Richard Pryor (1940-2005)

Richard Pryor

1940 Comic Richard Pryor was born on December 1st, in Peoria, Ilinois, U.S.A. He was grown up by his grandmother, because his mother, Gertrude Thomas, was a hussy and she did not have time for his growth, and his father, LeRoy “Buck Carter” Pryor was a bartender and a former boxer.

1959 After his mother had abandoned him when he was 10, he remained in the care of his grandma, Marie Carter, who was a very rigid woman, who punished him for his eccentricities.

1954 At the age of 14, Pryor was expelled from school. His first professional performance happened when he played the drums in a night club.

1958–1960 This period he was part in the American Army, but spent almost the entire probation to jail, because while he was in Germany, it seemed that he had stabbed a German soldier (the man did not died) who made some racist statements.

1960 After coming back home, Pryor married to Patricia Price, and they had a child, Richard Jr. (his first son).

1961 He divorced and got a job as a comic in African-American clubs, in St. Louis and Pittsburgh.

1963 Pryor moved to New York, where he usually went in clubs for artists, interpreters or performers such as Bob Dylan or Woody Allen. One of his first nights, he started the night for the singer and pianist called Nina Simone at New York’s Village Gate. Simone remembers the performance anxiety of Pryor.

1964 He debuted on TV in “On Broadway Tonight” show, followed by “The Merv Griffin Show” and “Ed Sullivan Show”.

1967 He married to Shelly Bonus. Together they had a daughter called Elizabeth Ann.

1969 He divorced.

1972 He obtained positive reviews for his role in helping Billie Holiday for the biographical movie named “Lady Sings Blues”, Diana Roses being in the main role.

1973 He was nominated for Emmy Award because of the great results for “Outstanding Writing Achievement in Comedy” and for his activity for “The Lily Tomlin Show”. Pryor won Emmy Award for the best comedy screenplay.

Pryor also wrote shows like: “The Flip Wilson Show” and “Sanford and Son”, in which Redd Foxx played, too.

1974 Going on with his professional development, Pryor worked with Mel Brooks for the screenplay from “Blazin’ Saddles”. Pryor had to play the main role of Bart, but the producers did not choose him, Mel Brooks wanted Cleavon Little for this role. Comedy fans from all racial backgrounds were captivated by Pryor’s comedy, which was based on fun, but not only simple jokes. Until the end of 1970, Pryor had a flourishing career as an actor.

1976 He played in “Silver Streak”, with Gene Wilder and Jill Clayburgh.

1977 He played together with Beau Bridges and Pam Grier in the known movie “Greased Lightning”. This year, too, he married to Deboragh McGuire, his third wife. They separated after a short time, and divorced in 1979.

1978 Starting with this year, he began to have health problems, suffering the first heart attack and was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a disease which affects the central nervous system. After this health crises, Pryor started again his activity, he was considered by many critics the best in his work.

1980 Pryor made again a team with Gene Wilder in “Crazy” comedy, directed by Sidney Poitier. The movie was a successful one, it won more than 100 million dollars.

1981 He married third time, to Jennifer Lee, but the couple divorced next year. This year, too, he won Grammy Award, for “Rev Du Rit” comedy.

1982 He won another Grammy Award for “Live on the Sunset Strip”. He also played in many movies, of which “Some Kind of Hero” and “Toy”.

1983 Pryor signed a contract for five years with Columbia Pictures for 40 million dollars.

1986 He took part in an important project of that age, “Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling”, an autobiographic movie, in which he had his popular role, as a stand-up comic. This period, Pryor was for a short time married to an actress, Flynn BeLaine.

1987 Even he was very sick, he played in “See No Evil”.

1989 He played with Gene Wilder in “Hear No Evil”. This year he also appeared in “Harlem Night”, a comedy-drama film, together with Eddie Murphy and Redd Foxx.

1990 Pryor could not walk anymore, he moved only in a wheelchair.

1997 He appeared in the wheelchair in his last movie, “David Lynch’ Lost Highway”, playing small role, as the manager of a fixing garage.

1998 He won “Mark Twain” award, for American humour.

2000 He appeared in one episode in “The Norm Show”, called “Norm vs. The Boxer”. He played the role of an old man, in a wheelchair, a man who lost the rights at home and the social assistance.

2001 He remarried to Jennifer Lee, who became his manager.

2002 A TV documentary appeared, one which describes Pryor’s life and career.

2003 Another documentary appeared, “Richard Pryor – I Ain’t Dead Yet!” which consists of images from his shows’ archive and testimonies of his comedian colleagues, such as: Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle or Wanda Sykes.

2004 At the end of the year, Pryor’s sister told that the actor had lost his voice, due to sclerosis, but the statement was denied by his wife, on January, 2005. In 2004, too, Pryor was voted on the first place on Comedy Central’s list of the 100 greatest stand-upers of all times.

2005 On December 10th, few days after his birthday, Pryor died due to a heart attack, in Encino, California. He was transported to a local hospital after the failed resuscitation attempts of his wife. He was declared as being dead, at 7.58 a.m.

2006 He was offered post-mortem Grammy Award for his entire career. A comic, an actor, a writer, Richard Pryor was a revolutionary comedy actor, an African-American who became one of the top animators in 1970-1980.



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