Friday, October 4, 2013

Remembering Redd Foxx December 9, 1922 - October 11, 1991

He was known as the "Genius of Comedy" and holds the all-time record as the longest continuous headliner in Las Vegas history.

Redd Foxx was born John Elroy Sanford in St. Louis, Missouri.  His dad was an electrician and auto mechanic who left his family when Redd was four years of age.  His mother was half Seminole Indian and his grandma was a minister.  His older brother was named Fred G. Sanford Jr. that became the name of Redd's character on his popular television sitcom "Sanford & Son.  The name Redd Fox was taken from his reddish hair and complexion and Foxx was taken from the baseball star, Jimmie Foxx.

It was said that Redd dodged the draft during World War II by eating a half of a bar of soap prior to his physical that caused heart palpitations and prevented him from entering the service.

Redd began performing at the age of 13 when he, along with three friends, formed a washboard band.  They performed in the streets of Chicago.  They decided later to take the band on the road and took off for New York City.  He began performing on his own in Harlem as a one man band.  His audiences enjoyed his comedy more than his washboard playing and at the age of 16, Redd took a one week job in Baltimore that turned into a three year comedy performance.  He soon joined comic, Slappy White and for many years toured the ghetto clubs in Baltimore, Washington, Philadelphia, Chicago, and New York on the "Chitlin Circuit."  He eventually took his act to Los Angeles and signed his first of what would become 100 top selling comedy albums.
Redd on Sanford and Son

Redd began his television career in 1964 when spotted by Hugh Downs, host of the "Today Show"  This started him on the path to many variety and talk shows.  He performed adult comedy for nearly 37 years and later in motion pictures.  He appeared in the 1970 comedy,
"Cotton Comes to Harlem" that soon led him to his role in "Sanford and Son" that would be successful for five years.  During that time, Foxx also starred in the motion picture "Norman...Is That You?"with Pearl Bailey.  He eventually left Sanford and Son to star in his own variety show called "The Redd Foxx Comedy Hour"  Among the guest stars on his show were "Lawanda Page "Aunt Esther" on Sanford and Son, Bill Cosby, Milton Berle, and Rodney Dangerfield.  He eventually returned to "Sanford and Son"and in the film "Ghost of Chance" with Dick Van Dyke.

According to People Magazine, Foxx once earned $4 million dollars in a single year.  Unfortunately, he also lived a lavish lifestyle and a nasty divorce that resulted in major problems with the IRS.  His home in Las Vegas was seized along with Foxx's personal possessions.  It was reported that he owed the IRS $3.6 million dollars in taxes.

Redd was soon hired for a role in another sitcom called "The Royal Family" produced by Eddie Murphy and co-starred actress, Della Reese.  On October 11, 1991, while taking a break from the rehearsal of an episode, Redd suffered a heart attack and later died in a Hollywood hospital.  He was 68 years old.

Foxx is listed #24 on Comedy Central's 100 Greatest Stand-ups of All Time and influenced numerous comedians and was considered a pioneer black entertainer.  He was posthumously given a star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame.

Redd's funeral program
Redd Foxx's funeral (program pictured) was held on Tuesday, October 15, 1991 in the Palm Valley View Chapel in Los Vegas.  Because of Redd's financial problems, it was said that Eddie Murphy paid for Redd's funeral.  Redd's eulogy was given by fellow actress and minister Rev. Della Reese and Redd's song "When You Love Someone It's Christmas Everyday" was sung by Edie Akiels.  Honorary Pallbearers included Eddie Murphy, Richard Pryor, Pat Morita and Slappy White.  He was laid to rest in the Palm Valley View Memorial Park in Las Vegas.  Coincidentally, Redd's mother outlived Redd by 17 months and was laid to rest next to Redd in 1993.
Redd Foxx grave in Las Vegas

Redd once summed up his life by saying "I give thanks everyday that I was granted the talent to make people Laugh."

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