Black Quotidian: Everyday History in African-American Newspapers

March 17, 1977

On March 17, 1977, Los Angeles Sentinel entertainment columnist Gertrude Gipson published an interesting profile of Richard Pryor. “Richard Pryor is hot property now and is well aware of this, he is in constant demand,” Gipson wrote. Gipson and Pryor discussed the comedian’s staring roles in Greased Lightning and Which Way Is Up, his relationship with actress Pam Grier, and his childhood in Peoria, Illinois. Regarding being “raised in a house of prostitution,” Pryor said, “I would never want my children to go through the experiences I had...I learned many things and it took many years to get a lot of memories out of my system.” When the conversation turned to his fans, Pryor said, “I developed my following by playing the small niteries around the city, mostly black, previously my audience was at least 30% white but now I relate to the black situations and they are my biggest supporters, they buy my records, sell out my concerts and catch my performances wherever I am.” Pryor also explained that he had a new perspective on how to navigate show business. “I am not just concerned with an image as a Hollywood syndrome,” he said. “You must have the guts to say NO, it’s not gonna be the end of the world, I knew that when I walked off that stage in Vegas, it wasn’t all over because I had God in my heart. Don’t trust too many white folks, stay black in your heart, keep your black friends around you always, cause white folks will make you feel that everything is always alright and then they will chop your head off.”  

“Endurance has been the key to success for Richard Pryor, and promoting understanding through laughter has been the link,” Gipson concluded. “Richard Pryor is HOT and from the way it looks, it’s gonna be that way for many more years to come“ (click to view PDF).

Sentinel columnist Gertrude Gipson was a star in her own right. Gipson wrote for the Sentinel for over thirty years, wrote a syndicated column published in 125 black newspapers, and hosted a local radio show called “Hollywood Update.” When she died in 1999, the Sentinel covered her funeral on the front page and praised her for “creating the careers” of many black entertainers. A month later the Sentinel ran a full page collage of photos featuring Gipson with Cab Calloway, the Temptations, Michael Jackson, Oprah Winfrey, James Brown, and other celebrities.

Thank you to Scott Saul for sharing this article. To learn more about Richard Pryor’s life and career, please see Saul's excellent book Becoming Richard Pryor and digital project “Richard Pryor’s Peoria.“   

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