Robert Goes to Clyde Frazier’s Restaurant: Part Two

When we last left our intrepid hero, he’d worried about under-dressin’ for a fête, been shootin’ jumpers, eatin’ snacks and spent’ some quality time Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper Al Trautwig. Part One can be found in its entirety here.

And now, the thrilling conclusion of…ROBERT GOES TO CLYDE FRAZIER’S RESTAURANT!

Clyde and Shump were holding court in the mini-court and posing for photos. It was the end of the night and both of them looked somewhat drained. I half-considered letting them be, but I am, if nothing else, a professional. And so are they.

I tried to act as casual as possible (As you, dear readers, may have inferred by now, “casual,” is not really a baseline/go-to state of being for yours truly.) and Clyde was engaging in idle palaver with Shump and a coterie of gentlemen who appeared to be actual friends. Either that or Clyde is far, far better at engaging in small talk with total strangers after an evening of glad-handling than any other multicellular life form on the planet. I wanted to sidle up and see if I could capture a casual, non-mediated conversation, but MSG guy made a point of introducing me and pointing out in no uncertain terms that I was a reporter, and so that put an end to all that.

1967 – NIT Championship Game at Madison Square Garden III – Southern Illinois v. Marquette: Walt Frazier wins the NIT MVP award after So. Illinois defeats Marquette, 71-56.

ME: Congrats on the opening of the restaurant

CLYDE: Thank you, thank you.

ME: Have you enjoyed the experience?

CLYDE: Yeah, I mean, it’s been a natural for me. Wining and Dining. I mean, I meet people all the time, they want to take pictures, and now I’m just doing it here.

(A kid then interrupted us and asked for an autograph. Unfortunately, most of their conversation ends up being pretty garbled. It’s too bad, because it was downright heartwarming. I mean, Clyde must deal with a bajillion autograph seekers and it would have been easy enough for him to go through the motions. But the kid liked and played basketball and Clyde gave him a few pointers, showing a genuine interest and a desire to improve his game as much as was humanly possible in a two minute encounter. I was about to ask Clyde if he’d tried to impart similar wisdom to any of the adults currently toiling for his favorite team, but I got the ‘wrap it up’ signal from my MSG handler and so if I only could ask one question, instead of, “Why is this night different from all other night,” I went with…)

ME: So what do you think the future holds for this Knick team? How do you feel about them, where they’re going?

CLYDE: They’ve got a lot of work ahead of them. Losing Shump until January. They’ve got to rebuild the bench. And the players they have, they need to learn how to work together. Amar’e, Chandler, they all have work to do to improve…

(Once again, we were interrupted by one of Clyde’s fans. And once again I wished my cheap tape recorder [yes, it uses an actual tape. I’m a semi-confirmed Luddite.] could have done even a semi-adequate job. This time it was a much older fan, probably between 50-60 years old. He clearly had been around for the Holzman-era championship Knicks and was positively giddy at the thought of standing next to a boyhood hero. For all of the hypocrisies that make me rant and rail, it’s impossible to deny that seeing a player that one loved or even worshiped as a child will inevitably cause that selfsame person to in many ways revert to age at which the devotion was born. As one grows older and older, it gets harder and harder to find actual “heroes,” or individuals who are worthy of unconditional love or leave us starstruck by their mere presence. It’s a painful cliche to invoke the “innocence of childhood.” but sometimes there’s a reason things become cliches — underneath all the sappy, facepalm-inducing obviousness are some nasty teeth of truth. And watching a middle-aged man get giddy as a schoolgirl just because he’s entered Clyde’s aura is right up there. As was the case with the youngin’, I’m impressed that Clyde seems genuinely pleased that this gent can recall with photographic clarity the time that his hero made player X look royally silly or just housed Jerry West/Oscar/Monroe/whomever. The ability to make a total stranger/individual who could possibly be deemed an underling/lesser than one’s self feel like a lifelong friend is a quality that many charismatic individuals possess — Bill Clinton had/has it in spades (no matter what one’s political bent, one cannot deny that). But in watching Clyde with this fan, it doesn’t feel like a con or a gifted performance/performer. Even thought that’s how great confidence men work — you never truly know you’ve been grifted — I feel like I’ve spent enough time on stage and around other thespians that I can always sniff out when someone is acting, whether they’re a master or a hack. like a fart in a crowded room. This ain’t it. Frazier just digs being around his fans. Anyway, back to the action…)

ME: So how do you think you’d do if you were playing in today’s game? How has it changed since you were a pro?

CLYDE: If I played, I would be better. I would be better today. If only because they can’t hand check on the perimeter. I’d be breaking them down off the dribble and I’d live at the free throw line.

ME: Well, the Knicks really could use a backup point guard. You think you could give the team fifteen minutes a night? I bet you’d be well compensated..

CLYDE: Ha ha!

And with that, I thanked him for the interview. One, because it had been a long evening and two, because I really wanted to chat up Iman Shumpert, who was also giving off the vibe that he was ready to get the heck outta there. There were a couple of models in attendance and one of them was definitely giving him the eye, so I kept it fairly brief:

(On a side note, Iman’s sartorial splendor, at least for this evening, amazingly enough, outpaced Clyde. He was dressed as if he was going to be performing with a Specials tribute band later that evening — porkpie hat, thin suspenders, tight-rolled jeans, Fred Perry shirt —  I mean, maybe I’m biased because I grew up at the height of the third-wave NY Ska explosion but I thought he looked bitchin’. Wait. Dressing like a rude boy isn’t cool any more? Really? That ain’t right. Two Tone/Straight Edge Posse 4evr! Oi! Moving on…)

ME: So, how’s the rehab going?

IMAN SHUMPERT: Going good, going good. Just got off the crutches. It’s going to be a lot of work but I’m excited to get started. I got a great training staff and it’s a long road back but I’m going to get there.

ME: Watching you this season, as a fan, was…as a Knicks fan…you had a great rookie year.

IMAN SHUMPERT: Thanks, man. Thanks.

(We then chatted about the Lin/Novak hearing, which had just taken place on the day that I went on this excursion.)

IMAN SHUMPERT: I was going to go down and support the guys, but I just moved into my new place in the city.

ME: Really? Where?

IMAN SHUMPERT [laughing] Oh I can’t tell you that!

ME: What about, you know…just the general area, the neighborhood…

IMAN SHUMPERT [laughing louder] …No, I’m not telling anyone…

ME: …Manhattan. or…

IMAN SHUMPERT: Yeah, Manhattan.

{Note: I hope it doesn’t sound like I was trying to stalk Iman Shumpert. In the moment, that wasn’t what I was thinking. But in transcribing the tape, it certainly reads a little restraining order-y. In any case, the NY Post spilled the beans a few days later. Coincidentally 9or not, his new pad’s mere blocks from Clyde’s Wine and Dine. Sweet digs!]

Iman Shumpert lives here. I have a massive case of apartment-envy.

ME: You shoulda called me, I would have helped you move.


ME: Sure. I’ve got a van. If you’ve got a sectional couch I would have totally helped you get it around the corners. Those can be a colossal pain. No biggie, though. You totally should have called me.

IMAN SHUMPERT [laughing again] Next time, I will.

[Again with the faulty tape, but we were speaking generally about Lin and Novak and how important it was to bring the team back when I asked…]



ME: Did you see Jeremy on Jimmy Kimmel last night?

[Note: this bit]


ME: Yeah?

IMAN SHUMPERT: Jeremy’s a rock star.

ME: Well yeah, sure…

IMAN SHUMPERT: No, you don’t get it. He doesn’t believe it. That he’s a rock star. Jeremy legit thinks that he’s a regular basketball player.

ME: How is that possible?

IMAN SHUMPERT: He’s just the most selfless, ego-less…well, Jared Jeffries is close. Jared Jeffries is like right here with him…

ME: Yeah

IMAN SHUMPERT: …with selflessness.

ME: That’s cause Jared Jeffries will do anything to draw an offensive foul

IMAN SHUMPERT: I don’t know if I could take that many shots. I don’t know if I could do what he does. But Jeremy, every time we go out…the people, wow. They go crazy for Jeremy and he still thinks he’s a regular basketball player.

ME: Knicks fans love Jeremy Lin, but let me tell you, we’re crazy about your game.

I thanked him for the interview and we parted ways. If the above conversation comes across as oddly un-guarded and generally friendly, well, that’s because it was. Iman Shumpert and I just talked. Though I’m basing the totality of my judgment on a three minute conversation, I can’t imagine anyone spending any time with him and coming away anything but impressed. If in evaluating players for the draft, the Knicks’ front office doesn’t have a, “Would I like to spend time with this person if I wasn’t potentially paying them millions of dollars,” category, they rilly should. Because Iman passed with flying colors. Boy was that cool.

And that pretty much was it for the evening. You know that moment when the attendees decide when a party’s over, and like a flock of birds changing direction in unison, they make a v-formation for the exit? Well, that’s what happened. I walked outside and lighting my first cigarette in what seemed liked ages, I stopped to ponder the evening’s events.

Did any of you ever have a moment in life as an adult where you thought some variation of, “Crackers. I hope no one realizes that I’m not old enough to be here. Some real adult is sure going to get peeved that a kid like me is fronting that he’s all growded up n’ stuff.”Inevitably, I find myself with that nagging sensation somewhere in the back of my cerebral cortex whenever I’m ‘covering’ one of these events. It may be the previously mentioned, “Big-time athletes inevitably make all of us revert to childhood,” thingy.

Maybe it’s the larger question of celebrity itself. To say that we, as Americans in 2012 are living in a fame-obsessed culture is so patently obvious one might as well add that we are also carbon-based life forms. Obsession, of course, is by nature a double-edged sword. We will track every move that an athlete or an actor or a politician or even the hordes of individuals who are famous for being famous, in part because of our unyielding love/respect/lust for said bearer of fame but it’s also ostensibly because we, the non-famous, are painfully envious/resentful/rage-filled that we ourselves are not famous or the object of society’s perpetual gaze. We’re watching because we oh-so-badly want to see famous individual X fall from grace and tumble from their elite, monied pedestal so that we huddled masses can ostensibly rip them to shreds and devour their innards like a pack of crazed, starving, feral wolves until their famous blood and well-coiffed flesh is dripping from our sharp, little-person/non-entity canines and molars. It almost seems like we’d prefer is a mask of fame that never slips. Or a mask that when it’s taken off, only reveals another mask behind which is another mask and yet another and another and on and on to the point of infinite regression. So maybe that’s what was making me feel small and/or childlike — staring up at these god-like figures and simultaneously loving/hating them.

That’d be plausible. If that was in any way my experience with Messrs. Frazier, Trautwig, and Shumpert.

They were nice. And fun to talk to. And in some instances, genuinely charming. Not that this was the exception that proves the rule. The more time I spend “hangin’,” for lack of a better term, with individuals who are famous/I enjoy watching perform, despite my innate cynicism, the more I’m surprised by how they fall into the full spectrum of human personality types — nice, smart, fun, boring, weird, the whole magilla — even in a highly mediated, non-casual setting such as this. I suppose if I was writing for a reality-TV blog, I might have an entire experience altogether but it’s easier to dismiss and/or label any and everyone famous as soulless, vapid shells of a human being if only for the fact that it justifies the vast well of envy that percolates and bubbles like a befouled cauldron right beneath all the adoration. And while consciously I didn’t think that was universally true, there’s a difference between knowing something and seeing/experiencing it firsthand. It may seem like a self-evident lesson, but there you go. I’ll try not to fall into that trap again.

Oh, I know now. There were a couple of models at the event and those women are ginormous. That’s why I felt like a kid. Problem solved.

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Robert Silverman

Hey, did you know that in addition to banging the keys here and occasionally for the NY Times and at ESPN, Robert is a playwright, an actor and a wand'ring mendicant/gadfly? He also once wrestled a bear...and lost.

One thought to “Robert Goes to Clyde Frazier’s Restaurant: Part Two”

  1. Nice. I definitely have to check this place out.

    On a side note, I really like the “Meet Chinese Lady” add.

    Hollis Thompson has finally appeared on the draft express mock, going 11 picks after the Knicks. I would be happy with him or Crowder. Denmon appears to have fallen off the mocks.

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