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Playboy Interview: 'Smokin' Joe Frazier
  • November 07, 2011 : 20:11
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PLAYBOY: How do you feel about government welfare programs for those who aren't as able-bodied or well motivated as you were?
FRAZIER: You wouldn't need Medicare, Social Security or welfare if the government would give out work instead of money. It should move into the cities and build more big factories so the people who live in the ghettos, who don't have the education to get a better job, could work there and support their families. Just give poor folks a chance to better their own condition. They don't want no handouts. They'd rather work for it.

We black people been workin' 400, 500 years. Without us, without poor folks, this country wouldn't run. It's the poor man who built this country, who did the labor, who had the skill to put it together. The man with the money just paid him to do it—but not enough to live on. That's why we have our crimes; that's why people lose their lives for no reason—because they get tired of tryin', tired of bein' let down—and a man decides he has to steal to feed his family.

PLAYBOY: Many cities have elected law-and-order mayors—such as Frank Rizzo in your own Philadelphia—instead of providing employment for the poor. Do you think he's done a good job?
FRAZIER: I know the mayor real well, and he's doin' the best he can. Since he was police commissioner, we've had less crime than anywhere else in America. We got less of a gang problem. And I ain't seen where anyone down the line, or he himself, has given any kind of order to hurt an innocent person. He's got more black policemen on the staff than they have anywhere else. And I think he's opened a lot of doors for the poor people; I think he knows what it's like to be poor. He's given a lot of blacks high official jobs. Now, I wouldn't agree, maybe, with all the decisions he's made, but we had an awful lot of violence in the streets, and now it's somewhat under control. Every now and then, one or two people are gonna lose their cool and blow their tops, you know—but we got a nice city to live in here since he's been in.

PLAYBOY: Do people on the street ever hassle you just to see how tough the heavyweight champ is?
FRAZIER: I've had guys walk up and want to take me on. Probably because they told some other guy they were gonna take a shot at me—that's about all it boils down to. Most of the time, they don't really mean any harm.

I remember one time, though, when a guy jumped in the ring durin' one of my fights—I forget which fight it was—and he claimed he was comin' up there to kill me. The policemen stopped him as he was comin' in. But things like that don't bother me. Sometimes I carry a security man—but when I want to be at my personal places, I don't carry him, because nobody outside knows I'm there. And when I'm movin' around the city by myself, I don't have any problems with anybody, because I'm the quiet type. I'm a professional fighter, and I don't have to put on a show in public.

PLAYBOY: How do you manage to keep your temper?
FRAZIER: Before I ever do anything, I look at the bad part of it. If I feel like I want to go out and drive my automobile 100 miles an hour, I'm gonna think about it first—and if I wind up doin' it, I'm still thinkin' about it. And when I'm through lookin' at the bad part, it usually turns out there ain't any good part. You see? If I go out there and drive that car fast, I might get a ticket. Or I may have a flat—and if you have a flat tire at that speed, you're gonna hurt yourself. Or if you don't hurt yourself, you might hurt some other people, and then you're involved.

Sometimes I may get angry at home, and I'll say to myself, "Maybe I'll just get lost for a week or two." But then I think how the kids would get upset and want to know where I was. Their feelin's would be hurt. And I decide to stay. I'll just ride around and come back and everything will cool off. You see, I never been the type of guy who likes hassles. I don't like hassles in the fight game, with my family, with the public; I just don't like hassles. I lived in the South, with the racial problem and all—but the things they did that I didn't like, I just didn't bother them about it. If they said I wasn't allowed to go someplace, I'd say OK, the hell with it, I'll go where I'm allowed. So I just went about my business.

A lot of people might think, "Well, maybe the guy's just ignorant." But it's not that. You got all types of people in the world. There are people who like trouble and like to create problems. But the way I feel about it, I just don't like to hassle, man. Life is too short. Anyway, I feel like I'm one of the guys who've been touched by the Good Man, so I don't need to hassle it. I always felt that way. I must have been touched by Him, because I've come through some quick calls, I've escaped a lot of things.

PLAYBOY: Such as?
FRAZIER: Well, with the motorcycle. I've been down umpteen times. I just feel I'm one of the guys—one of the hundred or million—who've been touched by Him. That He laid a blessing upon me. That nothin' I do would go wrong. So I don't give people problems, and I don't want them to give me too many. It's a life I'd like to live all over again.

PLAYBOY: You're talking like it's almost over. Are you planning to retire?
FRAZIER: Not for about three more years. First I'll have to check my bank account and see how fat it is. Before I hang it up, I want to make sure it's all put together so I don't have to worry about anything.

PLAYBOY: And then what?
FRAZIER: Then some of my time will go into music. It's been part of my life since I was a child—and I want to learn more about it, because it's a challenge to me, and I love it. It don't matter to me how much work it takes to become a more complete musician, or to do a good job—I'll tackle it.

PLAYBOY: Your European tour wasn't very successful.
FRAZIER: Well, everything we did was done well, the people around me were nice, they had strong belief in me, and we did a good job. The problems had to come from the promoter or the bookin' agency, because they kept changin' a lot of locations, and people didn't know where we were at. That's what happened over there.

PLAYBOY: What are you doing in music now?
FRAZIER: I got my group. The boys worked here last week, at the Stardust Supper Club.

PLAYBOY: Do you plan to make records?
FRAZIER: Well, I did make some. I had six tunes out, but they never went anyplace. They weren't promoted right. I was with Capitol for a year or so, but they didn't do any big thing for me. So I went and I got my own label together. But I didn't go all the way into it because it got to be a hassle, and I didn't have time for it. So now I'm gonna sit back and relax and record some stuff of my own, and I'm gonna present it to labels and see if they'll go for it. The guys I got with me now—we were raised up together—they're all musicians, and very professional. I'm still not the kind of pro in music I'd like to be, but I think that workin' with these guys—who are really in my corner, who know what I like and what I sound like—that we can go places.

PLAYBOY: What will you do, besides music?
FRAZIER: Well, everything will be different after I get through fightin'. I'll have a little more time to spend with my wife and kids. I'll be able to swim with them. And I'll have a little more time to enjoy the things I have. I recently bought three snowmobiles for the family, and it's a big sport for us. But the money I've spent around the home and all—I don't have time to enjoy it, because I have to keep goin', man, to make the bread and pay the bills. Sometimes I feel that if I stopped for one day and sat down, I'd really be lost. Because work is the only meanin' I've ever known. Like the man in the song says, I just gotta keep on keepin' on.

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