Redd Foxx

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Redd Foxx
Redd Foxx 1966.JPG
Foxx circa 1966
Birth nameJohn Elroy Sanford[1]
Born(1922-12-09)December 9, 1922[1]
St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.
DiedOctober 11, 1991(1991-10-11) (aged 68)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Resting placePalm Eastern Cemetery, Las Vegas, Nevada[2]
EducationDuSable High School
Years active1935–1991
Evelyn Killebrew
(m. 1948; div. 1951)

Betty Jean Harris
(m. 1956; div. 1975)

Joi Yun Chi Chung
(m. 1976; div. 1981)

Kaho Cho
(m. 1991)
Notable works and rolesFred Sanford in Sanford and Son and Sanford

John Elroy Sanford[1] (December 9, 1922 – October 11, 1991), better known by his stage name Redd Foxx, was an American stand-up comedian and actor.[3] Foxx gained success with his raunchy nightclub acts during the 1950s and 1960s. Known as the "King of the Party Records", he performed on more than 50 records in his lifetime. He also starred in TV shows Sanford and Son, The Redd Foxx Show and The Royal Family. His film projects included All the Fine Young Cannibals (1960), Cotton Comes to Harlem (1970), Norman... Is That You? (1976) and Harlem Nights (1989).

In 2004 Foxx ranked 24th in Comedy Central Presents: 100 Greatest Stand-ups of All Time.[4] Foxx not only influenced many comedians,[3] but was often portrayed in popular culture as well, mainly as a result of his catchphrases, body language and facial expressions exhibited on Sanford and Son. During the show's five-year run, Foxx won a Golden Globe Award and received an additional three nominations, along with three Primetime Emmy Award nominations.[5][6]

Foxx was posthumously given a star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame in 1992.[7]

Early life[edit]

Redd Foxx was born John Elroy Sanford on December 9, 1922 in St. Louis, Missouri and raised in Chicago's South Side. His father, Fred Sanford, an electrician and auto mechanic from Hickman, Kentucky, left his family when Foxx was four years old. He was raised by his half Seminole mother, Mary Hughes, from Ellisville, Mississippi, his grandmother and his minister. Foxx attended DuSable High School in Chicago's Bronzeville neighborhood with future Chicago mayor Harold Washington. Foxx had an older brother, Fred Jr., who provided the name for his character on Sanford and Son.[8] On July 27, 1939, Foxx performed on the Major Bowes Amateur Hour radio show as part of the Jump Swinging Six.[citation needed]

In the 1940s, he met Malcolm Little, later known as Malcolm X. In Malcolm's autobiography, Foxx is referred to as "Chicago Red, the funniest dishwasher on this earth." He earned the nickname because of his reddish hair and complexion.[3] During World War II, Foxx dodged the draft by eating half a bar of soap before his physical, a trick that resulted in heart palpitations.[9] On September 30, 1946, Foxx recorded five songs for the Savoy label under the direction of Teddy Reig.[citation needed]


Nightclub act[edit]

Foxx's raunchy nightclub act proved successful. After performing on the East Coast, his big break came after singer Dinah Washington insisted that he come to Los Angeles, where Dootsie Williams of Dootone records caught his act at the Brass Rail nightclub. Foxx was one of the first black comics to play to white audiences on the Las Vegas Strip. He was signed to a long-term contract and released a series of comedy albums that quickly became cult favorites.[10]

Sanford and Son[edit]

Foxx achieved his most widespread fame starring in the television sitcom Sanford and Son,[3] an adaptation of the BBC series Steptoe and Son. He used his starring role on Sanford and Son to help get jobs for his acquaintances such as LaWanda Page, Slappy White, Gregory Sierra, Don Bexley, Beah Richards, Stymie Beard, Leroy Daniels, Ernest Mayhand and Noriyuki "Pat" Morita.[citation needed]

The series premiered on the NBC television network on January 14, 1972 and was broadcast for six seasons. In 1974, Foxx was sued for $10 million from Tandem Productions, producers of the show, for not showing up to start taping the new season.[11]The final episode aired on March 25, 1977. Foxx played the role of Fred G. Sanford ("Fred Sanford" was actually Foxx's father's and brother's name), while Foxx's co-star Demond Wilson played the role of his son Lamont. In this sitcom, Fred and Lamont were owners of a junk/salvage store in Watts who dealt with many humorous situations that would arise. The series was notable for its racial humor and overt prejudices which helped redefine the genre of black situation comedy.[citation needed]

The show also had several running gags. When angry with Lamont, Fred would often say "You big dummy" or would often fake heart attacks by putting his hand on his chest and saying (usually while looking up at the sky) "It's the big one, I'm coming to join ya honey/Elizabeth" (referring to his late wife). Fred would also complain about having "arthur-itis" to get out of working by showing Lamont his cramped hand. Foxx depicted a character in his 60s, although in real-life he was a decade younger.[citation needed]

Demond Wilson was asked whether he kept in touch with everybody from Sanford & Son, especially the series' star himself, after the series was canceled: "No. I saw Redd Foxx once before he died, circa 1983, and I never saw him again. At the time I was playing tennis at the Malibu Racquet Club and I was approached by some producers about doing a Redd Foxx 50th Anniversary Special. I hadn’t spoken to him since 1977, and I called the club where (Redd) was playing. And we met at Redd’s office, but he was less than affable. I told those guys it was a bad idea. I never had a cross word with him. People say I’m protective of Redd Foxx in my book (Second Banana, Wilson’s memoir of the Sanford years). I had no animosity toward Foxx for (quitting the show in 1977) because I had a million dollar contract at CBS to do Baby I’m Back. My hurt was that he didn’t come to me about throwing the towel in - I found out in the hallway at NBC from a newscaster. I forgave him and I loved Redd, but I never forgot that. The love was there. You can watch any episode and see that."[12]

Post-Sanford and Son career[edit]

Photo of Redd Foxx in 1977.

In 1977, Foxx left Sanford and Son, after six seasons (the show was canceled with his departure) to star in a short-lived ABC variety show. In 1980 he was back playing Fred G. Sanford in a short-lived revival/spin-off, Sanford. In 1986, he returned to television in the ABC series The Redd Foxx Show, which was cancelled after 12 episodes because of low ratings. Foxx appeared as an Obi-Wan Kenobi-like character in the Star Wars special of the Donny & Marie show. In an homage to his show, he mentioned the planet Sanford, which has no sun. Foxx made a comeback with the short-lived series The Royal Family, in which he co-starred with Della Reese.

Personal life[edit]


Redd Foxx was married four times. His first marriage was to Evelyn Killebrew in 1948 and ended in divorce in 1951.

On July 5,1956,[13] Foxx married Betty Jean Harris, a showgirl and dancer, who was a colleague of LaWanda Page (later to be Foxx's TV rival Aunt Esther on Sanford and Son). They met at a nightclub where they were appearing on the same bill.[14] As per their agreement, Harris gave up her career in show business to become a full-time housewife.[14] Foxx adopted Harris's nine-year-old daughter Debraca, who assumed the surname "Foxx." Harris handled most of Foxx's business ventures such as Redd Foxx Enterprises, which included a chain of record stores in Los Angeles.[14] The couple separated in 1974 due to Foxx's infidelity.[11] After 18 years of marriage, Foxx filed for divorce on the grounds of incompatibility in May 1974. He also obtained a restraining order that prevented Harris from "removing, hiding or secreting property" from their home in Las Vegas, and she had to return $110,000 that was removed from bank accounts.[15] Foxx was absent from Debraca's wedding in 1975.[16]

Foxx married his third wife Joi Yun Chin Chung at the Thunderbird Hotel in Las Vegas on December 31, 1976.[13][17] Fox met Joi, who was 20 years his junior, when she was a cocktail waitress at the Las Vegas Hilton, shortly after her arrival from Korea.[17][18] After Foxx filed for divorce in October 1979,[19][20] she responded with her own divorce suit charging him with cruelty.[21] During their divorce proceedings, Foxx told Jet magazine, "I've been married three times and I'm out." He added, "I'd rather have kids because when I give up all this money on divorce, it should go to the children and not some guy."[22] Their divorce was finalized in 1981; Foxx paid a $300,000 divorce settlement.[21]

In July 1991, Foxx wed Kaho Cho from Seoul, South Korea. They met at Bally's Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.[23] Despite denouncing marriage after his third divorce, Foxx told Jet magazine that he married Cho because she stuck by him through his trials and tribulations with the IRS. "She saw me with a nickel. And hopefully, she will see me with a dollar. I'll give her seventy-five cents of it," he said.[23] They were married at Little Church of the West in Las Vegas followed by a reception at the Hacienda Hotel.[23]

Financial and tax problems[edit]

According to People magazine, "Foxx reportedly once earned $4 million in a single year, but depleted his fortune with a lavish lifestyle, exacerbated by what he called 'very bad management.'" Contributing to his problems were his divorces. Foxx spent over $150,000 awaiting his divorce from his second wife Betty Jean which included monthly support payments of $10,000 following their separation in 1974.[24] He also was ordered to pay $2,500 month while awaiting divorce from third wife Joi after their separation in 1979,[20] and then paid her a $300,000 divorce settlement in 1981.[21]

In 1983 he filed for bankruptcy, with proceedings continuing at least through 1989.[25] The IRS filed tax liens against Redd Foxx's property for income taxes he owed for the years 1983 to 1986 totaling $755,166.21. On November 28, 1989, the IRS seized his home in Las Vegas and seven vehicles (including a 1927 Model T, a 1975 Panther J72,[26] a 1983 Zimmer, and a Vespa motor scooter) to pay the taxes which by then had grown to $996,630, including penalties and interest. Agents also seized "$12,769 in cash and a dozen guns, including a semiautomatic pistol," among some 300 items in total, reportedly leaving only Foxx's bed.[27][28][29] Foxx stated that the IRS "took my necklace and the ID bracelet off my wrist and the money out of my pocket ... I was treated like I wasn't human at all."[30] It has been reported that, at the time of his death in 1991, Foxx owed more than $3.6 million in taxes.[31]


On October 11, 1991, during a break from rehearsals for The Royal Family, Foxx suffered a heart attack on the set.[32][33] According to Della Reese, Foxx was about to have an interview with Entertainment Tonight when he was called onto the set to practice a scene. An angry Foxx did as he was asked but as soon as he finished he collapsed to the floor. Reese said that nobody initially suspected anything was wrong; Foxx had often performed a fake heart attack routine on Sanford and Son and, as Reese recalled, was skilled at doing pratfalls. When Foxx did not immediately get up, Reese rushed over to check on him.[34] When he was on the ground, he called out for his wife.[35] According to Joshua Rich at Entertainment Weekly, "It was an end so ironic that for a brief moment cast mates figured Foxx – whose 1970s TV character often faked heart attacks – was kidding when he grabbed a chair and fell to the floor."[36] Foxx, who had temporarily been resuscitated while being treated initially, was taken to Queen Of Angels Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center, where he died that night at the age of 68.[37]

Foxx is buried at Palm Memorial Park (also known as Palm Eastern Cemetery) in Las Vegas.[9]

Foxx's mother Mary Sanford Carson (1903–1993) outlived her son by two years. She had been lingering in and out of a coma for a few years before her death in 1993. She is buried beside him.[9]


Comedian and actor Richard Pryor cited Redd Foxx as an influence.[38] "He gave me inspiration and encouragement so I could be more me", Pryor told Ebony magazine in 1990.[39] Comedian Chris Rock cites Redd Foxx as an influence. An episode of his show Everybody Hates Chris shows young Chris Rock overhearing his parents' Redd Foxx albums and getting started doing stand-up through retelling the jokes at school.[40]

Portrayals in popular media[edit]

In 1990, in the pilot episode of In Living Color, in reference to Foxx's financial troubles, Foxx was portrayed by Damon Wayans, who is making a public service announcement to encourage people to pay their taxes.[41]

In the film Why Do Fools Fall in Love, Foxx is portrayed by Aries Spears. He is shown performing a stand-up comedy and routine.[42]

In the animated television series Family Guy parody of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope episode "Blue Harvest", Redd Foxx appears very briefly as an X-wing pilot. When his ship is shot down, he cries "I'm coming Elizabeth!" before dying. In addition to this, he has been parodied on Family Guy by Francis Griffin acting as Foxx's Sanford and Son character.[citation needed]

Foxx was meant to be featured in the MTV show Celebrity Deathmatch, advertised as taking on Jamie Foxx in the episode "When Animals Attack". Instead of Redd Foxx though, Jamie Foxx fought Ray Charles.[citation needed]

In the Boondocks episode "Stinkmeaner 3: The Hateocracy" he is portrayed as Lord Rufus Crabmiser, one of Stinkmeaner's old friends coming to kill the Freeman family. Childhood friend and Sanford & Son co-star Lawanda Page is also portrayed in the same episode as Lady Esmeralda Gripenasty.[citation needed]

Redd Foxx appears as a minor character in the 2009 James Ellroy novel Blood's a Rover. He gives a bawdy eulogy at the wake of Scotty Bennett, a murdered rogue LAPD detective including the line "Scotty Bennett was f*****g a porcupine. I gots to tell you motherf*****s that it was a female porcupine, so I don't see nothing perverted in it."[43]

In the 1999 film Foolish starring comedian Eddie Griffin and rapper Master P, the ghost of Redd Foxx gives Griffin's character advice from behind a stall door in a men's restroom at a comedy club before he goes onstage to perform a show.[citation needed]

In 2015, it was said that comedian Tracy Morgan would portray Redd Foxx in a Richard Pryor biopic starring opposite comedian Mike Epps.[44]


TV shows[edit]


Savoy Records discography[edit]

78 Singles[edit]

  • 630A – Let's Wiggle a Little Woogie
  • 630B – Lucky Guy
  • 631A – Fine Jelly Blues
  • 631B – Redd Foxx Blues
  • 645B – Shame on You

Dooto/Dootone Records discography[edit]


  • DTL01 – The Best Laff
  • DTL214 – Laff Of The Party Vol. 1 (1956)
  • DTL219 – Laff Of The Party Vol. 2
  • DTL220 – Laff Of The Party Vol. 3
  • DTL227 – Laff Of The Party Vol. 4 (1956)
  • DTL234 – Best Of Foxx Vol. 1"
  • DTL236 – Laff Of The Party Vol.7
  • DTL249 – Burlesque Humor
  • DTL253 – The Side Splitter Vol.1 (1959)
  • DTL265 – The Laff of the Party Vol. 8 (1957)
  • DTL270 – The Side Splitter Vol. 2 (1959)
  • DTL274 – Best of Fun (Red Foxx and Others)
  • DTL275 – Racy Tales (Also released as The New Race Track) (1959)
  • DTL290 – Redd Foxx Funn
  • DTL295 – Sly Sex (1960)
  • DTL298 – Have One On Me (1960)
  • DTL801 – Laffarama (1961)
  • DTL804 – Wild Party (1961)
  • DTL809 – This is Foxx
  • DTL815 – He's Funny That Way (1964)
  • DTL820 – Red Foxx at Jazzville U.S.A. (1961)
  • DTL830 – The New Fugg (1962)
  • DTL828 – Hearty Party Laffs (1962)
  • DTL832 – Laff Along With Foxx (1962) (compilation)
  • DTL834 – Crack Up (1963)
  • DTL835 – Funny Stuff (1963)
  • DTL840 – Adults Only (1967)
  • DTL845 – Jokes I Can't Tell On Television (1969)
  • DTL846 – Shed House Humor (1969)
  • DTL853 – Sanford & Foxx (1972)
  • DTL854 – Foxx and Jazz
  • DTL858 – Dirty Redd (1973)
  • DTL860 – Funky Tales From a Dirty Old Junkman 1972”


  • DTL385 – The New Soap/Song Plugging
  • DTL390 – The Jackasses/The Race Track
  • DTL397 – The Honeymooners/The Sneezes
  • DTL402 – Beans And Pineapple Sauce/The Army
  • DTL408 – The Two Oars/The Preacher's Bicycle
  • DTl411 – The Dead Jackass/Women Over Forty
  • DTL416 – Real Pretty Baby/It's Fun To Be Living In The Crazy House
  • DTL418 – Best Of Redd Foxx Parts 1&2
  • DTL421 – The House/Sex And Orange Juice
  • DTL426 – Hollywood Playboy/The Dogs Meeting
  • DTL436 – South Of The Border/The Plastic Surgeon
  • DTL453 – The Dear John Letter/Honesty Is The Best Policy
  • DTL455 – The Shoe Shine Boy/The Royal Thighs And Others
  • DTL458 – 118 Ways To Make Love/Pregnancy Co-Operation
  • DTL460 – No Teeth/With My Teeth/The Best Years/Deep Sea Diver
  • DTL464 – Christmas Hard Ties/Jaw Resting

Atlantic Records discography[edit]

  • SD 18157 – You Gotta Wash Your Ass (1975)

Loose Cannon Records discography[edit]

  • 314-528 061-2 – Uncensored (1995)

Gusto Records discography[edit]

  • KSD-1072 – Bare Facts

King Records discography[edit]

  • KSD-1073 – Pass the Apple Eve
  • KSD-1074 – In a Nutshell
  • KS-1135 – Matinee Idol
  • SK-754 – X-Rated v. 4
  • SK-756 – X-Rated v. 6

Laff Records discography[edit]

  • A170 – Pryor Goes Foxx Hunting (split LP including one half of Richard Pryor's "Craps")
  • A203 – I Ain't Lied Yet

Loma Records discography[edit]

  • 5901 – Both Sides of Redd Foxx (1966 – Loma/Warner/Rino)
  • 5905 – On the Loose
  • 5906 – Redd Foxx "live" : Las Vegas! (1968)
  • 5908 – Foxx-A-Delic (1968)

MF Records discography[edit]

  • RF1 – Laff Your Head off
  • RF2 – Laff Your Ass Off
  • RF3 – Redd Foxx At Home
  • RF4 – A Whole Lot of Soul
  • RF5 – At His Best
  • RF6 – Doin' His Own Thing
  • RF7 – Say It Like It Is
  • RF8 – Is Sex Here To Stay
  • RF9 – Where It's At
  • RF10 – Huffin' And A Puffin'
  • RF11 – I Am Curious, Black
  • RF12 – Three Or Four Times A Day
  • RF13 – Mr. Hot Pants
  • RF14 – Hot Flashes
  • RF15 – Restricted
  • RF16 – Superstar
  • RF17 – Spice can Be Nice!
  • RF18 – Strictly For Adults
  • RF19 – Vegas we Come
  • RF20 – Elizabeth, I'm Coming!
  • RF21 – Redd 75

Master Classics Records discography[edit]


  • Gettin' Down N' Dirty (2008)

Comedy Classics discography[edit]


  • The Ultimate Comedy Collection (2011)


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  12. ^ "Q&A With Demond Wilson". January 15, 2014. Retrieved August 9, 2017.
  13. ^ a b "Broken Marriages Bring Foxx Grief And Disgust". Jet. Vol. 59, No. 15: 16. December 20, 1980.
  14. ^ a b c Berry, William Earl (February 22, 1973). "The Black Woman Behind Redd Foxx". Jet. Vol. 43, No. 22: 56–60.
  15. ^ "Foxx Seeks Divorce To End 18-Year Marriage". Jet. Vol. 46, No. 9: 52. May 23, 1974.
  16. ^ "Redd Foxx Is Absent From Daughter's Lavish Wedding". Jet: 52. June 26, 1975.
  17. ^ a b "Foxx Leaves A Trail Of Jokes After He Marries In Las Vegas". Jet. Vol. 51, No. 18: 10. January 20, 1977.
  18. ^ Lucas, Bob (February 3, 1977). "Redd Foxx At Home With His New Bride". Jet. Vol. 51, No. 20: 46–49.
  19. ^ "She's Asking for $5 Million: Redd Foxx, Wife Joi Sue Each Other For Divorce". Jet. Vol. 57, No. 10: 54. November 22, 1979.
  20. ^ a b "Redd Foxx Must Pay Wife Until Divorce Trial". Jet. Vol. 60, No. 22: 53. August 13, 1981.
  21. ^ a b c "Redd Foxx To Pay Ex-Wife $300,000 After Divorce". Jet. Vol. 61, No. 3: 56. October 1, 1981.
  22. ^ "After Divorce, Redd Foxx Says No More Marriage". Jet. Vol. 58, No. 19: 16. July 24, 1980.
  23. ^ a b c "Redd Foxx Says: 'I Married Kaho Because She Stood By Me When I Didn't Have A Quarter'". Jet. Vol. 80, No. 15: 52–55. July 29, 1991.
  24. ^ "TV's Redd Foxx Divorce Trial Set For Jan. 6; His Costs Soar To $150,000". Jet. Vol. 47, No. 11: 15. December 5, 1974.
  25. ^ "People Magazine, December 18, 1989".
  26. ^ "Ebony magazine article (September 1976)".
  27. ^ "Los Angeles Times, November 29, 1989".
  28. ^ "Los Angeles Times, December 6, 1989".
  29. ^ "Orlando Sentinel May 2, 1990".
  30. ^ People Magazine, December 18, 1989.
  31. ^ Steve Friess, "Trying to Get Foxx's Estate Out of the Redd", AOL News, March 7, 2010 Archived May 20, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  32. ^ "'I'll Be Back': The Story of Redd Foxx". Onstage & Backstage. December 9, 2011. Retrieved July 2, 2012.
  33. ^ Ingram, Billy, TVparty!: Television's Untold Tales, Bonus Books, 2002, p. 262. ISBN 1-56625-184-2
  34. ^ "Redd Foxx's Death Explained By Della Reese - BlackDoctor".
  35. ^ "Foxx Felled By A Heart Attack Taping TV Show; Calls For Wife And Dies". Jet. Vol. 81, No. 2: 5. October 28, 1991.
  36. ^ Rich, Joshua (October 9, 1998). Exit Laughing. Entertainment Weekly
  37. ^ Staff report (October 28, 1991). "Fox felled by a heart attack taping TV show; calls for wife and dies". Jet.
  38. ^ 'Pryor Convictions and Other Life Sentences', by Richard Pryor with Todd Gold.
  39. ^ MERINA, VICTOR; DIZON, LILY (October 12, 1991). "Redd Foxx, TV's 'Sanford,' Dies of Heart Attack at 68 : Entertainment: Comedian is stricken while rehearsing new show, 'The Royal Family.'". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved November 11, 2017.
  40. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on December 21, 2014. Retrieved December 9, 2014.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) Harlum Nights, She's a Sweet Old Woman
  41. ^ "In Living Color | TV Guide".
  42. ^ "The Cast of Why Do Fools Fall in Love: Where Are They Now?". August 28, 2012.
  43. ^ Ellroy,James. Blood's A Rover, Windmill, p. 597. ISBN 978-0-09-953779-3.
  44. ^ McNary, Dave; McNary, Dave (November 13, 2015). "Tracy Morgan in Talks to Play Redd Foxx in Richard Pryor Biopic".

External links[edit]