Growing up I watched Chico and the Man and I still do occasionally. I remember that Freddie Prinze was a huge star. He was a hit with kids and adults a like.
Freddie became a star practically overnight and burned brightly…but unfortunately, it was only for a brief amount of time. I was just 10 when he died and it seemed unreal a talented twenty-two year old tv star/comedian would kill himself.
He was a comedian whose real name was Frederick Karl Pruetzel. He was born in 1954 in New York. His mother was of Puerto Rican descent and his father was of Hungarian roots…two things he used in his comedy.
He worked in clubs in the early seventies and then he got his break. He appeared on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson on December 6, 1973, and Johnny called him over to his couch to talk to him. That was a dream to performers then. Being called to the couch meant Johnny liked you and could make your career. Remember no internet or other exposure to this big of an audience. He became a star overnight. Freddie was 19 years old.
Within a few months, he was starring with Jack Albertson on the hit show Chico and the Man.
The show had a supporting cast of Scatman Crothers and Della Reese. It had a cool factor with teenagers at the time because of Freddie. Chico and the Man was not the greatest sitcom ever but a good one that captured a talented young comedian on his way up.
Freddie came out with a 70’s catchphrase “Looking Good” with a comedy album of the same name. He appeared in one TV movie called The Million Dollar Rip-Off and an HBO On Location: Freddie Prinze and Friends.
He suffered from depression and he had a dependency on drugs that kept growing like his fame.
Through all of this, he got married and had a son…the actor Freddie Prinze Jr… His wife started to move toward a divorce and a despondent Prinze shot himself in a hotel room and died the next day on January 29, 1977, only 3 years after his introduction to the world by Johnny Carson.
People don’t remember how big Freddie was then. He was so young and vibrant when he made it…he was just 22 years old when he died.