Last night, I dreamt of Richard Pryor.
I don’t often remember my dreams but was awakened at 4:30AM by a weather alert on my cellphone for a storm that never transpired.
I knew Richard fairly well at one point. I worked with him from approximately 1979 for a couple of years on a film— “Bustin’ Loose”—that reached the theaters in 1981.
It was something of a long haul because this was during the time Pryor set himself ablaze from a crack pipe and shooting had to be interrupted.
It was, not surprisingly, a rather rocky road, even for Hollywood. I was hired three times and fired twice on the film, partly, I suspect, at the behest of the NAACP that was pressuring Universal Studios to have all major participants on the biggest black production of the year be black, including the screenwriter.
Later, when the film won their Image Award—there wasn’t much competition in 1981—I was advised not to show up for the ceremony to collect the writing prize. I didn’t.
So why now, after some forty years, did I dream of Richard last night? (Pryor, who did everything bad to his body imaginable, died in 2005.)
That evening I had attended a small gathering of Middle Tennessee conservative activists during which the major topic was how to stop the incursion of critical race theory into our schools, something I believe of paramount importance.
There is nothing that could do more damage to the fabric of our country than injecting CRT into the minds of young children. It’s a machine to create racism while pretending to fight it.
The meeting was not exactly an upper.
So, in that mood, I dreamt.
And, I guess somewhat to my relief, the Pryor who appeared in the dream was a happy Richard, as he was when we were collaborating. The dream moved around the country as we planned another movie together. I don’t know what it was about, but we were excited by the possibilities.
Interesting too is that the original title of “Bustin’ Loose” was “Family Dream.” Universal marketing changed the title to something sexier and more Pryor-like, although “Family Dream” had been Richard’s idea.
The one-sheet showed Richard running in panic from the Ku Klux Klan but in the movie the Klan turned out to be pussycats who took off their hoods and tried to help the orphaned children on the bus Pryor was driving. (Of course, by the time of the film, the Klan barely existed anyway.)
The movie’s story involved Pryor, playing ex-con Joe Braxton, forced into driving a school bus of orphaned kids across the country while battling with their stern teacher played by Cicely Tyson. The kids themselves were, in modern parlance, “diverse.”
Although it was a box office smash, the number one hit for a month or two—Pryor was just about the biggest star in the country then—I don’t think “Bustin’ Loose” was a particularly good movie. It could have been—there were too many changes and delays due to the lead’s “erratic” lifestyle, not to mention studio interference. But that’s all in the world of “woulda, coulda, shoulda.”
I think I had that dream because of a kind of yearning for that world of 1980, for the relationship between the races then that I regard as having been much better.
I wonder what Richard would have made of critical race theory, Black Lives Matter, and all that.
As far as I could tell there wasn’t a racist bone in his body. Like the best comedians—and he was the best—he was an equal opportunity destroyer. I recall practically falling on the floor in laughter when he imitated a black person and white person walking through the woods.
The obvious subtext of what to me was his best movie—“Stir Crazy” with the also brilliant Gene Wilder—was that a black guy and a white guy could love each other. Who makes a movie like that these days?
Who lives a life like that these days? Well, a few of us still, but the world is conspiring against us.
Another factor that may have been running around in my head when I had this dream was the treatment of Senator Tim Scott after he had the honesty to declare, during his speech after Biden’s tedious litany of social engineering, that “systemic racism” did not exist in our country.
The “Uncle Tim” hashtag onslaught that immediately appeared on Twitter was but another display of pathological hate on a noxious social media outlet that has long since outlived its usefulness.
How would Richard have reacted to all this? Of course, I can’t say. I want to believe he would’ve thought it all an apt subject for satire, but the sad truth is that many of the most creative and insightful black people (cf. Morgan Freeman) have been forced to walk back sensible statements by the victimology-addicted people in their community and their white elitist allies.
I never thought I’d say it but…. oh, for 1980.
Roger L. Simon is an award-winning novelist, Oscar-nominated screenwriter, co-founder of PJMedia, and now, editor-at-large for The Epoch Times. His most recent books are “The GOAT” (fiction) and “I Know Best: How Moral Narcissism Is Destroying Our Republic, If It Hasn’t Already” (nonfiction). He can be found on Parler as @rogerlsimon.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.