Q&A: Richard Pryor Jr. Dedicated to Helping AnimalsPublished January 30, 2013
Richard Pryor Jr.
Richard Pryor Jr., 51, has always been an animal lover. He hasn’t always loved his last name, though. We’ve all seen many celebrity children crash and burn with drugs and suicides. It must not be easy living in the shadow of such a well-loved comedian. Richard likes to introduce himself by first name only so he will be treated like everyone else — except when it comes to animal advocacy. For that, he will put his celebrity moniker to great use by being a voice for abused and abandoned animals that cannot speak for themselves. Richard was hard to pin down, but Petside is persistent where helping animals is concerned. He finally relented and gave us an interview.
I hear you’ll be a very busy man this February.
Yes, I’m so excited about two big animal events. On February 8th, I’ll be walking a dog down the runway at “The New York Pet Fashion Show” and on February 9th I’ll be attending another pet fashion show, The NYC Doggies & Tiaras Pageant. I am really a baby at this but have become committed to doing everything I can for animal care fundraising.
How did you get involved with helping animals?
I’ve always been an animal lover and always had pets. I’ve worked with my stepmother Jennifer Pryor and her animal rescue and adoption organization, Pryor’s Planet. Jennifer is amazing and so dedicated. A few years ago I met two big names in the animal advocacy world, Karen Biehl and Matt Wayne, and they invited me to a Bideawee fundraiser event. I loved it and that sparked my continued involvement with the pet help circuit after that.
Was your father an animal lover?
Oh yes. He always loved animals and had a lot of pets. When I was coming up he had dogs and an amazing Shetland pony named Jennifer. She was a beautiful little horse, such a wonderful animal. It was my dad who got me my first dog. He had the dog flown to me in Peoria, Illinois, from L.A. He was an Alaskan Malamute and I loved him. His name was Majesty. But we weren’t able to keep him a long time because he hated my sister. She used to pick on him. Majesty had been trained with German words and it was hard at that age for me to remember the right words to control him. My mom said we couldn’t keep him because of my sister so I gave him to my dad’s uncle, my great uncle. I got to go visit him a lot and spend quality time with him.
Did you start hating your sister after that?
[Laughs] Yeah, back then, but we’re really close now. We have the same mother but different fathers. My dad had five other kids. I was closer to my mom’s three daughters.
When you were little was it strange that your dad was a celebrity?
I didn’t think of my dad as a celebrity. He was just my dad.
What other animal projects do you have on the horizon?
I live in Staten Island where there’s such a need to give a voice for animals. I had been thinking about what I could do for animals in Staten Island when Hurricane Sandy hit. As far as you could see there was water everywhere. I started going around looking for animals to help. When I was at one flooded area I felt something on my leg. Then I looked down and this little baby kitten was rubbing up against my leg. I felt so sorry for her because I know most kittens are scared of water and she was so tiny and all alone. I brought her home but my dog did not like her. He was not happy. I didn’t know what to do and figured I could post on Facebook to try to find her a home. Everything just exploded from there. I found so many animal lovers on Facebook and a caring family adopted the kitten.
Richard Pryor Jr.
Did that inspire you to do more?
Yes! I decided I want to start a group that finds homes for unwanted pets. So many dogs get abandoned. I would love to create a safe haven for these animals, a no-kill shelter. That’s my dream. In New York City you’re dealing with a lack of space. The good thing about Staten Island is that it’s much more spread out.
What kind of work do you do to support yourself?
I sing and act. I perform R&B and jazz. I have a musical director, Bill Gulino, who was the musical director for The Platters and for NBC. He works with me on constructing our shows. He plays piano and picks my songs. Periodically I work for the New York Grant Company. They get incentives and grants for businesses and organizations and have done a lot of great things within New York City.
It sounds like you lead a very interesting life. Have you thought about writing a memoir?
Yes, I’m working on one right now. My sister wrote a book about my dad called, “Jokes My Father Never Told Me.” Mine will be very different. It’s been a strange life.