BBETTERDAILY: A Success Story- Richard Pryor

Richard Pryor came from poverty-stricken Peoria, Illinois where he was abandoned by his prostituting mother. “One of four children raised in his grandmother’s brothel, Richard experienced rape at the age of six (by a teenaged neighbor) and molestation by a Catholic priest during catechism. He watched his mother perform sexual acts with Peoria’s mayor. One way the young boy escaped from these traumatic experiences was to attend the movies. Seated in the “black seats” at his local cinema, Pryor consumed the screen worlds of such heroes as John Ford and Howard Hawks, stirring within a wild ambition to become a star like them. He was expelled from school for a petty offense at age 14, and began working as janitor at a local strip club, work as shoe-shine and “careers” as drummer, meat packer, truck driver, and billiard hall attendant combined to pre-ordain a perspective of the black underclass in 1950s America that Pryor translated into honest and hilarious routines.”

He was married eight times (twice to the same woman) and had seven children. After serving in & being discharged from the Army, Richard’s entertainment career began. Quickly realizing that audiences preferred his jokes to his singing, Pryor began working as a professional comic in clubs throughout the Midwest. Inspired by Bill Cosby, Pryor went to New York in 1963 and gained recognition for his club work as a stand-up, performing on the same bill as such famous personalities as Bob Dylan and Richie Havens. While in New York, Pryor also garnered some mentorship from none other than the great Woody Allen. An astute observer of life, Pryor gave voice to such marginal members of the black community as bums, winos and junkies. The rest is history. In 1986, Pryor was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Never one for self-pity, Richard Pryor has earned the status of Legend as a masterful storyteller by bringing truth as he saw it, to the world by way of entertainment and comedy.

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