In the late '70s I met heavyweight champ Joe Frazier several times. The encounters with Frazier, who died Monday at 67, were brief and uneventful--with one exception.
It happened in a swank Beverly Hills office waiting room one afternoon. I walked in and sat down across the room from Frazier, who was dressed casually. He obviously didn't remember me so I said nothing to him. There were two other men in the room, which sat about a dozen. We all sat quietly.
After a few minutes an Asian boy, who looked to be about ten, walked in. There were plenty of empty chairs but he plopped down in one next to Frazier and began staring at him. Frazier turned around and looked at the youngster, who continued to stare intently, boldly and expressionlessly into his eyes, without saying a word. The kid, dressed in a black suit, just stared and stared at him.
Assuming the boy was an adoring fan, Frazier burst into gentle, kid-friendly chatter. But the boy didn't respond. Barely movely, he just continued to stare into Frazier's eyes. Suddenly Frazier knew what was up. He was hip enough to know that he was being challenged to a staring contest by a brazen minor. Here are the rules: stare blankly into your opponent's eyes, don't talk and keep movement at a minimum. The first person to unlock the stare by laughing or talking loses.
Remarkably they went on this way for a few minutes. A secretary came out to get one of the other two men in the waiting room. But Frazier and the boy didn't notice. They were too busy staring at each other.
Suddenly Frazier broke down and started to laugh. "You got me man, you got me," he said. The boy, though, never said a word and continued to stare into Frazier's eyes. Then the secretary came out and told Frazier to come into the office. Looking perplexed and unnerved Frazier followed her out of the waiting room. The boy just sat there, first turning his blank stare at a wall and then, finally, turning it at me.
I looked away.
The secretary came out and told me to come into the office. About ten minutes later, my business concluded, I came out of the office and walked though the waiting room. Thankfully the boy was gone.