Richard Pryor turns childhood into comedy gold; his cocaine habit forms: Part 4

Patricia VonHeitman, a longtime girlfriend, said his habit "was maybe 20 grand a month." Meanwhile, he captivated audiences with stories of his broken childhood.
6:54 | 01/17/20

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Transcript for Richard Pryor turns childhood into comedy gold; his cocaine habit forms: Part 4
Heard it from the back of a bush As the 60s moves on and as the counter culture grows, not just in music or politics or civil rights, but in places like comedythe society is being reflected in the arts. The people in this community feel they have been treated unfairly. Police jumped out the car, two grab your legs, one grab your head and snap, "Oh he He broke. Can you Okay? Richie, was coming from the Jim crow time, another pain, a much deeper pain. Pain that he knew in the civil rights, those people never seen. He knows that from the timeline he's from, and then probably from the part of the country he's from. So you take all of that, and you hear from your grandmother and grandfather these type of killings, hangings, whatever stories was told then, you bring it all the way with you to right now, and you still see it. Police got a choke hold that they use out here though on you man, they choke To death. You be dead when they through. Did you know that? Wait a minute Going, "Yeah we know." White folks going, "Oh no, I had no idea." Richard was arrested a few times. One time he was arrested in Pittsburgh 1963, and on the mugshot it says "Eyes, maroon. Hair, kinky." I know the facts of life man, I'm a black man, but I'm a man. And if you can see the man in me before you see the black, god bless you, because then we can deal. Back then we needed to see aggression, we needed to see resistance, we needed to see a warrior. There was such pressure on him at that time to be the new black voice. Because, you know, martin Luther king was dead, Malcom X was dead, so they wanted Richard to be it. He didn't want the job. The drugs were just a panacea, just a cure for everything that was going on, all of it this, just -- oh, that pressure. Dope dealers. I did it so bad, dope dealers tried not to sell me nothing. Now that's doing it when dope dealers say, I ain't going to give you no more. Our first real date, he took me to a drug dealer in San Francisco, and to buy cocaine. And then we went to -- he took me to a movie. I'd never even spoken to a black man, let alone kissed one or had sex with one, and it was like -- it was a new experience for me, and I was just infatuated with that's how he met and what our life was like. Look, I like drugs. I do. People call them drugs, right? But I like cocaine every now and then, sit around my friends and get high. You might still. Might still? Do still. And Richard had endless money for it. Richard could go and buy a pound of cocaine, and then he was just snorting it and snorting it. We'd go to his house up in northridge, right? And he'd have a table full of coke. And he'd say, "Hey man, this table here, this is more than you'll ever make in your lifetime. His habit was maybe 20 grand a month. Well, how long do you think he could do that? Every time I get in trouble it's because I end up drinking too much or I end up snorting too much or smoking too much. But I just want to say this -- like, look I like drugs, I do. Cocaine's a hell of a drug, you know? And it gives you 20 minutes of ego. And so I think that's maybe why so many comedians would turn to it, especially, after a show when you're coming down from the show. You don't want to high to end, so you turn to something. He was not happy with his life, no matter how much money he had earned or what kind of success he had attained. I think probably in this day and age, in this context, he'd be on antidepressants instead of,en why, vodka, vodka, vodka. And again, it goes back to his childhood. The way he was raised. Whatever happened to him as a child was never fixed. Just watching his mother be a whore had to affect him as a mature adult man. Imagine being a beautiful vase that everybody loves, but there's a crack in it. Somebody dropped it. And that was Richard Pryor. Every time it broke, it broke in the same place. Childhood. My grandmother would wake my ass up. You know, "Get Yo ass out, put your hand -- put your hand -- don't you run from me, don't you run from me. As long as you black, don't you run from me. The grandmother, really, she was the matriarch of the family. She ran it with an iron hand, and she didn't suffer fools. Including him. Even though she beat the Out of him, she was still the only one that he felt A star with a broken childhood. He was walking around with blew. We was laughing but he was dying inside. You couldn't fill the hole, you couldn't, there's nothing you could do. And he wouldn't let you. He wouldn't even let you try. You're not coming in here and you're not going to save me and you're not going to rescue me. Forget that. It's such a double-edged sword, because a lot of his humor came from that family too. Boy, what's that you're putting up your nose? I said cocaine, mama. Jesus, god, take me now lord, take my now. God, save my life. Take me, take me, take me. Richard comes on and goes, wait a minute. That's me. That happened to me. That's my life. I said, mama don't do it. $1,600 worth down the drain. These were voices and attitudes that were never done before. Here is the brothel, drugs, people getting shot, stabbed, prostitutes, homosexuality, whatever. These are funny characters he's doing, but they're real. This is a funny situation that he's talking about, but it's real. . You don't come driving around throw here like you crazy. This is a neighborhood man. This is a residential district. I related to him. I wasn't a small black child, I wasn't, I didn't grow up near prostitutes, but somehow I got him. Imma do it with you boy, imma walk wit' Ya, 'cause I believe you got potential. Then he'd say something like that, "I wanna walk wit' you boy, talk wit' you cause I think you've got potential." I mean, he said things in such a way that you just open your heart to everyone. Richard Pryor had seven

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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