“Richard Pryor Jr. has prevailed like a champ. The best of Peoria is like that and Hollywood is built on it. He has proven big dreams matched with hard work is enough to change your life or even, maybe one day, change the world,” stated well-known Peorian Bill Thill, who now resides in Los Angeles, knows Pryor, and recently attended his book signing in Hollywood.
On April 10th, Richard Pryor Jr. came back to his hometown in Peoria, Illinois to do a signing event for his new book, In A Pryor Life. In A Pryor Life is a memoir and wonderful story of Richard’s success and his many triumphs over tragedy. The signing was at Bradley University Michel Student Center, hosted by Stacy Hardin, owner of the Book Rack Used Books & Gifts. Family and friends of Richard and members of the community came out for the meet and greet, to listen to Richard speak, and to purchase and have their books signed by Richard.
“With the history of the Pryor family in Peoria, we knew that people would be interested in hearing Jr.’s story. We were just grateful that Richard trusted the Book Rack to put on a great event for him. And it really was a great event– so many dozens of people came to show their love and support for him,” states Stacy Hardin, owner of the Book Rack, and who has a family connection to Richard through marriage.
In 1962, Richard was born to Richard Pryor and Patricia Price in a Peoria hospital. He is an actor, singer, and an author, among many other talents and is an active member of SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists), New York. Richard always has a twinkle in his eyes and a genuine smile on his face when he speaks of a few childhood memories growing up living in two very distinct worlds; one of his famous father- Hollywood, and his mother and the average American family life he experienced with her here in Peoria.
Richard spoke to the crowd with ease and confidence and about catching the performing bug early in life, growing up with many cousins and sisters in their basements, writing and putting on many plays, often with him performing a one-man show as well.
“We would even create tickets to sell with the “event” information, with real stubs on end to detach for our plays, talent shows, and our bathing beauty contests, which I always wanted to win. One time we did The Wizard of Oz, and I was upset I couldn’t be Dorothy,” stated Richard as he held the crowd’s attention.
He told of another story of “borrowing” his mother’s earrings to perform in Drag Shows at Club Peorian in downtown Peoria. He remembered stepping on stage to perform as Grace Jones, and other characters, having the jitters as he first stepped onto the stage, then came on fire and felt alive. He gave one of his best performances with his mom and aunt in the audience. His mom even complimented him and noticed he was wearing her earrings; he had earned the earrings after such a wonderful performance.
Richard left Peoria, which was not very liberal or tolerant in some aspects, and moved to Los Angeles, experiencing absolute freedom. In 1981, he joined the military but was honorably discharged three years later, most likely as he was gay, and this was the policy at the time.
“Peoria teaches you to define yourself,” stated Richard when asked about growing up here.
He has had a successful career as an actor, singer, and performer, and remarkably made it in New York, New York, where he now calls home.
He remembered performing in a Cabaret when first arriving in New York, and said the crowds are brutally honest in NY, true and true, and will let you know instantly if they think you are horrible, and that he had an incredibly positive response from the crowds.
Pryor then segued into how much music is a part of his life and sang in a very beautiful range the song he said connected deeply to him, and parts of his life called Nobody Loves You, written by the iconic Bessie Smith. He continued the final part of the event signing more books and greeting the rest of the crowd.
Pryor tried three different times to write the book about his life growing up and his many struggles, including drug/alcohol addiction, sexual abuse, and having a difficult time making good decisions for portions of his life, and would often get physically ill on many of the flashback memories from some of the abuse.
“Finally, in 2015, my friend and manager, Bernie Furshpan made me a proposal, to trust in writer Ron Brawer, to “write the book to sound like me, in my voice,” stated Richard.
“The book started as one thing and ended up being something different. I have learned that by sharing my stories of abuse, that many people have written me letters, or have spoken to me at book signing events saying how much it helped them to know they were not alone in the struggle, pain, and suffering, and that the book was very healing,” said Pryor Jr.
For more information about Richard Pryor Jr. or to purchase the book, please visit Inapryorlife.com