Up close and Personal with Legendary Comedian Buddy Hackett
I recently had what I consider a true pleasure to interview
someone who I feel is one of Americas funniest comedians and truly
a nice man. This man of course is Buddy Hackett. To my younger
readers you will probably recognize Buddy from Herbie The Love Bug
or more recently the voice of the parrot in Paulie, but in fact, he
has been around for some 50 years and we have had the honor to share
in his wonderful humor during those years. Buddy is another gem from
yesteryear that knows his boxing.
The following is our interview.
Interview by: Brad Berkwitt
Brad: Tell me about the different fighters you have met over the years and how
you were involved with them?
Buddy: I met Joe Louis in Las Vegas when he was a casino host as Ceasar's and I
used to play golf with him as well. I knew Rocky Graziano who I met at
the Neverley Country Club when he was training to fight Tony Zale back in
1947 or 48. We stayed friends over all the years till I moved out West
and whenever I came back to New York we would see each other. I met Jake
Lamotta I think maybe through Rocky. Funny thing about Jake he liked to
be a comedian and tell jokes which he did fairly well. Jake was really a
nice guy. His wife Vicki at the time was so beautiful that you didn't want
to pick your head up to look at her around him. Jake used to say, go ahead
you can look at her. In fact, I know where I met him at now, the Concord
Hotel where he stayed for the summer.
I met Muhammad Ali when he was still Cassius Clay and at that time only 21.
I met him at Gold's Gym on Miami Beach. At that time, a guy who I knew
named Joe Kalman (spelling)? from Chicago who also used to put fights on
at the Marigold Arena there. He had a couple of kids who got in trouble
when they held up a grocery store and shot somebody. They were going to
get the electric chair but could have spared their own lives if they would
say they were sorry or make a deal and they would not do it. Joe and I,
went to see Ali to ask if he would call those kids and have them change
their minds to save their lives. I really didn't know that much about it
but went with Joe and talked to Ali. I believe Ali made the call. Ali
went on to become a great man and to this day, if we our at big function
together one of his guys comes over to me and says the Champ wants to talk
with you. As soon as I walk over he starts to laugh and says, "I was going
tell you a joke, but I can't tell you a joke." Muhammad is a great laugher,
nice guy and just a very warm man.
Brad: How long have you followed boxing?
Buddy: Since I listened to Jack Sharkey on the radio with my father back in 1930.
Brad: Whom have you seen in your lifetime that you consider the greatest fighter
Buddy: Well it supposed to be Harry Greb. I must say some great exciting ones
were Kid Gavilian and Beau Jack. But pound for pound, I would say between
Harry Greb and Sugar Ray Robinson.
Brad: What is the nicest venue you ever watched a fight at?
Buddy: Well Brad, I see them mostly on Pay Per View at my home which is a pretty
nice place. (I laughed hard when he said this.) I would have to say the
old Madison Square Garden was a pretty nice place. It was a very exciting
place and just hearing the announcer say, "Ladies and Gentlemen, Madison
Square Garden Presents." This just gave you gooseflesh. I also played
Madison Square Garden many times for very big benefits. I remember working
there in 1949 and followed Lena Horne. It was just quite a place to be.
In fact, that reminds me I was there one time for the opening of the circus
for some publicity thing where I rode an elephant all around that place.
Brad: What era do you feel had the best fighters and why?
Buddy: Well before TV came in. So the era would be the 1930s - early 40's before
World War II. I feel this because we were coming out of the depression.
The depression started in the 30's and didn't end until the early 40's. The
depression breeds boxers and other athletes because people have to make a
living. If you have a talent such as in sports than you have to pursue it
and work very hard at it which produced the very rough and tough fighters.
Later on, after the GI BILL, guys could go to college, learn a craft, trade
or just about business. So than that would have been a great potential of
flesh, didn't have to go into the ring. Later on when all the sports
started paying huge amounts of money, then it became frugal for people to
go into sports after that. Currently what your getting in boxing, is not
quite as good as what it was back then. (This is a very intelligent response
and makes a lot of sense.)
Brad: Who are your top three favorite fighters of all-time?
Buddy: Joe Louis, Rocky Graziano and Sugar Ray Leonard.
Brad: Since you have been in the entertainment business for many years, do you
have any funny stories about any of the fighters you have met over the years?
Buddy: Well first a funny story is the old one where the corner is saying to the
fighter that the other guy is not laying a glove on you. The fighters than
turns to the corner and says, than you better watch the REF because someone
is whacking the hell out of me!
Brad: In today's boxing, are there any fighters that remind you of fighters from
the old days?
Buddy: Yes! Oscar Delahoya. I love to watch Oscar he is a throwback fighter to
me who would have fit back in those days.
Brad: What is the greatest fight you ever saw and why?
Buddy: Joe Louis Vs Max Schmeling. The reason was all of America back than were
against the Germans. Of course Max was German, however I want to say that
later on I found out he was a very nice man. But back then all we heard
in America was Joe Louis, when I was a young man. Many years later when
I met Joe Louis and I use to make him laugh so hard. One time we were both
sitting at Caesar's in the coffee shop and a woman came over and I said
Joe before we are through you are going to hit the canvas. Joe said, "If I
fall don't count me." I use to make him laugh so hard he would fall down
and I would start counting him out. It use to irritate him that I would
do this. So anyway, the woman came over and said, could you gentlemen give
me an autograph for a cripple? I said, "Oh yeah, show us the cripple!"
You know like she was lying. Joe went right on the floor and I started
counting. He kept saying Buddy don't count (LAUGH) and say don't count
Buddy again. HOLD ON! I have a great story for you Brad about Joe Louis.
Joe showed up in a casino and of course everyone knew he was a gambler who
gambled all his money away. Joe was dressed in a black suit, black shirt,
white tie and white cowboy hat. While he is walking through the casino
people are yelling Hey Champ, let's shoot some craps. Here is five hundred
play it and keep it. Joe replies, No I am going to Sonny Liston's funeral
today. I have to go to Sonny's funeral. Another Hey Champ here is five
hundred. Joe says, NO NO! Than they say Hey Champ, here's five thousand.
Joe than says, "Sonny would understand". (I fell out of my chair when Buddy
told me this story.)
Brad: Finally, in all your years as a boxing fan, what was the most brutal knock-
out you have ever seen in the ring?
Buddy: When Emile Griffith fought Benny "The Kid" Paret. Paret went straight back,
down to the canvas and laid there. I turned to a guy and said, Paret is
dead and he was. Very sad thing.
As always fight fans, reach for the stars and all your dreams can be fulfilled.