Freddie Prinze

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Freddie Prinze

Freddie Prinze (June 22, 1954January 29, 1977) was a American stand-up comedian and actor. In his short career he was mostly widely known as the star of Chico and the Man.

His son, born less than a year before Prinze's death, is the actor Freddie Prinze, Jr..



He worked at several comedy clubs in New York City, including Catch A Rising Star and The Improv. For his budding career as a comedian, he changed his name to Prinze. He chose that because, according to his friend David Brenner, he wanted to be known as the "King" of comedy, but Alan King already had that last name, so he would be the "Prince" of comedy instead.

In 1973, he made his first TV appearance on one of the last episodes of the Jack Paar Show. In December 1973, he had his biggest break, an appearance on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Freddie was the first young comedian to be asked to sit down and chat with Carson on his first appearance. He was to appear on, as well as guest host, The Tonight Show on numerous occasions after that.

From 1974 to 1977, he starred as Francisco "Chico" Rodriguez in the NBC TV series Chico and the Man with Jack Albertson. Both Prinze and the show were an instant hit.

Freddie Prinze made several appearances on the Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts, most notably at the roasts for Sammy Davis Jr. and Muhammad Ali. He made a few other TV appearances as well, including on the Tony Orlando and Dawn Show.

In 1976, he starred in a made-for-TV movie, The Million Dollar Rip-Off. Also in 1975, he released a comedy album that was taped live at Mr. Kelly's in Chicago titled Loooking Goood—his catch phrase from Chico and the Man.

Prinze had a little-known talent for singing, examples of which were heard in the background of the title song of the Tony Orlando and Dawn album "To Be With You", in his appearances on their variety show. and on rare occasions on his own sitcom.

Personal life

He was born Frederick Karl Pruetzel at St. Clair's Hospital in New York, New York, the son of Karl and Maria Pruetzel.

Freddie was raised in the Washington Heights section of New York. His father was of Hungarian Jewish descent and his mother was Puerto Rican Catholic. Ever the comic, Freddie would later design his background as "Hungarican", though he considered himself Puerto Rican.

As a small child His mother enrolled him in ballet classes because of his chubbiness.

Freddie was educated first in a private Lutheran school, in a religious compromise by his parents (though his mother took him to Mass on Sundays). Then, without telling his parents, he auditioned for and was accepted to Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, where among other subjects he was introduced to drama and continued to study ballet. This was also where he really found his gift for comedy — he would entertain crowds in the boys' restroom — and he quit school in his senior year to become a stand-up comedian.

Popular with the ladies, he dated actresses Lisa Farringer, and Pam Grier, among others. He was also good friends with Kitty Bruce, daughter of the late Lenny Bruce, whom Prinze admired. He and Kitty Bruce were reported to have been engaged to be married at one time, but the rumor was never substantiated.

He married Katherine Cochran in October 1975. They had one son, Freddie James Prinze, who later became an actor. The son's middle name was in honor of James Komack, producer of Chico and the Man.

In 1976, after his arrest for driving under the influence of Quaaludes, his wife filed for divorce on the grounds that his escalating dependence on drugs was endangering her and their son.

Untimely death

Because Prinze was juggling his TV show and numerous guest appearances, including a successful stand-up career in nightclubs, his doctors had prescribed Quaaludes to help him cope with the pressure.

On January 28, 1977, under the influence of Quaaludes and despondent over his impending divorce and a failing lawsuit with a former manager, he put a gun to his head in the presence of his business manager, Dusty Snyder, and pulled the trigger. After 33 hours in a coma with irreversible brain damage, Prinze's family chose to take him off of life support. He died moments later, at the age of 22. He was buried in a crypt at Forest Lawn - Hollywood Hills Cemetery.

His death came as a shock to the public. His TV show was still garnering good ratings and he had just signed a major deal to perform in Las Vegas.

After his death

The death, initially ruled a suicide, was years later re-ruled an "accidental shooting due to the influence of Quaaludes"; his mother led the effort to have the cause of death reworded. This change was due in large part to the fact that Prinze had a history of playing with guns, faking suicide attempts to frighten his friends to his amusement. He had left a note stating that the decision to take his life was his alone, but because he pulled the trigger in the presence of a witness, something suicides rarely do, it gave enough weight to the argument that he really was not planning on to take his own life that night.

In 2001, TV Land began showing reruns of Chico and the Man. The show became popular once more and gained a whole new generation of fans for Prinze and the show, as well as rekindling the interest of old fans.

More history on Freddie's life and career visit Freddie Prinze Sr (


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