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By Yolanda Spivey
Controversial comedic legend, Richard Pryor, (legally known as Richard Franklin Lennox Thomas Pryor), was born on December 1, 1940 in Peoria, Illinois. Pryor was known for his work on and off stage that often encompassed his uncompromising examination of racism and other adult contemporary issues, that was usually told filled with vulgarity and profanity. He is one of the most influential stand-up comedians of all times and is number one on Comedy Central’s list of all-time greatest stand up comedians. His body of work includes major motion pictures, concerts and recordings. Over the years, he has won an Emmy Award, five Grammy Awards, two American Academy of Humor Awards, and the Writers Guild of America Award. Here are 7 amazing facts about Richard Pryor that will fascinate you:
He Suffered From Performance Anxiety– At times, Richard Pryor was terrified before he performed on stage. One night he walked on stage and after looking into the sold out crowd, he yelled, “What the fuck am I doing here!?,” and walked off stage. In speaking about Pryor’s stage anxiety, singer Nina Simone stated, “He shook like he had malaria, he was so nervous. I couldn’t bear to watch him shiver, so I put my arms around him there in the dark and rocked him like a baby until he calmed down. The next night was the same, and the next, and I rocked him each time.”
He Was An Animal Lover– Richard Pryor was quite active in animal rights. He was mostly concerned with the plight of circus and zoo animals. PETA, the animal rights organization, annually gives out the Richard Pryor award to people who do work in helping to alleviate animal suffering.
He Had Issues– In addition to suffering from 2 heart attacks and multiple sclerosis, (the latter which confined him to a wheelchair for the remainder of his life), Richard Pryor had a public battle with drugs and alcohol. In the 1980’s during the filming of his hit movie Bustin’ Loose, Pryor set himself on fire after freebasing cocaine. The incident left him with burns covering more than half his body. He was very public about his issues and fully documented certain life events in his movie, JoJo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling.
He Was A Player– During his brief relationship with actress Pam Grier, Richard Pryor proposed to his third wife Deborah McGuire. Over the years, he was married seven times to five different women and produced six children. He was known to have dated actress Margot Kidder who played Lois Lane in the Superman movies.
He Tried Men– In his autobiography, Pryor Convictions, Richard Pryor admitted to carrying on a two-week love affair with a transgendered man. He stated, “I never kept him a secret. My best friend for instance, knew I was f**king a dude, and a drop-dead gorgeous one at that. I even admitted doing something different was exciting. But after two weeks of being gay, enough was enough and I went back to life as a horny heterosexual.”
He Is A Survivor– Pryor grew up in a brothel ran by his grandmother. His mother, an admitted prostitute, and his father, a hustler, abandoned Pryor when he was just 10 years old. His grandmother, who raised him, was quite abusive and beat him for almost anything. He was also sexually abused at the age of 7.
His Legacy Lives On– Comediennes Chris Rock and Adam Sandler are producing a biopic film on Richard Pryor’s life titled, “Richard Pryor: Omit the Logic.” Actor Marlon Wayans is scheduled to play a young Pryor.