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Freddie Prinze
Born Frederick Karl Pruetzel
June 22, 1954(1954-06-22)
New York, New York, U.S.
Died January 29, 1977 (aged 22)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Occupation Actor, Stand-up Comedian


Freddie Prinze (June 22, 1954 – January 29, 1977) was an American actor and stand-up comedian. He was best known as the star of Chico and the Man. He was the father of actor Freddie Prinze, Jr.

Contents

Early life

Prinze was born Frederick Karl Pruetzel at St. Clair's Hospital in New York City, the son of Maria Pruetzel Graniela and Edward Karl Pruetzel. His mother was Puerto Rican, and his father, a Hungarian of Lutheran and Jewish backgrounds, immigrated to the U.S. from Germany in 1934. He self identified as Puerto Rican, and for comedic purposes called himself a Hunga Rican.[1][2][3][4]

Prinze was raised in a predominately Hispanic neighborhood in Washington Heights, New York City.[5] He began his education at a private Lutheran school, in a religious compromise by his parents (his mother took him to Catholic mass on Sundays). When Prinze was a small child, his mother enrolled him in ballet classes to deal with his weight problem. Without telling his parents, Prinze successfully auditioned for the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Performing Arts, where he was introduced to drama and continued ballet—and where he discovered his gift for comedy while entertaining crowds in the boys restroom. He was also a small time hustler and drug dealer in his neighborhood of 157th Street and Broadway. He dropped out of school in his senior year to become a stand-up comedian.

Career

Prinze worked at several comedy clubs in New York City, including The Improv and Catch a Rising Star where he introduced himself to audiences as a "Hungarican" (part Hungarian, part Puerto Rican). For the sake of his budding comedic career, he changed his surname to "Prinze", which he chose because, according to his friend David Brenner, he originally wanted to be known as the King of comedy, but Alan King already had that last name, so he would be the Prince of comedy instead.

During 1973, he made his first television appearance on one of the last episodes of The Jack Paar Show. In December 1973, his biggest break came with an appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. Prinze was the first young comedian to be asked to have a sit-down chat with Carson on his first appearance. (Prinze appeared on and guest hosted The Tonight Show on several other occasions). He also appeared on the Midnight Special show to perform his comic routine. From 1974 to 1977, Prinze starred as Francisco "Chico" Rodriguez in the NBC TV series Chico and the Man with Jack Albertson. The show was an instant hit.

Prinze made several appearances on the Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts, most notably at the roasts for Sammy Davis Jr. and Muhammad Ali. In 1975, he released a comedy album that was taped live at Mr. Kelly's in Chicago titled Looking Good—his catch phrase from Chico and the Man. In 1976, he starred in a made-for-TV movie, The Million Dollar Rip-Off.

Prinze had a little-known talent for singing, examples of which could be heard in the background of the title song of the Tony Orlando and Dawn album To Be With You, in his appearances on their variety show, and on rare occasions on his own sitcom.

About four months prior to his death, Prinze had signed a multi-year deal with NBC worth US$6 million over five years. In the months before he died, he had a strong fixation on how John F. Kennedy was assassinated. He also developed an obsession with the film Taxi Driver, viewing it repeatedly.

Upon becoming wealthy, Prinze took martial arts lessons from Robert Wall, a student of Bruce Lee who appeared in Enter the Dragon and Return of the Dragon. Soon after, Wall became godfather to Prinze's newborn son Freddie Prinze, Jr.

Personal life

Prinze dated actresses Lisa Farringer and Pam Grier, among others. He was romantically involved with Kitty Bruce, daughter of the late Lenny Bruce, whom Prinze admired. He and Kitty were once reported to be engaged to be married, but the rumor was never substantiated.

Prinze married Katherine Cochran in October 1975, with whom he had one son, future actor Freddie Prinze, Jr.. In 1976, after his arrest for driving under the influence of quaaludes, his wife filed for divorce on the grounds that his escalating drug dependence was endangering her and their son.

Death

Prinze suffered from depression, and on January 28, 1977, shot himself with a small semi-automatic pistol after talking on the telephone with his estranged wife. His business manager, Marvin "Dusty" Snyder, tried to intervene, but Prinze shot himself in the head,[6] and was rushed to the UCLA Medical Center to be placed on life support following emergency surgery. Prinze's family removed him from life support, and he died at 1:00 pm on January 29. He was 22.

The death, initially ruled a suicide, was years later re-ruled accidental.[7] Prinze had a history of playing with guns, faking suicide attempts to frighten his friends for his amusement.[8] He had left a note stating that the decision to take his life was his alone, but because he pulled the trigger in the presence of a witness —it gave enough weight to the argument that he really was not planning to take his own life that night.[9]

Legacy

Prinze's mother wrote a book about her son, The Freddie Prinze Story, which was published in 1978. In September 1979, the TV movie Can You Hear the Laughter? The Story of Freddie Prinze premiered.

Freddie Prinze was a focal point of one of the storylines in the movie Fame set in Prinze's alma mater Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts. The character of Ralph Garcy (stage name for Raul Garcia) played by Barry Miller speaks often of growing up with Prinze and seeing him as the local neighborhood hero. Prinze's death affects him profoundly, and Garcy credits the event with inspiring his own career. He says he is doing it "for Freddie." Later, Garcy's stand-up career shows similar promise, followed by depression, drugs, and ultimately near self-destruction. The character of Doris Finsecker (Maureen Teefy) in one scene screams at Garcy, saying he is not Freddie, and he does not have to do (self-destructive behaviors) just because Freddie did them.

Prinze also received a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame a few decades after his death. In 2001, TV Land began showing reruns of Chico and the Man.

See also

References

  1. ^ Nordheimer, Jon (1977-01-29). "Freddie Prinze". The New York Times. http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=FA0F16F83E5D167493CBAB178AD85F438785F9. Retrieved 2008-04-10. 
  2. ^ Maeder, Jay (1999-06-09). "FREDDIE PRINZE EVERYTHING IN THE WORLD". New York Daily News. http://www.nydailynews.com/archives/news/1999/06/09/1999-06-09_freddie_prinze_everything_in.html. Retrieved 2008-04-10. 
  3. ^ "Freddie Prinze". The Fresno Bee Republican. 1975-07-25. http://www.newspaperarchive.com/LandingPage.aspx?type=nlp&img=\\na0016\6791223\44387958.html. Retrieved 2008-04-10. 
  4. ^ Lester, David (1993). Understanding Suicide: A Case Study Approach. Michigan: Nova Science Publishers. pp. 103. ISBN 1560721499. 
  5. ^ Nordheimer, Jon. "Freddie Prinze Wounded in Head; Police Say TV Star Shot Himself; PRINZE, THE TV STAR, IS WOUNDED IN HEAD", The New York Times, January 29, 1977. Accessed June 11, 2008.
  6. ^ "Freddie Prinze: Too Much, Too Soon". Time Magazine. February 7, 1977. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,914757-1,00.html. Retrieved 20 May 2009. 
  7. ^ The Show Must Go on: How the Deaths of Lead Actors Have Affected Television By Douglas Snauffer, Joel Thurm. Mcfarland press. p. 74.
  8. ^ http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,295817,00.html
  9. ^ http://www.museum.tv/eotvsection.php?entrycode=prinzefredd

Freddie Prinze Sr








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