Career As Entertainer
In addition to his autobiography, Graziano's recurring role as comedienne Martha Raye's boyfriend on her self-titled television show kept him in the public eye throughout the 1950s. Graziano eventually turned into an all-around entertainer, appearing in television shows, movies, plays, and advertisements, almost always in a comic role that played up his Lower East Side persona and accent. Graziano published a second memoir, Somebody Down Here Likes Me Too, in 1981 and often campaigned for Republican Party candidates, including Ronald Reagan. In declining health throughout the 1980s, Graziano died from cardiopulmonary failure on May 22, 1990 in New York City.
Despite his rather crude technique as a boxer, Graziano was remembered at the time of his death for one of the most exciting boxing rivalries in history against Zale. Yet he was also celebrated for his accomplishments outside the boxing ring. For many professional boxers, their post-athletic careers are filled with disappointment and frustration. Graziano was one of the few to become even more successful after his days in the ring ended. The grade-school dropout became a published author; the reform-school inmate befriended some of the most powerful Republican politicians in the country; the quintessential New Yorker became a beloved national celebrity. Although the tales he told about his life were somewhat fanciful, Graziano's candor and commonsense outlook earned him respect far beyond the boxing ring.