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Pam Grier Says Shocking News From Her Doctor Prompted Her to End Affair With Richard Pryor

The comedian struggled with drug use throughout their short-lived relationship.

In her 2010 memoir, Foxy: My Life in Three Acts, Pam Grier opens up about her life and career, including her relationships with some famous men. Her exes include Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Freddie Prinze, and Richard Pryor, who she dated for a year in the mid-'70s. That relationship was complicated by Pryor's drug use, and it was his fondness for cocaine that finally led Grier to end things. As she recounted in her book, she didn't realize how serious his addiction was until she received some medical information from her own doctor about how it was affecting her body, too.

Read on to learn about the shocking news the Foxy Brown star heard and to see what else she's shared about her relationship with the late comedian.

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There was evidence of his cocaine use on her body.

Richard Pryor and Pam Grier at the 1977 Grammys
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

In her book (via Jezebel), Grier wrote that her doctor told her she had a "buildup of cocaine residue" around her private parts, which the doctor said was an "epidemic" in Beverly Hills at the time. She says the doctor asked whether her partner was using the drug topically to sustain his sexual performance.

Grier said no, and the doctor asked whether her partner took the drug before they had sex. "That's a possibility," she responded. "You know, I am dating Richard Pryor."

According to the Coffy star, the doctor responded, "Oh, my God … We have a serious problem here. If he's not putting it on his skin directly, then it's worse because the coke is in his seminal fluid." (The medical accuracy of the account was questioned by a doctor in the Jezebel article.)

She broke up with the comedian.

Pam Grier and Richard Pryor at Heathrow Airport in 1977
Evening Standard/Getty Images

In a 2011 interview with Oprah Winfrey, Grier recounted the story of seeing her doctor and said that it led to her breakup with Pryor. She said that her doctor cautioned her against having unprotected sex with him.

"[The cocaine] could harm the woman's internal organs," she said. "So I had to tell Richard, 'You're going to have to wear a raincoat—a condom.' And he had an issue with that, and I said, 'Well, it's my life. You have to understand.' So I chose me."

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She said that Pryor was attracted to her "simplicity."

Richard Pryor and Pam Grier circa 1977
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Grier and Pryor were different from each other, and she said that was what attracted her Greased Lightning co-star to her.

"With Richard, he really liked my simplicity. He didn't like the Hollywood images and all of that flamboyance," she said in her Oprah interview.

"He would say 'Baby, I know you're simple, and I love this about you and you're endearing. No drugs, no drinking—all of that stuff gets me into trouble. But I'm afraid I may not be funny if I'm sober. And he fought that. He battled with that."

He tried to get sober when they were still together.

Pam Grier at the ABC Winter TCA Party in 2020
DFree / Shutterstock

In 2022, Grier was the focus of a season of the TCM podcast The Plot Thickens. According to IndieWire, on the show, she said that she and Pryor went their separate ways because he "fell off the wagon."

She explained that she felt as though the star was "squandering" his abilities and the opportunities he was given—opportunities that she didn't have, because she's a woman.

"I just didn't want to lose that talent," she said. "I really wanted to hold up a mirror and show him how wonderful and loved he was, and that he's really gifted. But as they say, you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink. I had to walk away."

After coming to fame as the star of '70s blaxplotation films, Grier went on to star in TV shows including The L Word and Bless This Mess. Now 73, she's also played roles in movies including Mars AttacksJackie BrownLarry Crowne, and Poms. As for Pryor, he died of a heart attack at age 65 in 2005 after living with multiple sclerosis for years.

Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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