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 
      of all-time?

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.