It was the first big trip Mrs. BartCop and I ever took - 1983.

 We had a shiny, new Pontiac Grand Prix,
 and we decided to see all of western America  in a two-week period.

 We drove thru Texas, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah.
 We drove to Las Vegas, spent the night, then on to Los Angeles.
 It was raining like an angry God when we hit LA.
 We drove on the freeway for two hours, looking for an exit.

 In K-drag, there are signs and billboards and markers.
 In the rain in LA, there was absolutely nothing.
 We just kept driving and kept driving.

 Do you know, to this day, you can come up to a freeway in LA
 and the sign will say "FREEWAY."
 It doesn't say "I-5 North," or "Cal 101," it says "FREEWAY!"
 Eventually, we found Hollywood.

 We rented a cheesy, $58 hotel on Sunset Boulevard.
 First thing, I got the Yellow Pages and started calling comedy clubs.
 The first club I called was a big one - the Comedy Store or the Improv
 or the Laugh Factory, I forget, but it's on Sunset and it's still there as of 1998.

 Anyway, I asked the guy who was onstage tonight.
 He started rattling off names like it was a goddamn Friar's Roast.

 Club Guy:  J J Walker (Kid Dy-no-mite) and Richard Belzer and yada yada
 and someone else and yada yada and Richard Pryor and....

 BartCop: Whoa, Cubby!
                  Richard who?

 Club Guy: Richard Pryor.

 BartCop: THE Richard pryor?

 Club Guy: Yes.

 BartCop: THE Richard Pryor is on your stage - tonight?

 Club Guy: Yes (starting to get a little agitated)

 BartCop: Richard Pryor is on your stage tonight.
                 How much is the cover?

 Club Guy: Five dollars.

 BartCop:  I can pay five dollars and see Richard Pryor
                  in your club on your stage tonight?

 Club Guy: Yeah, but I got shit to do, anything else?

 BartCop:  No,  .....thanks.

 At this point my head is spinning.
 I know you people think I make too much of stuff,
 but this was Richard Pryor - the Jimmy Page of comedy!

 We jumped in the car and drove over there.
 We got a parking spot twenty feet from the front door.
 We walked inside, still waiting for someone to say,
 "You dumbass, you fell for that?"

 We get to the Triage area, and the guy asks which room we want.
 I'm like, "Duh!"
 We want to see Richard Pryor, Sir.

 Doorboy said, "He's in the big room."


 I'd like to think the funniest man in the world isn't playing some
 side room while J J Walker is in the big room.

 So they showed us to our table, up front, to the right of the stage.
 We ordered a couple of cocktails and looked around the room.

 Koresh as my witness, there were goddamn movie stars there.
 Swear to Koresh, at one table was Sammy Davis Jr., Angie
 Dickenson, and some mid-level star whose name escapes me.
 It was like The Rifleman or somebody - someone I knew but who cares?

 We were minutes away from seeing Richard Pryor live!
 So I explain to Mrs. BartCop that we won't be going home.
 I told her I'd call Sabutai and have him sell BartCop Manor
 and send us the money because we were staying in LA forever.
 Well, that great idea lasted about three seconds.

 After sitting thru the warm-up acts, here comes Richard Pryor.


 There he was, maybe 15 feet from us, doing his act.
 For ten dollars, we're seeing The Man Who Wrote the Comedy Book.
 He was doing all-new material. They told us the top comics
 go there to try the new stuff out, see what works, then they go
 on Johnny Carson or whatever and they know their stuff is good.

 Something else happened:

 There was one table between us and the stage.
 There was some rowdies at that table, and they were heckling Richard.
 I guess when you're drunk, you don't understand the dangers of
 heckling a man like Richard Pryor.

 Having the gift of foresight, I told Mrs. BartCop to be ready to drop
 her gaze at a half-second's notice. I knew Richard would eventually
 react to this loudmouth drunk lady, and if he looked to his right and
 suddenly caught Mrs. BartCop's eyes, he might mistakenly assume
 it was she heckling him, and he might attack, and I didn't want that.

 Sure enough, after a few heckles from this very drunk woman,
 Pryor looks our way, locates the trouble-causing "lady," and says,
 "Bitch, shut up 'fore I slap you with my dick!"

 The place went nuts, as you might imagine.
 He shut that woman up - good.
 She didn't make another sound the rest of the night.

 After the show, as calm as you please, Richard was standing
 outside on the sidewalk smoking a cigarette, talking to some fans.
 Part of me wanted to walk up and speak to him, but all I could
 think of to say was, "I think you're the funniest man I've ever seen,"
 and I figured he'd heard that before.

 I wish I had that moment to do over.

 Poor Richard - they gave him so much money, he got off-track
 Somebody, MGM or Universal gave him $50,000,000 to produce five films.
 This was back when $10,000,000 made a movie.

 Richard made some very forgettable films and I don't think the kids
 today know how funny Richard Pryor was at his peak.

 His first stand-up movie was too mother-fuckin' funny.
 The second and third stand-ups were good, but not like that first one.
 That first one was the blueprint for everybody who's come since.

 I guess Richard and George Carlin and a few others were the first to
 take the stage after the Catholics murdered Lenny Bruce for using
 words like "nigger" and "pussy" in his comedy routines.

 (Sometimes it takes me forever to get to the point.)
 On, they're taking a vote on who viewers
 consider to be the "most influential" comedian.
 Of the five listed, Richard is first with 39 percent.

 I know Lenny paved the way, but to me, Lenny's more like
 Little Richard or the Everly Brothers or Elvis.
 Lenny deserves his props, he laid the groundwork, sure,
 but Richard Pryor was the Beatles.

 I wish his last years were going a little smoother.


 A shot of Chinaco for the great Richard Pryor.

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