Actor and comedian Redd Foxx reached Hollywood stardom. But by his sixties, he was penniless. Even though he felt isolated when he lost his money, Eddie Murphy never abandoned him.
Redd was most famous for playing Fred G. Sanford on the show “Sanford and Son.” He even had a show named after him, “The Redd Foxx Comedy Hour.”
Redd married four times and never had children. Towards the end of his life, he had no one else in his life except for fellow comedian and actor Eddie Murphy.
In 1989, Redd owed the IRS $755,166.21 in back taxes. Following his failure to pay, they raised his three-bedroom home in Las Vegas, taking as much as possible to recoup the money.
Redd made $15,000 to $20,000 weekly performing at the Hacienda Hotel on the Vegas Strip during the property seizure.
But he believed that the IRS wanted the $500,000 he earned from the film “Harlem Nights.” He revealed that the IRS was angry about the money he earned for the movie.
He also claimed that the tax he paid was ridiculous. He said:
“No single individual in America pays $20,000-a-week in income tax. It’s Hitlerism. This is like a Third World country, coming in taking all of my salary.”
When the agency raided his home, they took his cars, furniture, and everything they could fit into their trucks. They tried to take his dog-house, but it was too big to carry.
They also tried to take his four dogs but did not. “They took my necklace and the ID bracelet off my wrist and the money out of my pocket,” he lamented.
IRS officials also broke into his late mother’s luggage trunks and threw her personal belongings on his garage floor. The raid was not the first time Redd got into trouble with the IRS.
He once earned $4 million in a year, but he spent it on a lavish lifestyle. His financial distress worsened when he had to pay a $300,000 divorce settlement to his third wife.
Actor Red Foxx and wife Yu Chi Chung attend CBS TV Taping of Jimmy Carter Inaugural Gala on January 19, 1977 at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. | Source: Getty Images
He also had to pay a $25,000 lawsuit from a hotel employee who claimed that Redd shouted obscenities at her. He later had to file for bankruptcy.
Redd was heartbroken when his friends in Hollywood didn’t come to help him. “I haven’t heard from anyone. That’s remarkable. I just can’t believe it. No one at all has called,” he said.
“I just look for a telegram to say: ‘Hey man, look, I’m sorry. Keep a chin up.’” But I haven’t received anything. I’ve been in the business for 50 years. I’ve helped a lot of people, started them off,” he added.
Redd added that he tried to contact fellow comedian and long-time friend Eddie Murphy, but he didn’t hear back. He said:
“Eddie is in a position to totally get me out of this. It wouldn’t hurt him any. I could sign up with him for five years of work, doing something until I pay him back.”
To his surprise, Redd received help from fans and neighbors. He explained that one of his neighbors from three blocks away came to his house with some provisions.
Even school children lent a helping hand and took monetary collections worth $200 for Redd. This touched his heart. He said, “the kids had given their lunch money. That’s amazing. I felt ashamed to take it to tell you the truth.”
A lady at the club he performed at who took collections from customers and fans watching his live show managed to scrape $10 together for Redd.
Redd appeared in the film “Harlem Nights,” which Eddie co-wrote and co-produced with Richard Pryor. Eddie mentioned that while they worked on the film, Redd bet him $1000 that he would be married within a year. Eddie added:
“We were close, and I did love Redd Foxx. Yeah, I did give him a shout-out [in Dolemite] and all that stuff.”
After hearing that Redd had lost everything to the IRS, he and his attorney, Mark Rissman, and accountant Louis Pittman reached out to the IRS.
The three of them worked out a payment plan to help Redd with his debt through auctions that helped Redd keep his house from being seized.
Eddie even created a sitcom, “The Royal Family,” and starred Redd as one of the main characters. This role came after five years of Redd not being on television.
Eddie also had good things to say about his co-producer, Richard, after working on “Harlem Nights” together. He said:
“He’s on top of the world, and he’s doing a hell of a job. He sure knows how to handle people with sensitivity. He’ll come over to your side and give private direction — he never embarrasses anyone.
In 1991, Redd tragically suffered a heart attack while rehearsing for the show “The Royal Family.” The sitcom’s spokesperson, Rachel McCallister, reported on the moments leading up to his death.Actors Rodney Dangerfield and Red Foxx sighted on July 21, 1982 at Dangerfield’s in New York City.
McCallister added, “they were rehearsing on the set and clowning around, and Redd was sort of breaking people up when he collapsed. They all thought he was joking around at first, and then they called the paramedics.”
Eddie reflected on Redd’s death, “I had to physically pay for his funeral, buy his headstone, and do all that stuff.” He added that Redd was not the first Hollywood star he had to bury.
“I buried so many people over the years. For some strange reason, a lot of people in show business, when they die, they don’t have their stuff in order. Buried a lot of famous people—if you only knew. If you only knew,” he said.