Thursday, February 25, 2010

New York to St. Croix

Oscar Hidalgo for The New York Times - Walt Frazier has owned property in Christiansted on St. Croix since 1979, and spends his days supervising projects there.
It is difficult to pinpoint the exact time that Walt Frazier’s stylish alter ego known as Clyde more or less ceased to exist. But it might have been the September day in 1989 when Hurricane Hugo threatened to do away with both. Mr. Frazier, a Hall of Fame player for the New York Knicks basketball team, was relaxing on the living room sofa with a girlfriend, watching football on television, when the first terrifying winds tore the awnings off his vacation home on St. Croix. The television went dark. The large picture windows blew out. Mr. Frazier and his girlfriend scurried for the bathroom, where they spent the next 12 hours, cowering and praying.

Slide Show
From renowned hedonist to home-building horticulturist, he described the personal gain as priceless. “I remember Dave DeBusschere and the other guys on the team used to say that I would have the toughest transition to make going into retirement because of being Clyde and coming down from all that,” Mr. Frazier said, recalling the days when his wide-brim hats and flashy suits inspired comparisons to the Warren Beatty character in the 1967 film “Bonnie and Clyde.”

“It didn’t happen right away, and it wasn’t easy,” he added. “But I was fed up with New York and that scene, the nightclubs and the cars. I didn’t want to vegetate as Clyde. I was searching for something. I didn’t know what it was until I came here.”

Even Clyde got tired of New York; something to think about. Old #10. How I remember that team.

Oscar Hidalgo for The New York Times - Entrance room to the Main House, his residence
Playmaker’s Paradise

“I began to sense there was something for me to do here, and then I realized doing all this work was what was going to keep me young,” said Mr. Frazier, who will celebrate his 65th birthday next month and remains fit and youthful looking, despite thinning hair. “I look back now and I can see that I was going through a metamorphosis, a change for the better.”

As part of his repudiation of the nightclubbing Clyde, he changed his lifestyle. The lifelong city dweller became a nature lover. He learned to sail, bought a boat and became a licensed captain. And he found the garden calling to him many mornings at sunrise.

Patricia James, who is his girlfriend and helps him manage the property and rental business, said the style fits all occasions. “We’ll be going out to dinner, I’ll have a dress on and I’ll say to him, ‘You’re not going to change?’ ” Ms. James said. A self-described perfectionist, he is not easy to work for, she said, and Mr. Frazier agreed, noting that he once fired his son, whom he had hired to manage the property during his absences.

 Fired his own son? Now, that's a tough taskmaster.

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