The stars came out for actor/singer Richard Pryor Jr. last night at a book signing held at the Hollywood Museum in which the first-born son of the legendary stand-up comedian read passages from his new book, In a Pryor Life, and unveiled his contribution to the Museum’s annual LGBTQ exhibit, Reel to Real. The enthusiastic crowd included such luminaries as actress Lee Purcell, who co-starred with Pryor Jr.’s father in Stir Crazy, and actors Teresa Ganzel and Scott Schwartz, both of whom appeared with Pryor Sr. in The Toy. The public event was the latest example of the Museum’s commitment to connecting Hollywood’s past through its relationships with the descendants of entertainment pioneers.
A candid and often poignant memoir, In a Pryor Life tells the story of how Pryor Jr.’s self-described “freakish life” often paralleled that of his famous father, including being raised in a whorehouse in Peoria, Illinois, overcoming physical abuse, verbal abuse, and bouts with alcohol and drug addictions, and struggling with his sexual identity. The book took Pryor Jr. more than a decade to write because he “wasn’t always ready to handle going through the different emotions” he experienced in order to tell his story. “There were times when I became physically ill when I was doing the book,” he explained to the audience.
Pryor Jr. also discussed how In a Pryor Life evolved in the course of writing it. “The book began with me writing about being the child of a celebrity. When I finished writing the book, it became more about [helping] other people who have gone through their own struggles and feel that they are in despair, feel there is no way out, feel they are in that dark tunnel and can’t see light. Because a lot of times, when we go through issues in life, we think we are the only ones.”
The author also hopes to shatter some perceptions. “A lot of times, people think that kids of celebrities have everything handed to them,” he explained. “I was not one of those kids. Sure, I had good things in my life that came my way—but I also struggled with a lot of things. That is the reason I wrote this book.”
Pryor Jr. also donated one of the costumes he wore for the 2015 independent film College Debts to the Hollywood Museum for display as part of this summer’s annual LGBTQ exhibit, Real to Reel: Portrayals and Perceptions of LGBTQ in Hollywood. One of the museum’s most popular exhibits, Real to Reel provides an educational, entertaining, and informative look at the milestones and influence that LGBTQ characters and plot lines have had in Hollywood over the past century. This year’s Reel to Real exhibit will be open to the public on Friday, June 7.