Once in a while the Internet will allow you to reminisce about the good old days of television. One of my all-time favorite comedians will always be Redd Foxx. Although I started listening to his records at a young age, when I really had no business doing so, Foxx's humor and comedic trash-talking were what drew me to his stand-up. Even in 2016, I still sit back and laugh at his old routines and every once in a while watch an episode of Sanford and Son or The Royal Family.
Although Foxx was famous for his portrayal of the grumpy old junk collector on Sanford and Son, his last show, The Royal Family, had the makings of classic television. Created and executive-produced by Eddie Murphy, the series told the story of mail carrier Alexander Alphonso "Al" Royal (Redd Foxx) and his wife, Victoria (Della Reese). The couple, who were all set to retire and enjoy life, were soon living in a full house when their daughter Elizabeth (Mariann Aalda) and her three children, Kim (Sylver Gregory), Curtis (Larenz Tate) and Hillary (Naya Rivera), moved in.
The series unfortunately lasted only one season. Foxx suffered a fatal heart attack on the set Oct. 11, 1991. But the public didn't know what stress Foxx was under during the show until Reese did a candid interview with Emmy TV Legends. In the 2008 conversation, Reese explained the way Foxx was demeaned on the set by one of the white producers.
"This man wanted, as some people do, to present himself as 'Some of my best friends are black. I know a lot about black people' … which is very offensive in its connotation," Reese said about the unnamed producer.
"That friction ran between them. And he was always trying to tell Redd how to be funny. That is so stupid for him to have approached that. And he approached it with, 'I'm one of the producers and I can tell you how to be funny.' … That was the undercurrent all the time," Reese continued.
On the day of Foxx's death, Reese says, Foxx was doing an interview with Entertainment Tonight on the set. But the producer insisted that Foxx finish his scene during a rehearsal, which only involved Foxx walking across the back of Reese's chair. The producer demanded that Foxx come and do his scene and asked Reese where he was.
"He goes in there, stops their shooting and brings Redd out. And when Redd gets out there and finds out all he has to do is walk across the back of [the chair]—that anybody could have done—he becomes livid. And he falls. Well, he was always doing pratfalls. … I thought that's what he did. … I leaned down to him and I put my hands on him. He said, 'Get my wife, get my wife,' " Reese explained.
That's when they realized Foxx had had a heart attack. Foxx was rushed to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead four hours later.
At the hospital, Reese said, the producers asked, "What are we going to do with this script? This script was written for Redd and Della," Reese remembered.
Reese said she went crazy on everyone because Foxx's wife had just been told that her husband was dead. Reese said from that point on, she looked at television from a different viewpoint.
"They never treated him with the respect he should have had," Reese said.