At the age of 20, Freddie Prinze had already hit the top as his television show, Chico and the Man was rated in the top five of the country. He was a big star, his face graced the covers of numerous magazines such as People, US and Rolling Stone, yet, despite his overwhelming success, he also felt the pressures from the Hispanic community, the network executives, and his many adoring fans. Women were literally crawling all over him. But so were the drug fiends, who so often populate the celebrity fringes like so many pilot fish feeding on the detritus of the bigger.
Freddie Prinze would soon find himself addicted to both the ladies and the pills. To overcome the female problem, he decided to settle down. He met a beautiful cocktail waitress named Kathy Cochran and the two quickly got hitched. Kathy would soon become pregnant and give birth to their only child, Freddie Prinze, Jr.
Quaaludes and Divorce
Freddie Prinze, Sr. however, could not shake his other addiction... pills. Specifically, Quaaludes. Freddie Prinze's love for the little monsters eventually led to his break-up with Kathy. She filed for divorce, yet Freddie forged on. Meanwhile, Chico and the Man continued riding high. Prinze also secured several high-profile stand-up gigs in Vegas, and he performed at the inauguration ball for then-President Jimmy Carter.
A Downward Spiral
Bad news would come, however, on January 26, 1977 when he was hit with a restraining order from his wife. Naturally, this didn't set too well with Prinze who would eventually find his life unraveling into a downward spiral. Early the next morning, he would begin making a series of goodbye phone calls. One was to Marvin "Dusty" Snyder, Prinze's business manager. Dusty would become concerned with the tone of Prinze's phone call and quickly set out for Freddie's hotel room, Room 216 at the Beverly Hills Hotel Plaza at 10300 Wilshire Blvd.
When Dusty finally got to the hotel he attempted to calm Prinze down and reassure him he had a lot to live for. But Prinze continued making the emotion-charged phone calls, even while Dusty was still in the room. In one particular phone call he made to his mother, the actor reportedly said, "Mom, I love you very much, but I can't go on. I need to find peace." Then at 3:30am, Prinze made a call to his estranged wife and said, "I love you, Kathy. I love the baby, but I need to find peace. I can't go on." Prinze would then hang up the phone.
"Think About Your Mother and Your Son"
Freddie Prinze was standing with the phone in one hand and his .357 Magnum* in the other. After making the phone calls, he would calmly sit down on the sofa in his extended stay hotel at 865-75 Comstock Avenue in Westwood, and raise the gun to his head. As Dusty quickly made a dive for the gun, Freddie pulled away. Dusty hastily told Prinze to "think about your mother, and your son." Dusty heard a muffled gunshot but didn't realize what had happened. Moments later when Prinze slumped sideways, blood pouring from his head, he knew exactly what had happened.
It's All in God's Hands
An ambulance was immediately called to the hotel, and Prinze was taken to the UCLA Medical Center where he would undergo emergency surgery for the gunshot wound. His family, keeping a vigil at the hospital, began crying when one of the doctors came to them with the announcement, "It's all in God's hands." Prinze was then administered last rites by a priest.
He died at 1:00 in the afternoon on January 29, 1977, 33 hours after shooting himself. Freddie Prinze was just 22 years old.
The Suicide Note
Police did find a note in Freddie Prinze's room that said, "I must end it. There's no hope left. I'll be at peace. No one had anything to do with this. My decision totally - Freddie Prinze. P.S. I'm sorry. Forgive me. Dusty's here. He's innocent. He cared."
Freddie's funeral was held at the Old North Church and he was laid to rest in the Court of Remembrance at Forest Lawn Cemetery, in Hollywood Hills. It was attended by Prinze's wife, Jack Albertson, Paul Williams (who was a pallbearer!?) , and Tony Orlando. Orlando would give the eulogy.
A Terrible Accident?
Now, here's where it gets a little wacky. In 1982, Freddie Prinze's widow and son received nearly $1 million to settle assorted malpractice suits against Prinze's psychiatrist and internist for over-prescribing Quaaludes. In January of 1983, a jury confirmed what his mother had pursued, that Freddie was acting under the influence of drugs, and that he was playing with the gun, and it accidentally went off. As a result of the verdict, the family received what is believed to be a healthy life insurance pay out. [despite the suicide note!?]
Surprisingly, this was not Freddie Prinze's only flirtation with suicide. He first attempted to kill himself at the age of 17, after becoming despondent over the breakup with his then girlfriend. Also, shortly after his wife started the divorce proceedings, Prinze's manager successfully sued him for breaking a business contract. The downward spiral had begun back then, forcing the star to drink heavily and rely more and more on drugs to cope with everyday life. In one particularly foretelling moment he told his friends, "Life isn't worth living" and proceeded to pull out his unloaded gun, place it to his head, and squeeze the trigger. Doesn't sound like an accident to us!
*Morbidly Hollywood friend Alan B. reports that Freddie's gun was actually a .380 Astra Constable that he bought at a Big 5 sporting goods store on Wilshire and San Vicente Blvds. The gun is a copy of the James Bond gun, a Walther PPK. Thanks for the update Alan.
More Freddie Prinze Stuff:
|Prinze's service was held at the Old North Church in The Hollywood Hills.|
|Beverly Hills Hotel Plaza, located at 10300 Wilshire Boulevard where Freddie Prinze was staying at the time of his death. He shot himself in Room 216.|
|A Walther .380 caliber handgun. Probably very similar to the one Freddie Prinze used to kill himself.|
|The Big 5 Sporting Goods store at the corner of Wilshire and San Vicente Blvds. Where Freddie Prinze bought the gun he used to kill himself.