Freddie Prinze (Frederick Karl Pruetzel)

Freddie Prinze

Freddie Prinze

Freddie Prinze was born Frederick Karl Pruetzel in New York City, New York, to a Puerto Rican mother, Aurea Elena Ruiz, and a German immigrant father, Edward Karl Pruetzel. Freddie grew up in the Washington Heights section of New York City. As a chubby child, he was often bullied, but was quite creative and bright in his extracurricular activities (he was known to have handmade a ham radio, which he used regularly). Early on, he aspired to become famous, and, after enrolling at Fiorella LaGuardia High School of the Performing Arts, he obtained a job at the Improv Club, in New York, where people started to take notice of his comedic talent (but the long hours he worked at night, balanced by increasing absences in school, caused him to drop out of high school to pursue comedy full-time). He changed his name to Freddie Prinze (to indicate that he was “The Prince of Comedy”). In December 1973, he was invited to perform on “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson”, which proved to be a breakthrough performance, as he was invited to chat with Johnny after his performance (only two other comedians have enjoyed that privilege). Soon afterwards, he won the role of “Chico Rodriquez” in an NBC-produced TV series called Chico and the Man (1974)(he and co-star Jack Albertson forged a great friendship while working on the show). In 1975, he released a comedy album, titled “Looking Good”, and further boosted his popularity with appearances on various TV talk shows (such as the “Tony Orlando & Dawn” show). In Las Vegas in August 1975, he married Katherine Cochran, with whom he had a son, Freddie Prinze, Jr. (born on March 8, 1976 in Albuquerque, New Mexico). He loved his role as a father, and his growing popularity. But all the fame had a downside to it: Freddie developed an addiction to drugs (namely Quaaludes and cocaine), and was subsequently arrested in Nov. 1976 for DUI. Also, his marriage to Kathy was dissolving, and they separated. Things were unraveling quickly for him, and he started to mention thoughts of suicide to many of his close friends and family (including his best friends: singer ‘Tony Orlando’ and comedian David Brenner). In January 1977, following his final public appearance (at the Inaugural Ball for President Jimmy Carter), 22-year-old Freddie called his mother, friends and manager and announced that he was committing suicide. While his manager tried to stop him, he placed a .32 caliber pistol against his temple and pulled the trigger. Miraculously, he did not die right away, and was rushed to UCLA Medical Center with a massive head wound. He was kept on life support until January 29, 1977, when his family and friends decided to turn off the life support, to let him rest in peace. On his TV show, his death resulted in his “Chico” character being replaced by a young child; the show was canceled soon afterwards. He was buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Park, and his funeral was attended by many who had known him (Jack Albertson, his co-star and friend, Tony Orlando, Sammy Davis, Jr., etc.). He left behind a wife and infant son. On a positive note, more than two decades after his death, his only son, ‘Freddie Prinze, Jr.’, has carried on the Prinze name and become a star in his own right.

 

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Born

  • June, 22, 1954
  • New York, New York

Died

  • January, 29, 1977
  • Los Angeles, California

Cause of Death

  • Self-inflicted gunshot

Cemetery

  • Forest Lawn Memorial Park
  • Los Angeles, California

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