- Category : Entertainment-Comedy
- Type : ME
- Profile : 6/2 - Role Model / Hermit
- Definition : Split - Small (16,20,31,40)
- Incarnation Cross : LAX Separation 2
American actor and comedian. Foxx was known for taking raucous black comedy and bringing it into the mainstream of American culture on the television sitcom "Sanford and Son." Foxx was deserted by his father when he was age four. His dad left him, his older brother and his mother penniless. A mischievous child, Foxx was once expelled from school for throwing a book back at a teacher who threw it at him first. "School meant nothing to me. Knowing that George Washington crossed the Delaware, how is that going to help me with a brick fight in St. Louis"? At 13 he formed a wash tub band with two friends, Lamont Ousley and Steve Trimel, left home and dropped out of school forever.
Playing and passing set the stage for hustling and a hardscrabble adolescence. "Redd is a street man. He knows that to survive, you have to be a good hustler." Four years later, Foxx worked in a musical group known as the Bon Bons and, in 1939, they decided to test their luck. The band hopped a freight train from Chicago to New York and played in subways, street corners and the clubs of Harlem until they broke up two years later. It was in New York that Foxx decided he needed a new name. His friends had called him Fox for his stylish manner and Red because of his red hair. When he saw a sign advertising the slugger Jimmie Foxx he added another d to Red and a comic was born. "The extra letter was so people would remember it." Foxx earned his daily bread by pushing racks in the garment district and bussing tables. A brush with the law found him doing time on Rikers's Island, where he was sentenced for stealing a bottle of milk. "If you can eat, you can think of something funny. But hungry, you can only think of something to eat."
His roommate on a tenement rooftop was a man named Malcolm Little, also known as "Red," who later gained renown as Malcolm X. John Sandford became Chicago Red and Malcolm Little was Detroit Red to avoid confusion in the Harlem restaurant where they were both employed. In "The Autobiography of Malcolm X," X wrote that Chicago Red was "the funniest dishwasher on this earth."
After finally landing his stand-up first gig in Baltimore, Foxx teamed up with comedian Slappy White in 1941 and together they played the chitlin' circuit of the East Coast. Their popularity spread like wildfire among their peers in black entertainment. Singer Dinah Washington persuaded Foxx to come to Los Angeles where recording executive Dootsie Williams saw him at the Brass Rail and signed him to make comedy records. "Laff of the Party" became the contraband favorite of teenagers across the country, selling nearly 15 million copies. Other successful records followed, yet Foxx complained that he was "robbed so bad I just didn't want to make any more."
By the early 1960s Foxx was playing the famous Apollo Theater in Harlem where theater owner Bobby Schiffman managed to get a toned down Foxx on "The Tonight Show," which in turn led to more TV appearances and finally, the rarefied rooms of Las Vegas. "I swear to God and any three other white men that you're going to enjoy me" he rasped to the lily white middle class audiences. They did. In 1970, Fox signed a three-year contract guaranteeing him 32 weeks a year in Las Vegas at $10,000 a week. In later years he said, "I figured that was the pinnacle."
It was only the beginning. In 1969 Foxx played a minor role in the film "Cotton Comes to Harlem." The unknown actor's portrayal of an aging junk dealer in Harlem was so remarkable it turned the heads of television producers Norman Lear and Bud Yorkin, producers of "All in the Family." The two producers wanted to try a riskier show with black characters about a Los Angeles junk dealer and his son. The role fit Foxx like a hand in a work glove and he left the security of his Las Vegas contract on two conditions: he insisted on using the name Fred G. Sanford of his character as a tribute to his brother who had died five years earlier and there was to be no mimicking the black dialect. "I don't eat watermelon at home. I won't on TV"
The successful show ran for six seasons, making Foxx a synonym with the funky humor of black culture. In 1973 Foxx said in an interview," I'm convinced 'Sandford and Son' shows middle-class America a lot of what they need to know. The show is lighthearted - doesn't drive home a lesson, but it can open up people's minds enough for them to see how stupid every kind of prejudice can be....I don't want no black takeover...black power and white power are meaningless, I want green (money) power."
And he had it. Money became a sore point with Foxx, who demanded top dollar and got it. If Carroll O'Connor was making $25,000 a week for "All in the Family," Foxx, not to be outdone, had to grudgingly settle for $25,001 a week. Financial and popular success made Foxx temperamental and demanding and, curiously, unhappy. A born club comedian, he reveled in the smoky nightclub atmosphere of live audiences and ad lib rhetoric. Feeling unappreciated, Foxx left his producers in 1976 to sign on with another television network. His new show lasted less than a year. Foxx's original producer attempted a reconciliation with a revival of "Sanford" without the son in 1980 but the show had lost its popularity and was quickly canceled. Foxx soon found himself back home in the nightclubs of Los Angeles where he still commanded a large following.
In 1989, Foxx teamed up with fellow comedians Eddie Murphy and Richard Pryor in the comedy film "Harlem Nights." The movie brought together "two generations of comedy" but was panned by the critics. Foxx gave comic Richard Pryor his start in stand-up in the early '70s in his night club in Los Angeles. "I got to watch him work every night." Pryor said in 1990. "He gave me inspiration and encouragement so I could be more me." While younger comedians' styles have been compared to Foxx, the older comedian claims he set the standard. "There are no new jokes. It's just that the new comedians speak a little broader. They're geniuses and I'm dirty."
Despite his financial success, Foxx was in dire financial straits in his later years. He was known as a high roller and in 1989, IRS agents entered his Las Vegas home and stripped it bare, even seizing his jewelry. Evidently, he owed almost $3 million dollars in back taxes. "I was treated like I wasn't human."
Foxx made three marriages that ended in divorce. His second marriage to Betty Jean Harris in 1974 lasted 18 years. He suffered a heart attack while on the set of his newest sitcom "The Royal Family" on 10/11/1991 at 4:10 PM. Several of his cast members assumed it was part of a gag, as he was inclined to pranks in between takes. "They all thought he was joking around at first, and then they called the paramedics." Foxx was rushed to the Queen of Angels-Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center where he died at 7:45 PM with his fourth wife of 3 months, Korean-born Kaho Cho, at his side. Said producer Norman Lear, "We've lost one of the rare clowns in any generation. He couldn't say he had a headache without making you laugh."