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Sun, 06.08.1980

Richard Pryor Attempts Suicide

Pryor, interview 1980

On this date in 1980, comedian Richard Pryor attempted suicide by setting himself on fire.

After freebasing for several days at his Northridge, CA, home, he was in a cocaine-induced haze. He poured a bottle of rum over his body and ignited himself using a lighter. His Aunt Dee attempted to smother the flames, but Pryor jumped out of the window in a panic and ran down the street. "Fire will sober your ass up quick," he joked the following year in the concert film Live On The Sunset Strip.) After his aunt and a couple of policemen caught up with him, he was rushed to the hospital suffering from third-degree burns covering the entire upper half of his body.

Family members, Jim Brown (friend), and many of his ex-wives and ex-girlfriends kept vigil as he lingered near death.  Much to his pleasant surprise, he received over 25,000 "get-well" messages from the general public and celebrities, moving him beyond words. Pryor’s recovery process was so immense that he referred to this date in 1980 as his "birthday." yet the physical and psychological healing process was slow and torturous.

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