Saturday, December 10, 2005

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Another great one gone, although you can't really call it unexpected: RIP Richard Pryor.

As a young boy in the Sixties, growing up in a Southern Kentucky family that wasn't exactly what you could consider racially sensitive (although, believe you me, there were far far worse people out there in our area), Pryor was regarded as kinda dangerous and threatening- not in a, say, Malcolm X or Farrakhan way but just as someone who the kids shouldn't listen to. So I remember seeing his appearances on TV and thinking he was funny, but I didn't make a point of standing up and saying so. Then, as a teenager, I started hanging with older kids who had bootleg 8-tracks of black comedy artists like Redd Foxx and Pryor, and this stuff was filthy...and hilarious. Not long after that, we started getting and listening to Cheech and Chong and Pryor's overground comedy albums, and That Nigger's Crazy and ...Is It Something I Said? blew us all away. We were constantly listening to and quoting "Wino Dealing With Dracula", "Have Your Ass Home By Eleven", and the "Mudbone" routines. Pryor was a hero for all of us 17-year-old kids, regardless of our color. Also at about that time, his movie career was in full swing, and for about a five year stretch there everything he appeared in was gold, especially Silver Streak, in which he stole the movie from not only Gene Wilder but Patrick McGoohan; Uptown Saturday Night, The Bingo Long Traveling All Stars and Motor Kings, and Blue Collar as well as some outstanding concert videos a bit later. I remember both of his TV series as well- the controversial, ill-fated Richard Pryor Show from 1977 (saw that infamous "Black Death" skit) and the much more tame but also more imaginative and warm Saturday morning show Pryor's Place from 1983. Of course, it wasn't long before his fortunes soon declined due to some astoundingly bad script choices (Superman III? (shudder)), increasing drug abuse which culminated in that famous freebasing accident, and the MS which robbed him of his motor skills in recent years, making him a noble but sad figure.

From "Eulogy": "Life is not the ultimate test. The ultimate test is whether your ass will survive Death. Nobody we know has passed this test, least of all this sorry mother."

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