Dick Gregory: I chose to be an agitator

"The next time you put your underwear in the washing machine, take the agitator out, and all you're going to end up with is some dirty, wet drawers."

This past weekend, comedian and civil rights activist Dick Gregory died at the age of 84. Ed Bradley spoke with him in 1989 for 60 Minutes and here is an excerpt of their conversation:

Ed Bradley: You may remember Dick Gregory as the hip, acid-tongue nightclub comedian of the 60s, whose outspoken political views so rankled the F.B.I. that an internal memo called him "demented." Or, you might remember him as the civil rights activist, or the man who fasted for nearly two years to protest the Vietnam War, or the man who has devoted himself to stamping out world hunger. At 57, his life has been more chaotic than calm, but he says that's what happens when you walk the path he's chosen.  

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Ed Bradley's report "Dick Gregory" aired on Oct. 1, 1989.

CBS News

Dick Gregory: I chose to be an agitator. And there's one interesting thing about being an agitator -- and I tell people -- the next time you put your underwear in the washing machine, take the agitator out, and all you're going to end up with is some dirty, wet drawers.

Ed Bradley: Gregory was a strident voice in the fight for civil rights. His activities often got him beaten up or landed him in jail. In the mid-50s, he broke the color barrier and became the first black comedian to be able to do stand-up comedy in white nightclubs.

Dick Gregory: The cops just give black folks in this town tickets for just awful outrageous things, you know, like failing to yield the right of way to an alley cat. Drinking under the influence of watermelon.

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Dick Gregory, 1989.

CBS News

Ed Bradley: To protest the Vietnam War, he fasted for nearly two years and ate no solid food.

Dick Gregory: So the only way I can demonstrate a moral commitment to the young, beautiful kids in this country, is by making a self-sacrifice.

Ed Bradley: In 1973, at the height of his career, Gregory gave up nightclub performing to devote his energies to helping fight world hunger, and along the way developed an interest in nutrition.

Ed Bradley: He has parlayed his interest in nutrition and feeding the hungry into a multi-million dollar diet business called "Dick Gregory Enterprises." And last year, he sold the franchise rights for his "Slim Safe Bahamian Diet" for a reported $30 million.

Ed Bradley: Dick, do you think people would find it somewhat of a paradox to see a man who is such an activist, who has so long been connected with so many causes, who is almost an ascetic in his lifestyle -- parts of it, to be such a wealthy man?

Dick Gregory: No. I think they'd probably be surprised, but I've always made money. I mean, I made money when I was a child. I made money when I was on welfare, I just didn't tell nobody about it. And…-

Ed Bradley: Yeah, but we're talking about millions and millions of dollars here.

Dick Gregory: No, I don't think so. I mean, I'm sure-I'm sure they're shocked because-not shocked "because of." I don't act the way you think wealthy people are supposed to act.