I love the performing arts, and the people in the industry, so most of my articles are written about traditional and digital celebrities.
Pam Grier is the beautiful Black actress who burst onto screens everywhere during the 1970s. Grier is the undisputed queen of Blaxploitation films, and she has been celebrated for her beauty and raw sex appeal for decades. She's also a kind-hearted, free-spirited Coloradan with a passion for clean eating, animals and nature.
Pamela Suzette Grier was born on May 26, 1949 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Her mother was a nurse and her father was in the U.S. Air Force. Because of her father's military status, the family moved around often, but she they eventually made their home in Denver, Colorado. Grier is of African American and Native American descent.
Tragedy struck Pam Grier early in life as she was sexually assaulted by two boys. She speaks freely about the incident, but she states she's still affected by the horrific event. She attended Denver's East High School and then Metropolitan State College. It was during high school that she discovered her passion for acting, when she became active in school plays.
Grier's cousin, Roosevelt "Rosie" Grier, was a star player with the Los Angeles Rams, but he found success in Hollywood as an actor. Grier decided to try her hand at the acting game as well, so she moved to Los Angeles in 1967.
Grier was initially hired to work at the switchboard of American International Pictures (AIP), but she was quickly discovered by director Jack Hill, and he cast her in The Big Doll House (1971) and The Bird Cage (1972). Both movies were filmed in the Philippines. While she was there she contracted a deadly tropical disease that almost took her life. She lost a lot of her hair and she was temporarily blind. She says that it took nearly a year to recover from the illness.
The aforementioned Jack Hill films featured women in prison. He cast her in a third prison-themed film, Black Mama White Mama (1973), which featured two women on the run from a chain gang.
Later that year, Hill switched gears and cast Grier in the action film, Coffy. Coffy (1973) was the first of Pam Grier's legendary full-fledged Blaxploitation films. The movie was a hit, and soon afterwards, she played similar roles in a slew of hits to follow, such as Foxy Brown (1974), Sheba Baby (1975) and Friday Foster (1975).
In between her action-filled hits, she found time to make the Blaxploitation horror film, Scream Blacula Scream (1973). The Blaxploitation Era ended when the 1970s came to an end, and Pam Grier's career calmed down during the 1980s and 1990s.
Grier was romantically linked to several A-List actors. In the early 70s, she dated Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Freddie Prinze. She had a highly publicized relationship with comedian Richard Pryor, but none of the pairings lasted beyond a couple of years.
Her relationship with Abdul-Jabbar ended when he tried to convince her to convert to Islam and marry him immediately. She and Freddie Prinze went their separate ways because of his unstable emotional state. Pam Grier was one of the last people Prinze spoke with before he committed suicide in 1977.
Grier met Richard Pryor on the set of Greased Lightening (1977). Even with all of his success, Pryor couldn't read and he was addicted to cocaine. Grier taught Pryor to read and she made several attempts to help him move past his drug addiction, but her attempts failed.
Infamously, Grier stated that her relationship with Pryor caused her to have a "buildup of cocaine residue" around her cervix and vagina. Their relationship went downhill from there, and Pryor eventually got engaged to another woman.
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The actress also dated Soul Train host, Don Cornelius and basketball star, Wilt Chamberlain, but these pairings were brief.
During her 20-year career calm period, Pam Grier had roles in Fort Apache, The Bronx (1981), Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983), Above the Law (1988) and Escape From L.A. (1996). She also appeared on the small screen in everything from The Cosby Show and The Fresh Prince of Bel Air to Miami Vice to Night Court and Mad TV.
Grier was reminded of the impact of her 1970s era films when the late 1990s rolled around. Quentin Tarantino paid homage to Grier with his Blaxploitation styled film, Jackie Brown (1997). Her career caught wind again and Jackie Brown was followed by In Too Deep (1999), Jawbreaker (1999), John Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars (2001) and the urban horror flick, Bones (2001).
In the early 2000s, Grier was cast in Showtime's The L Word. The show ran from 2004 to 2009 and she enjoyed significant storylines, despite her character being the only straight leading cast member in a show primarily focused on lesbians. After the show ended, she picked up a recurring role on TVs Smallville.
In 2010 Pam Grier published her memoir, Foxy: My Life in Three Acts. Recently, the actress revealed that there is a film in the works based on her book, the film is tentatively titled Pam, but some sources state the title of the film will mirror the title of her memoir.
It has been nearly a decade since her memoir was published, but as recently as last month, Grier gave an interview where she says she would like Spike Lee to direct the Pam Grier biopic. She also revealed that actor Jay Pharoah will play Richard Pryor, and they are still on the lookout for the actress who will portray Pam.
In the late 1980s, Pam Grier was diagnosed with stage-four cervical cancer and given less than two years to live... Clearly, the actress is still alive and well today, and she's been in remission for the last 30 years.
Grier resides in Denver, Colorado, near the site of the Sand Creek massacre, where 500 Cheyenne women and babies were slaughtered by the cavalry for their land. In an effort to promote awareness about clean eating, she opened the Pam Grier Community Garden and Education Center in Fort Worth, Texas. Grier strongly believes many diseases are preventable through healthy eating practices and she wants to help make organic foods accessible for every budget.
Grier shares her Colorado property with her beloved horses and the occaisional mountain lion, and today at the age of 69, she's seems content...and she still looks fabulous! Film project offers constantly roll in for Grier and her staff, but she states her days are full and most of the time she puts the projects on "can you call me later about this" status.
We'll keep an eye out for the Pam Grier biopic, because we love her, and we can't wait to see what's next for the beautiful black actress.
Rachelle Williams (author) from Tempe, AZ on April 17, 2019:
You’re most welcome MsDora!
Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on April 17, 2019:
Thanks for this historic and entertaining walk down memory lane, as well as up to date facts about this beautiful woman. A beautiful tribute!