Contact Us

March 2002
Cover Page
Table Of Contents

About TV: "The only thing I can do from my nightclub act is smoke."

Redd Foxx

Real Name: John Elroy Sanford
Born: 9 December 1922
Birthplace: St. Louis, Missouri, USA
Date of Death: 11 October 1991, Los Angeles, California
Place Interred: Palm Memorial Gardens, Las Vegas, Nevada, in the Devotion Section, Lawn Space 4091, 311 G

Film/Acting Credits Include:
>1999 - Redd Foxx: The E! True Hollywood Story (TV) (archive footage) ... Himself
>1993 - Mo' Funny: Black Comedy in America (TV) (archive footage) ... Himself
>1991 - "Royal Family, The" (TV)... Alfonso Royal
>1989 - Harlem Nights ... Bennie Wilson
>1989 - Sanford and the Sun God ... Fred Sanford
>1987 - Ghost of a Chance (TV) ... Ivory Clay
>1986 - "Redd Foxx Show, The" (TV) ... Al Hughes
>1984 - Dirty Dirty Jokes (TV) ... Himself/Host
>1980 - "Sanford" (TV) ... Fred Sanford
>1977 - "Redd Foxx Comedy Hour, The" (TV) ... Himself
>1976 - Norman... Is That You? ... Ben Chambers
>1972 - "Sanford and Son" (TV) ... Fred Sanford
>1971 - Bob Hope Vietnam Christmas Show, The (TV) ... Himself
>1970 - Cotton Comes to Harlem ... Uncle Bud

Before the modern day "Kings of Comedy," there was Redd Foxx, the original King of Comedy. Without his efforts, the modern Kings would not be able to perform much of their routines.

One-quarter Seminole Indian, John Elroy Sanford was born into poverty in St. Louis, Missouri. It was the boy's ruddy complexion that caused childhood friends to nickname him Red. He would later add an extra "D" to the name and add Foxx, from Major League Baseball player, Jimmie Foxx, as the last part of his stage name.

(cont. next column) >

Redd Foxx (cont.)

At 13, Foxx left St. Louis for Chicago. With jobs being slim, he supported himself by working in restaurant kitchens and playing the washboard in a band. When the band broke up three years later, he hopped a train to New York City. It was there that he met a man named Malcolm Little, a man who would later be known as Malcolm X. In "The Autobiography of Malcolm X," he is referred to as "Chicago Red, the funniest dishwasher on this earth."

In New York, Foxx put his naturally funny nature to work on stage. He had what was described by many as a frank, earthy, tell-it-like-it-is, if not blue sense of humor, but this realistic approach to humor hit a home run with audiences. People identified with and liked his fresh, bawdy approach to comedy and Foxx soon began performing as a comedian/actor in black theaters and nightclubs in what was often referred to as the "Chitlin Circuit."

From 1951-1955 he teamed with comic Slappy White and the two became lifelong friends. White would later appear with Foxx on his Sanford and Son and Redd Foxx Comedy Hour television shows.

While performing in Los Angeles, he was offered a deal with the Dooto records. Foxx received the grand total of $25 for his first recording, but in the years to follow he would produce over 50 best-selling comedic albums. During the 60s, as cultural barriers began to wear down, the audience for Foxx's brand of comedy grew steadily. He was admired by many and was the only artist to be invited to Elvis Presley's wedding at the Alladin Hotel in Las Vegas, on May 1, 1967. He finally came to the notice of Hollywood directors and power brokers. In 1972, after his film debut in Ossie Davis' Cotton Comes to Harlem, Norman Lear signed Foxx as junk dealer Fred Sanford in a new NBC sitcom.

"Sanford and Son," co-starred Demond Wilson and La Wanda Page, and became a hit. It ranked in the top ten virtually every week it aired and NBC even began running the show twice a week. When Foxx left in 1977, the tabloids said it was because NBC wouldn't give him a dressing room with a window, but it may actually have been the fact that ABC offered him a huge salary in their effort to break NBC's stranglehold on Friday night ratings.

Once ABC had Foxx, NBC's ratings dropped continuously against Foxx's new show, "The Redd Foxx Comedy Hour." He was also executive producer of the show, which first aired on September 15, 1977, and cast him alongside Sarah Hardy, Slappy White, "Iron Jaw" Wilson, Billy Barty, Hal Smith, Bill Saluga and The Gerald Wilson Orchestra.

(cont. next column) >

Redd Foxx (cont.)

Foxx was excited about the variety show's open forum, and planned to take full advantage of the opportunity, but during the first episode, well aware that he was infamous for his unique brand of comedy, he joked, "The only thing I can do from my nightclub act is smoke." Doing everything from skits to taking live questions from the audience, the program's undisciplined nature challenged both the viewers and the sensors, leaving both to wonder what would come next.

But with NBC's progress stalled, ABC decided it was no longer worth the effort to continue battling the sensors in an effort to establish better ratings for their new show. It was cancelled on January 26, 1978.

Temporarily unemployed from television, Foxx took his act to Las Vegas for awhile. He enjoyed his time as a Vegas headliner and contiued performing there even while he launched another sitcom for ABC. On "The Redd Foxx Show" he played Al Hughes, a likeable newsstand owner. The cast was a mix of former co-stars, including "Iron Jaw" Wilson, and new faces, such as Nathaniel "Rollo" Taylor, Barry Van Dyke and Beverly Todd, but the show never really found an audience. When ABC cancelled the show, Foxx left ABC for good.

In 1989 he and friend Della Reese co-starred in Eddie Murphy's "Harlem Nights." The movie itself received little attention, but producers at CBS loved the chemistry between Foxx and reese and signed the two for a new sitcom, "The Royal Family."

Unfortunately, while on the set of The Royal Family, Foxx suffered a massive heart attack. Reese bent over him and prayed, "Don't die Redd, don't die," but it was too late. The world lost comedic genius Redd Foxx on October 11, 1991. Foxx's albums stand as proof of his legacy as they continue to sell, topping out at over 15 million copies today.

But Foxx was not just a comedic genious, he was also a talented artist. He often carried a sketch book with him whereever he went. He was known for creating fantastic images or capturing impressions of friends and loved ones.

On stage, on recordings and on television, Redd Foxx broke new ground. By finding humor in everything from sex to color barriers, he brought simmering issues and taboo subjects into the open. His candor may have started a war with sensors, but because he refused to give in, his work opened the door for other comedians, both mainstream and minority. It was Foxx and his dogged stuborness that changed the climate of taboos in Hollywood and on stages across the country. Those who have come after him owe a great deal of their freedom to perform to the efforts of Redd Foxx.