It can’t be easy to be the child of a celebrity. People from all over the world know your parent and you’re simply known as the son or daughter of that celebrity. But I know there’s more than that. One person in particular that I wanted you to get to know better is Richard Pryor, Jr. He is talented in his own right and deserves his own recognition. Now is that time.
Born in Peoria, IL, at only six months, he had to stay in the hospital for several weeks until he reached five pounds. He was so small, his parents had to buy doll socks to fit his feet. Raised by his mother and grandparents—his dad being away on tour for three years—Richard attended public school in Peoria and spent summers with his father. As a child, he would introduce his father on stage at shows, an opportunity that led the way to his love of performing.
In high school, he started writing his own scripts and appearing in variety shows once or twice a year. He sang in the gospel choir at church and on the choir at school. During these years, Richard was clearly setting the foundation for his future.
SoulTrain.com: Your mother is Richard’s first wife. Her name’s Patricia.
Richard Pryor, Jr: Her maiden name was Patricia Watts and her married name was Patricia Price.
SoulTrain.com: Do you have any siblings?
Richard Pryor, Jr: Yes, I have five other siblings. I am the eldest. There’s Rain, Franklin, Kelsey, Steven and Elizabeth. I’m closest with Rain because she lives near me.
SoulTrain.com: When did you know you had artistic talents and how did you express them?
Richard Pryor, Jr: When I was a kid. I used to play with my mother’s other daughters and my cousins. We would sing, act out plays and have beauty pageants.
SoulTrain.com: After graduation, around 1980, I understand you left home to find fame in Hollywood. How did you get there? Did you do the hitchhike to Hollywood way?
Richard Pryor, Jr: [Laughs] No, I drove out there.
SoulTrain.com: How did that go?
Richard Pryor, Jr.: It went OK; I had jobs with dad.
SoulTrain.com: Around that time you joined the Screen Actor’s Guild (SAG) and did extra work on some of your father’s films and productions. Which of his productions did you participate in?
Richard Pryor, Jr.: Actually, back then I joined the Screen Extras Guild (SEG). I worked on Bustin’ Loose, Some Kind of Hero and Critical Condition. Those were the drug crazy years.
SoulTrain.com: Really? What was your drug of choice?
Richard Pryor, Jr.: Cocaine. I was just trying to get close to my dad, and I know that may not have been the best way to do it, but we did drugs together. I just wanted to be close to him.
SoulTrain.com: Wow, I understand. You worked with Oprah Winfrey on The Color Purple. What did you do there and what do you remember most about that experience?
Richard Pryor, Jr.: I was a production assistant.
SoulTrain.com: Did you ever have any encounter with Oprah?
Richard Pryor, Jr.: Yes. She was friendly and nice. This was before the fame had hit. It was a pleasure to meet her.
SoulTrain.com: Now, we know your father is the legendary comedian Richard Pryor, but I understand that you have some comedian in you, too, and you dabbled in stand-up comedy as well. Tell me about that.
Richard Pryor, Jr.: I did a lot of work at the LA Comedy Store.
SoulTrain.com: Really? I didn’t know that. That’s one of your dad’s “old haunts.” How was that experience?
Richard Pryor, Jr.: Comics were brutal towards me. Since dad and I come from the same blood, our comedy styles are similar. They would think that I would be trying to imitate him and they would brutally criticize me. Then, if I tried another style, they didn’t think I was funny. So, I could win for losing. I stopped because of that. But, I am funny, too. I love improv. My sister Rain does stand-up. So does [Franklin].
SoulTrain.com : Did your father give you any advice about doing stand-up comedy?
Richard Pryor, Jr.: He gave me advice about the industry. He said to always be humble. He got wild later when he started doing drugs and alcohol. My mother told me to live by the Golden Rule: do unto others as you would have others do unto you.
SoulTrain.com : Great advice! Soon after this, you entered the Navy. This was around 1981, you were 19 or 20. Where were you stationed?
Richard Pryor, Jr.: I was in Norfolk, VA.
SoulTrain.com : You are now living openly gay, but at that time you weren’t. Wasn’t it around the time you were in the Navy that you came out to your parents?
Richard Pryor, Jr.: Yes, it was.
SoulTrain.com : How did that go?
Richard Pryor, Jr.: Dad took it well, but mom freaked out. She thought that it was something that she did wrong that caused it. She thought that it was her fault.
SoulTrain.com : Did you expect that reaction?
Richard Pryor, Jr.: No, I expected it to be the other way around.
SoulTrain.com : While in the Navy, your desire to perform continued. Tell me about your experience with lip synching and drag performances.
Richard Pryor, Jr.: I was at a night club in Edinburgh, Scotland, and Jennifer Holliday’s Dreamgirls song, “And I am Telling You (I’m Not Going),” came on. I started singing it and people were staring and the next thing you know, the dance floor cleared and everybody was watching me. That’s when it started!
SoulTrain.com : Soon after that, around 1983, you left the Navy and moved back to Peoria and continued your female-impersonation act. How long did you do that and when did you stop?
Richard Pryor, Jr.: I switched up and was doing the pageant circuit with mom.
SoulTrain.com : So, are you a spiritual man or religious?
Richard Pryor, Jr.: Back then I was religious, but now I’m more spiritual.
SoulTrain.com : You became a minister in the early 90s, and you were licensed twice through your church in Peoria. What church is that?
Richard Pryor, Jr.: New Hope International Ministries. I’s Pentecostal.
SoulTrain.com : I know you ministered at various locations around the U.S. Do any particular sermons or moments stand out?
Richard Pryor, Jr.: Yes, I was having conferences and preaching against homosexuality. I also had a wife at that time.
SoulTrain.com : Wow! That’s wild. How did that feel?
Richard Pryor, Jr.: At the time, I was trying to deny it and was hoping that I could make it go away.
SoulTrain.com : Deep! Are you currently licensed or practicing?
Richard Pryor, Jr.: No.
SoulTrain.com : Now, from 2000-2005 you lived in Des Moines, IA and had various jobs including telecommunications, bar tending and running karaoke shows. What made you make that switch in your life?
Richard Pryor, Jr.: My marriage ended. I married in 1991 or 1992 and we divorced in late 90s or early 2000. We are still friends, though.
SoulTrain.com : That’s good. Also, around that time, you had two monumental deaths in your life. You lost both of your parents. On September 5, 2003 your mother died and on December 10, 2005 your dad died. Do you do anything special on the days of their deaths?
Richard Pryor, Jr.: I would love to honor my dad, but I have been so busy lately.
SoulTrain.com : How did your parents’ back to back deaths affect you?
Richard Pryor, Jr.: I was very depressed for a while.
SoulTrain.com : That’s understandable. After your dad’s death, as a tribute to him, you decided to re-launch your career. Something happened in New York. Tell me about it.
Richard Pryor, Jr.: I was invited to New York City in 2006 and met a man named Marty Fischer, who invited me to the New York Comedy Festival. There were different comics in attendance and they asked me to perform comedy and I told them no, but I will sing. It was a dedication ceremony for my dad. I sang “His Eye is on the Sparrow” and brought the house down. The next day I flew back home to Peoria, packed up and flew back to New York, where I stayed with my sister-in-law.
SoulTrain.com : You played at the New York Artist Unlimited Theater’s Downeast Art Center, by landing a part in a play at Cringefest, substituting for a cast member. Tell me about those times. Was that a turning point in your life?
Richard Pryor, Jr.: Yes. Those were hard times. I was sleeping in the theater on an Army cot and I was cooking my food on a hot plate. I cooked a lot of good food on that plate! People would be asking, “What you got over there?,” and would want some.
SoulTrain.com : Were you and your father close? Is there any memory, either from childhood or adulthood, that stands out most in your memory regarding you and your dad?
Richard Pryor, Jr.: Yes! I loved touring with him and introducing him on stage.
SoulTrain.com : Everyone knows your father as the “funny man.” Tell me something about your father that would really blow peoples’ minds.
Richard Pryor, Jr.: Dad was very quiet and shy. He could also sing. Go on Youtube and you’ll see clips of him singing “Nobody Wants You When You’re Down and Out.”
SoulTrain.com : Wow, I will! Being a stand-up comic, actor and singer makes you a triple threat. Which of the three gives you the most joy and why?
Richard Pryor, Jr.: I’m also an activist for anti-bullying.
SoulTrain.com: Oh, so you’re a quadruple threat! Go ‘head!
Richard Pryor, Jr.: Well, I get different things out of each expression. I get to sing from my heart and acting lets me express myself and that comes from the soul.
SoulTrain.com: Let’s talk about Richard Pryor, Jr. the singer. You’ve performed at the world- famous Birdland in New York City. Describe that experience—it had to be awesome!
Richard Pryor, Jr.: I hadn’t ever performed in front of such a large audience before. I prefer them to small intimate ones though, because I’m kind of shy myself. At small intimate venues, you can see each and every person’s face, but with large audiences it’s not so up close and personal.
SoulTrain.com: I hear that you are considering writing a book about life as Richard Pryor’s son. How is that coming along?
Richard Pryor, Jr.: I’ve already started that, years ago. Every now and then I write more. I’ve been really busy lately, though.
SoulTrain.com: Any recent or future plans in movies?
Richard Pryor, Jr.: Bachelor Grove was filmed last year and will be released this year.
SoulTrain.com: Any television projects?
Richard Pryor, Jr.: I’ve shot two pilots under Bonafide Films.
SoulTrain.com: Ok, so now I want to have a little fun and ask you some questions. It should be fun. What’s your philosophy on life?
Richard Pryor, Jr.: Tomorrow is never promised. Live your life the way you see fit. You can’t live for others, live for yourself!
SoulTrain.com: What’s your favorite quote?
Richard Pryor, Jr.: “Success isn’t Value”
SoulTrain.com: What’s your favorite meal?
Richard Pryor, Jr.: That would have to be dinner because I never eat breakfast. On a poor man’s budget: Catfish, spaghetti, coleslaw and hot water cornbread. On a rich man’s budget: Lobster and filet mignon.
SoulTrain.com: What’s your favorite color?
Richard Pryor, Jr.: Purple.
SoulTrain.com: What’s your favorite song?
Richard Pryor, Jr.: Donny Hathaway’s “I Love You More Than You Ever Know.”
SoulTrain.com: What’s your favorite way to relax?
Richard Pryor, Jr.: Cleaning.
SoulTrain.com: What’s your number one pet peeve?
Richard Pryor, Jr.: A nasty house.
SoulTrain.com: Who’s your hero, living or deceased?
Richard Pryor, Jr.: My mother. She received $300/month for me from dad and even when he got famous, she never went to court to get the payments increased.
SoulTrain.com: What’s your favorite memory of your mom?
Richard Pryor, Jr.: The last days before her death. I was singing to her the song I would sing at her funeral. She wanted to hear it.
SoulTrain.com: What’s your favorite memory of your dad?
Richard Pryor, Jr.: The 11 months before he passed. He was dealing with MS.
SoulTrain.com: What would you like the public to know about you that we haven’t covered?
Richard Pryor, Jr.: I am my own person. I am Richard Pryor’s son, not Richard Pryor.
SoulTrain.com: I wanted the public to get to know you, Richard Franklin Pryor, Jr. You are very driven, a hard worker and I wanted the public to know your accomplishments. I didn’t want you to stand in the shadow of your late father, I want you to shine brightly on your own. I think I have achieved that goal!
—Pierre A. Evans
Freelance Writer – SoulTrain.com Contributing Writer, Singer/Songwriter, Actor, Model, Poet, DJ and Owner of Pinnacle Entertainment Productions. You can follow me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pierre.a.evans, on Twitter at https://twitter.com/Playerre or log onto my website at http://www.pinnacleentertainmentprod.com/. LOVE, PEACE AND SOOOUUULLL!!!!!