“Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”—Friedrich Nietzsche
Cecile and I saw Rain Pryor in “Fried Chicken & Latkes” at the Levy Family Circle in Los Gatos, California last evening with friends, Nelson and Susan Bye. It was a sold out performance with over 300 people in attendance.
Rain Pryor, was raised in Beverly Hills in a biracial home. Her father, the legendary, Richard Pryor, was undeniably one of the greatest comic geniuses of our time. Her mother Shelley Bonus, was a Jewish go-go dancer, and is an award winning film performer and photographer. As an actress, Rain’s most notable role was as a regular character on the ABC hit series “Head of the Class.”
Her impersonations of her late father were hauntingly spot on. Her overall performance was spell-binding, hilarious, and heartbreaking—a true piece de resistance. Her portrait of her difficult mother whom she refers to as, “Joan Crawford in the ‘hood’ was edgy and provocative. Yet, she acknowledged the burden her mom had of raising Rain alone in her early years while her father was out womanizing, and engaged in a dangerous love affair with cocaine (sniffing the white stuff). She contrasted this by his paternal concern towards her, and his brutal honesty about the way things were. She also spoke tenderly about his eventual decline due to multiple sclerosis that brought about his death in 2005.
Back in 2016, she told the Daily News before her performance at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Battery Park City, “I didn’t know there were poor black people.” After all, her dad was rich and had a limousine driver. It wasn’t until she learned about history that reality set in.
In responding to an after show chat by a member of the audience who asked how she came about deciding to do this show and what would her late father think? She said that this was not a show she had to be casted for. “Fried Chicken and Latkes,” was purely her own.
“I am living my life, truth, story and destiny, and that’s what he wanted me to do, she added.”
Scientists have found that while victims of traumatic childhood experiences can be psychologically damaging, they give us a chance to develop how to cope with difficult situations in the future. Just because something terrible happens to us in life, doesn’t necessarily mean we can't learn from it and move on and even carve ourselves a bit of joy for life.
By the time the show ends, the audience felt compassion for Rain Pryor and what she and her family went through. However, we were also respectful and proud of how she was able to cultivate personal strength and resilience, and rise above the adversity, fear, and pain, while making peace with what had happened. After all, Rain was just as much a product of her upbringing as her father was of his.
Holocaust survivor, psychologist and author of Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankel once wrote: “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
Rain reminds us all how it’s done by reframing her experience. She moves beyond all the craziness and teaches us we need to move beyond racial prejudice and begin talking about the human condition.
Postscript: Cecile and I had a chance to briefly chat with Rain after her performance. She was warm, loving and seemingly unaffected by her past. We wish her continued success.
Note: The event was co-sponsored by the Jewish Federation, Tabia African-American Theater and the San Jose Multi-Cultural Artists Guild. Kudos to Diane Fisher and volunteers at the Jewish Federation and to Director of the show, Eva Brandstein.
Photos: Taken with Rain Pryor; of and with friends Nelson and Susan Bye, the Brenners, Bencuyas, and the Weinzimmers; and Finally, one of me with the joyous Jeff Jones, an African American Singer, actor, and entertainer who lived in Italy for 30 years and had a special fondness for Sicily, the place of my ancestors. Arriverderchi Jeff, and Buona Fortuna.