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Thursday, 7 October 2004

George Frazier: Bush (Part II in a Series)

The following is the continuation of an interview between Richard Carreño and J. Pepper Frazier, conducted circa 1976, in the fall. J. Pepper remembers his late father, George Frazier, a Boston Globe columnist and societal arbiter.

Q.Who were his friends?
A. Most of my father's friends were younger. He like young people. His favourite person at The Globe was probably Diane White, who was a ''good writer," as opposed to a ''good woman writer.'' The stuff Diane writes on my father is good. I think the best stuff.
Q. How about The Globe's Mike Barnicle?
A. One of the last things he said before he died was about something somebody had asked him about Barnicle had written, and he [Frazier] said he was looking for an English translation. Barnicle wrote an equivalent -- equivalent is not the right word -- of ''Another Man's Poison,'' and that was the last time he got mad at him [Barnicle]. Dad would not criticise Barnicle because he thought Barnicle was such a bad writer that there was no point. He wouldn't criticise anyone who was below criticising. And, he never criticised people's physical deficiencies. [According Frazier's English shoemaker, the writer had one that was significantly smaller than the other]. He regretted referring to Louise Day Hicks' ''three chins.'' He felt bad about that.
A. What about Frank Sinatra?
Q. He tore up Sinatra in the later part of his life. Still, I got a very nice letter from Sinatra when he [Frazier] died. I always thought Sinatra was vindictive. He said that ''we go back a long way,'' and he signed it ''Francis,'' and my father always said that Sinatra liked to called ''Francis.''
A. What about the format of your proposed book?
Q. The initial idea was to have a bunch of people write pieces on him. Identifiable people. Famous people. People that he knew. People in all walks of life. George Plimpton, Roger Angell, [Arnold] Gingrich, Ralph Ellison, Nat Hentoff, [Richard] Merkin, Timothy Crouse. Anyway, the second idea was to divide the book into sections and preface each section with somebody who was connected with the section. I thought it would be fun to have someone [who's] connected in a derogatory way. ''Dapper'' O'Neil on the section on pants, for instance. Anyhow, the third idea was for me to write a preface, an introduction, which I have done, and for Alden Whitman to look at Dad as a contemporary.
A. Was George on The Globe staff?
Q. It's funny. [J. Pepper pointed out a column identifying Frazier as a Globe staffer]. I'm pretty sure that it [the slug line] is in error. I think he worked for the paper on a contractual basis. [J. Pepper then displayed a letter that outlined publication rights and income division. The letter was signed by Jack Driscoll, The Globe's assistant executive editor]. It explains the standard procedure: "We had an informal agreement with your father that enable him to reprint his columns in book form under the same conditions we allow for staff writers. Basically, the arrangement is that we would work out copyright details with the publisher and that we would split the proceeds on an 80-20 basis -- the higher percentage obviously going to the author. In this case, we would not hold precisely to this 20 percent figure. All that we would want to do is cover whatever costs we bear. Feel free to show this letter to whatever publisher you're dealing with and we can go from there.''
Q. Have you contacted the Boston Herald about reprinting columns?
A. I haven't been in touch with the Herald. The Herald is in a constant upheaval these days.
Q. What about Esquire?
A.If I did that, that would be something different. The scope of the book would be different. It's since 1962, the Herald columns, to 1974, when he died, and The Globe columns. I'm not including any of the Record American columns. [The anthology, he explained, would highlight the period of Frazier's ''return'' to Boston after a spell of reporting in New York at Esquire]. First of all, when he died, The Globe came out with something they called his ''best'' columns, right? Well, I just didn't agree with that. First, my brother [George Frazier IV] wrote one, and I wrote one of the 10 columns they published. My brother wrote the one about Louis Armstrong, and I wrote one that was about things that were ''bush.'' That was [the] only one I ever wrote. My brother wrote three or four.

To be continued.