Comedian Ricard Pryor, Dec. 10 Richard Pryor, whose blunt, blue and brilliant comedic confrontations tackled what many stand-up comics before him deemed too shocking -- and thus off-limits -- to broach, died of a heart attack at his home in Los Angeles on Saturday, Dec. 10, 2005. He was 65. Born in Peoria, Ill., in 1940, Pryor grew up in one of his grandmother's string of whorehouses that catered to various black entertainers and vaudeville performers. He developed his comedic skills at an early age as a class clown.The comedian's work was steeped in race, class, social commentary, and encompassed the stage, screen, records and television. He won five Grammys, an Emmy and was an Academy Award nominee for Lady Sings the Blues in 1972. His script for the comedy satire, Blazing Saddles, written with Mel Brooks, won the American Writers Guild Award and the American Academy of Humor Award in 1974. Pryor had a history both bizarre and grim: self-immolation (1980), heart attack (1990) and marathon drug and alcohol use (that he finally kicked in the 1990s). Yet, Pryor somehow -- often miraculously, it seemed -- continued steady on the prowl, even after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1986. "Richard Pryor is the groundbreaker," comedian Keenan Ivory Wayans once said. "For most of us he was the inspiration to get into comedy and also showed us that you can be black and have a black voice and be successful."
AP, file 1977