What It Was Like To Be Richard Pryor’s Son
You’ve heard the saying, appearances aren’t always what they seem to be.
You’ve heard the saying, appearances aren’t always what they seem to be. Case in point, having a famous parent. Now from the outside you would think being the child of a “Hollywood A-lister” is like being on the red carpet, one big perk! But as the late Richard Pryor’s oldest son, Richard Pryor Jr. put it, behind closed doors his dad’s fame came with a price! In Richard’s new memoir, “In A Pryor Life,” on sale beginning March 1st, Richard says being the product of “Tinseltown’s Most Wanted” actor/comedian nearly destroyed him until he finally took control and scripted a happy ending.
Ilyssa Panitz: Why write this book and release it now?
Richard Pryor Jr: I wanted to write it because I thought I had a story to tell. I have been through a lot of things in my life and had to overcome many obstacles. Because I am at a really good place in my life, I decided it was a good time to share with the world my struggles and encourage people they can overcome them too. If I can come out on top others can too.
Ilyssa Panitz: How would you describe your relationship with your dad?
Richard Pryor Jr: It was typical father/son relationship. We had our ups and downs. My father was the best dad he knew how to be and I think a lot of that had to do with his upbringing.
Ilyssa Panitz: Was he a big part of your life or did his job keep him away a lot?
Richard Pryor Jr: Yes he was on the road a lot. The holidays and summers I got to see him and there were occasions when he was doing a series of concerts I got to go with him. He was there, in the sense that he was always a phone call away. But was he physically there? Not always, especially during the school year. Between the movie sets and being the child of divorce parents, I had to really cherish the times I did get to be with him.
Ilyssa Panitz: Tell me about the Richard Pryor only you knew?
Richard Pryor Jr: He was the complete opposite if what you saw on stage. I saw the man who was quiet, a little bashful, an introvert and yet a very gentle soul. He could be quite serious and always cared about people. My dad also had his issues he was trying to deal with.
Ilyssa Panitz: Did that bother you that on top of not being there as frequently as you would like you had to witness your dad battle personal demons?
Richard Pryor Jr: Yeah I think in the long run it bothered me more so than at the time it was actually happening. Those are things I learned as I was dealing with my own addictions. The impact of that I think had a real impact on my life.
Ilyssa Panitz: You write about your own struggle with drugs. When did you know you were in trouble and the drugs you were doing were taking over your life?
Richard Pryor Jr: After I went into the military I knew there was a problem. I also moved to Los Angeles. I think when you do certain things at the time you think, “I am ok.” I was doing cocaine and at first I started with a little but what it did was open the door to do more and it actually wound up consuming me.
Ilyssa Panitz: How long did it consume you?
Richard Pryor Jr: For years until I was in my late 20’s. From there I was in and out of rehab, back in rehab and I really struggled.
Ilyssa Panitz: What was your inspiration to get clean and sober?
Richard Pryor Jr: My son. I also decided I wanted more for myself. I knew I had the potential to do more and I knew I had it in myself to be something. I wanted to get out of the dark place I was living in and where can I find strength and encouragement.
Ilyssa Panitz: Given your dad’s own past, was he there for you in your time of need?
Richard Pryor Jr: He was my dad. When I did reach out to him to tell him what I was doing I will confess, no I did not get the response I wanted. I thought he would be yelling and screaming but no that wasn’t his response at all. In fact, he was very calm and he said things like, “It is all ok. Everything is going to be alright.” I think my dad was under the impression, he gets it. He gets what I am going through because he was there. I think he came across as understanding. I am sure he was not happy about it but I think he was trying to bring about a bit of compassion to a very difficult situation.
Ilyssa Panitz: What do you hope people learn from reading this book?
Richard Pryor Jr: Hope! People who have been through suffering and hurting I am here to tell you if you have hope there will be a light at the end of the tunnel. You have to know who you are as a person in order to have the life you want. You have to know your strength in yourself and how far you can go if you believe in yourself.
Ilyssa Panitz: What were the pros and cons of having a well-known father such as Richard Pryor?
Richard Pryor Jr: People who have a famous parent such as my dad was don’t necessarily have everything. We aren’t born with silver spoons in our mouths and we don’t necessarily have everything handed to us with white glove service. We go through stuff too. We suffer just as much and we have pain too.
Ilyssa Panitz: How much of this book will be about you and how much did you devote to you and your dad?
Richard Pryor Jr: It is an awful lot of me. I did not want this to be only about “The Richard Pryor” story and only talk about my dad. My father was a part of my life and he was also an important part of my life. I will also talk about my mother and her family. I talk about my father when it is significant such as the addiction in our lives. But I also want to add, I also talk a lot about what I went through.
Ilyssa Panitz: What do you miss most about your dad?
Richard Pryor Jr: Being able to pick up the phone and talk to him and hear his voice. I went through close to six years prior to his death where I did not get to communicate with him at all and then all of a sudden seeing him for the first time and then he is gone 11-months later saddens me. We did have a relationship in the end and I did love him and I really adored him. I just wanted to be there for him when he got sick and give him the strength he needed.
Ilyssa Panitz: What do you think your dad’s reaction would be if he was alive to read this book?
Richard Pryor Jr: That I came through the dark times; survived and he would be happy to see me in a good place where I can help others.