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Saturday, 27 November 2004

G. Frazier: 'Last' Arbiter of Social Grace (Part III)

(The following is Part III of a continuing dialog between Richard Carreño and J. Pepper Frazier, George Frazier's younger son).

Q. What were the 'best' columns?

A. His eulogies of [Gary] Cooper, [Vince] Lombardi, [William] Faulkner, Eddie Condon, people he really knew. He was the last arbiter of social grace. He was best on fashion, style, 'Another Man's Poison,' eulogies, chauvinism. Funny. You know, he wasn't a male chauvinist at all. He infuriated the women libbers because they were so petty. He thought they were just blocking the main issues by worrying about semantics and all this stuff. But he got that award as 'the most male chauvinist pig of the year.' He thought it was the greatest thing that he ever got.

Q. Did you suggest writing the columns when he went missing?

A. No. What happened was that my father would disappear periodically, and hold up in the Parker House and drink, and my brother [George Frazier IV] would write the column. George would imitate Dad very well. He lived with Dad for a while, which I never did. He was much closer to my brother than to me. And he [George IV] knew his temperament. Dad was reclusive. I'm not sure he always was.

Q. So you knew where he was.

A. No. I often didn't know where to find him.

Q. What about money? Who took charge of his finances?

A. I guess I can say that [I did] more or less -- chaotic as they were. He didn't pay income tax for a hell of a long time, Twice he didn't pay income tax. There were two different periods. One time he claimed -- this is true -- he claimed that he was drunk the entire time. This was in the late '50's. He said he was drunk for two years and couldn't remember anything. They [Internal Revenue Service] let him off. The second time: He was going through a hassle with the IRS when he died. I have had to speak to the IRS a number of times. His [financial] records are impossible.

[J. Pepper said that Frazier's annual income, at the time of his death, was about $100,000. Expenses, including tax payments an an apartment rental in New York City, ran about $60,000].

A. Did he live alone?

Q. He was living with a Hawaiian-Japanese girl in the New York apartment. She was his girlfriend. Beautiful girl. Really smart. It was more than just an affair.

Q. And the taxes?

A. I don't think he ever cleared up his taxes entirely with the IRS. It was entirely neglience. He had a lawyer working on it. A lawyer in Marblehead [Mass.] working on it. I think he [the lawyer] was Eddie Andelman's cousin, as a matter of fact. [Andelman, at the time, was host of a radio show titled 'Sports Huddle']. He intended to pay them [taxes], I think, to square the record. Once you run afoul of the IRS, they never forget you. I have bushels and bushels of his stuff [financial records], but you can't understand it. First of all, I don't know if ever saw how he wrote. The driver's licence people made him write out [print] his signature. It [his penmanship] was just a scrawl. A total scrawl. He was also one of those people who -- the guy was brilliant! --could not add. My mother was telling me that he would look at 20 and 25, and sort of stare at it, and then got someone else to add it.

Q. It's often said that successful free-lance writing is 60 percent business.

A. He wasn't, financially, a businessman at all -- any sort of businessman. He was the worst businessman I've ever known.

Q. Wasn't there another book, besides Costello?

A. The Astaire book was almost completed. He did it with a guy named Goldblatt, I think. Anyhow, he found out, from whoever the publisher was, that there had to be a lot of revisions in the book because they wanted to sell it Fred Astaire dance studios. That was the end of that one.

Q. How long was your father sick?

A. A little over a year. He was under 100 pounds.

Q. Was that the reason The Globe did the profile by Bruce McCabe?

A. No. They didn't know.

Q. Did your father?

A. He had false hopes, unfortunately. He had lung cancer. The doctors didn't tell him that, however. Lungs collect fluid with lung cancer. He had severe emphysema. It was from smoking. He used to smoke five to six packs of Camels a day.

[Part IV, the final installment of this interview, will appear in a timely fashion].

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