepted and the reality of the situation sunk in,” he recalled. “I love the jungle. I started my survival training gin the jungle of the Philippines. I am most comfortable in the jungle. That doesn’t mean I am not susceptible to its dangers, it just means I am truly comfortable in the jungle.” 

The prime strategy, according to Frattini, is to not panic. 

“It is an extreme situation and any feelings of panic will consume you and you will have to tap out,” he said. “So I was consistent in remaining calm at all times and using my skills to keep me in the game. Even with that, there are times skills are not enough.”  

The best part of being on the Naked and Afraid series is the companionship formed with other contestants. He respects each of the survivalists, he said.

The worst aspects, he said, were the times he failed to secure food or water. 

“My first time [on the show in 2015] in Colombia, [fellow survivalist] Dani Beauchemin and I were boiling water in bamboo ‘pots’ I made,” he said. “The water tasted awful and it took forever to boil it. I was losing liters of water a day and only taking in ounces. I was near dehydration. It was then I used my skills to find a viable water source and it worked. From that point on we had more water than we could drink.” 

Being on the Naked and Afraid series takes a toll on eating habits and weight. 

Frattini lost 37 pounds during his one experience on the show and said he dropped even more weight this time around. 

This season, he went from consuming 5,000 calories a day to, if he was lucky, consuming approximately 150 calories in the blink of an eye. 

He survived on a diet of large snails, ants, small crabs, small clams, fish, fruit and edible leaves. 

When returning from the show’s filming, Frattini said that despite the temptation and urge of completely pigging out and gorging, it is key to slowly work from eating very little to eating normal amounts of food. 

During his time on the the third season of Naked and Afraid XL in 2017, he exited the competition four hours after starting, a moment Frattini described as embarrassing, when he severed his quadriceps tendon as he twisted his leg on a steep slope in attempt to avoid a swarm of hundreds of ants that attacked him for stepping on their nest. 

Following his injury, he immediately fell to the ground, landing in the ants’ nest and providing the ants the opportunity to attack his entire body. As he attempted to run away, he again fell to the ground within four to five feet, unable to run with a snapped quadriceps tendon. 

His injury, however, did not provide an excuse to forego all that he learned while in the military. 

Frattini refused the production team’s offer to remove him on a stretcher and instead spent the next two days hobbling in intense pain with no painkillers until he was out. 

Doctors operated on him nine days later and again six weeks after the initial procedure. 

With his quick exit, he was determined to return for his shot at redemption. 

That chance has come and will be broadcast to the world when the fifth season of Naked and Afraid XL airs. Viewers will be introduced to all the survivalists Sunday, May 26, at 10 p.m. with the season’s competitions beginning Sunday, June 2, at 10 p.m. on the Discovery Channel. 

While Frattini, of course, will not provide any spoilers for the upcoming fifth season of Naked and Afraid XL, he promises the season will be “truly epic” filled with challenges that tested his strength, resolve and commitment to mental fortitude.

The season will surprise everyone, he said. 

Reach George Harvey at: sports@penbaypilot.com