Through the eyes of those who personally knew and loved Freddie
God Bless, and a very happy Friday to you, and all our friends on Freddie's, most special...web-site. I want to thank everyone, for all your contributions, and for sharing your thoughts, comments, and feelings, about Freddie and myself, and of course, the show that made it all possible..."Chico & The Man!"
I feel humbled, honored, and privileged, to have worked with such comedic genius, as Freddie Prinze, and Jack Albertson. However, I must clear up any confusion, as to what made "Chico & The Man", such a hit, when we first aired, in 1974 .Jack Albertson, who played Ed Brown, the grouchy, feisty, "Old Man", who owned the garage in East Los Angeles, was a big star, and the show, was actually, formed around him. Jack was an Academy Award winner, an Emmy winner, and a Tony Award winner, and I am not sure about the Golden Globe, but I believe he also won one of those.
My point is, that Jack Albertson, had won every award and honor you could bestow on an actor. He was well established, well connected, and had the goods to prove it. But in saying that, let me say this, to clear up an important fact.
Yes, Jack was a famous actor, but it was not Jack Albertson, who make "Chico & The Man" a big hit.It was not Isaac Ruiz, playing "Mando", Chico's best friend, who made us a hit, but it was the presence, of Freddie Prinze, with his charisma, personality, his boyish smile with those huge dimples, and his wit and comedic timing, which vaulted "Chico & The Man", and himself, into immediate stardom!
Freddie was such a huge star in his short time on this Earth, that today, 29 years after his untimely death, he continues to charm us all, with his wonderful humor, and charming personality. He continues to reign in the hearts of those us who were privy, in sharing the television screen with him, and awed, every time he did one of his routines, or were fortunate enough, to spend time in his presence.
So, if all of you, who never got the opportunity to see him in person, cause you were either too young, not born yet, or were living too far and unable to attend the show live, feel as you do about him though he's been gone for all these years...if you love him today, just by what you've seen and heard...how, do you think I feel, who loved him and cared for him, and had to slowly watch his demise. How do you think I feel, year after year, wishing, he could still be with us in person.
How do you think his Mother, Maria Pruetzel, one of the sweetest, kindest, and loving, Christian women I know, feels as this day approaches. To this day, she considers me her "adopted son", and she loves me not because I played Freddie's best friend on the show, but because she knows, without a doubt, that I was truly, Freddie's best friend in real life, and that Freddie told her on many occasions, that he loved me. He told his Mother, that I, Isaac Ruiz, known as "Mando", to all of you,always had his best interest at heart, and that he considered me, his very best friend!
I treasure those statements of Freddie about me to his Mother Maria, and I treasure, that she does, know the truth, that the tabloids don't write about. I treasure, the time I was with Freddie, and all the private hours and days, I was able to spend with him. He looked up to me, though he was the true star. Because he looked up to me, as a "Big" brother, that he really never had.
When last year, Freddie was finally honored, with his Star on Hollywood Blvd., (thanks to none other than another wonderful, dynamic human being, George Lopez) I had a few minutes to share with Freddie Jr., when Freddie came up to me and said he knew who I was. He said you were my Father's best friend, off the show, as well as on the show, and then, he said something, that made me cry.
He said, "Isaac, my grandmother told me, that not only, you were my Dad's best friend, but that you never sold him out, like a lot of others. I just want to thank you, for being such a good friend, to my father, whom I never had the privilege of personally knowing. You knew him, for the both of us." I proceeded to tell Jr., not to believe all the B.S., they write about him, and to just know this...that your Dad, loved you very much, and you were the only thing in this whole wide world, that meant anything to him. He may never have gotten a chance to show you, but he told me, how he loved, and missed you so much, and he was sorry for the predicament , he was in.
We exchanged some tears, some laughs, and said our goodbyes. Freddie Jr., is a wonderful, smart, energetic, young talented actor, who has established himself in a way, that his pop, would have been so proud. In fact, I know that Freddie Sr., IS, proud of him, and looking down on us all right now. In fact, as my good friend, and his 'Big Brother", I kind of know his habits, so I will share with all of you, what he would want to say to all of you, if he could be with us now. He would say to you all..."thank you all, so very, very, much, for keeping me alive in your dreams, your television sets through the technology of reruns, and especially, in your hearts. Freddie would also say, thank you Suz, for all your hard work, and for loving me and Mando, in such a special way. He would also want you to all, pray for his son, Freddie Jr., and Freddie's family, including his Mom, and Grandmother, and to also pray for George Lopez, and his wife Ann, and daughter Maya, that The Good Lord, keeps George healthy, so he can continue to light up our hearts with his humor, and funny skits.
Freddie would continue to say, that he loves us all, and that as he looks down upon us, he is happy, and for us not, to be sad for him, but to continue being grateful, for whatever life God has blessed us with. Then he would say, thanks again to you all, and in my heart, you all to me are, and will always be...LOOOKING GOOOD! Love to you all...your friend....Mando
"Freddie is truly one of my heroes. Only if one had the privilege of having worked beside him would one understand how great he was.
I had that privilege to have done the music cues for Chico and the Man, and also appeared with him in one of the episodes as a guitarist helping celebrate Ed's birthday.
His warmth and wit were outstanding and he was a very nice guy.
He made the world a little better and we all are better off with what he shared with us.
We all miss him. "
"I did it for two reasons - he was brilliantly talented and I loved him as a brother"
"I know Freddie would want to thank you for not letting him and his talent to be forgotten. He should be remembered, because he was really unique and special."
"I'll love him forever, as I did in life. David"
- Comedian David Brenner
Freddie was a member of a theater group called "Puerto Rico Sings". I had been a member of that group since 13 years old. That picture represents a production of West Side Story being performed by that group.
- William Perez
Anytime Suzanne. That theater group was a part of the Alliance for Latin Arts. The director's name is Robert Cox. There was also a nightclub act called Los Muchachos de San Juan, which I believe that Freddie was part of.
I was fortunate to have worked in the same company as Freddie for a period of about two years. I got to know him very well because I was his ride home. Freddie lived on the corner building of 157 street and B-way. I lived on Dyckman street, which was about a mile north of Freddie’s home. Since I drove to work every day, after rehearsal, or performances I would give many of the cast members a ride home. The group included Freddie.
Well on the day of the cast party Freddie had too much to drink and, not being a drinker, he got quite sick. So sick in fact that the stage manger asked me if I could take him home. Although I had just arrived at the party, I complied with his request and loaded a loaded Freddie Prince into the backseat of my old thunderbird.
Seeing that Freddie was on the verge of throwing up, and not wanting it to happen in my car, I tried to hurry. Needless to say I did not succeed. Freddie could not hold it and threw up all over himself and the back seat of my car.
By the time I got to 157 street and B-way Freddie was done being sick. After vomiting his guts out he became more alert, so much so that I did not need to walk him to his door. I dropped him off in front of his building, watched him go inside and drove off knowing that I had performed my good deed for the day.
Unfortunately for me, I now had this big mess in my backseat to clean up that would keep me from returning to the party.
The next day as I arrived for rehearsal I was asked to go see the director. I figured that Mr. Cox (the company director) wanted to thank me personally for taking a sick co-worker home at the expense of the cast party celebration. But to my surprise that’s not what occurred.
Instead of being commended for an unselfish act, I was strongly reprimanded for being a bad influence on an innocent and impressionable young man. It seems that Freddie’s mother was up waiting for him to arrive that night. Freddie had not mentioned the cast party to his mother, or that he would be home much later than usual. She was quite upset in seeing her son, who never had a drink before in his life, arrive home late and very drunk.
The following day Freddie’s mother lodged a complaint with the director, accusing me keeping Freddie out late and getting him drunk. Well it took a few days before everything was straightened out. Eventually the truth came to light and I was exonerated of any culpability.
You may ask yourself why this incident is so memorable to me. After all it just another story of a kid getting drunk for the first time, and paying the price for doing so. Well it wasn't the drinking, or even getting sick in my car that leads to remember the events of that day. It was his mother reaction to his condition that stands out.
Yes back then Freddie was a very talented individual, but above that he was a good innocent kid, with loving parents. Parents who till that point in his life had done such a good job sheltering him from everything they perceived as evil. How ironic that a man with such a bright future, and with so many people around him that truly cared and loved him, could come to such an end- it’s beyond belief.
Thanks for your note. Believe it or not my experiences with Freddie weren't exactly positive. Now keep in mind this was over 37 years ago growing up as kids in NYC.
All the kids in the neighborhood would hang out together at the Pizza Shop (corner of 157 and BWAY) and Freddie who was a few years older would pick on me (bully) at the shop etc. I would see him all around the neighborhood but would try to avoid him.
I do remember seeing him back in the neighborhood one day after his initial appearance on the Johnny Carson show. I approached him congratulated him on his success and we briefly reminisced about growing up and him picking on me etc. We just laughed about it. That was the last time I saw Freddie.
His mother still lived in the neighborhood after he left to LA and she was a patient at an internist on West 160th street that my mother worked at. She would go to the doctor every once in a while and would always give my mother the update on how Freddie was doing in LA etc. I do remember when my mother told me that he was working on a deal for Chico and the man.
I must tell you that for me at that time there wasn't anything batter than Chico and the Man. Maybe because I knew Freddie or maybe because the show was funny but till this day when I run into someone and they happen to say "its not my job man" I always make it a point to ask them if they know where that statement originated from and generally depending on their age they don't know. I always make sure they do know that it originated from and old friend of mine that I grew up with................Freddie Prinze. They all love the story.
Finally my kids are 10 and 8 and I took them to see scooby doo with Freddy Jr. and I told them about Freddy Sr....they think their daddy is cool.
Just a side note, If I am not mistaken the building that Freddie lived on 157th street also lived a cinematographer by the name of Enrique Bravo. Ironically my mother grew up with his wife in Cuba. Enrique was know for his movies and TV shows such as the Exorcist, the French Connection and Miami Vice just to name a few.
Good luck with your web site. It brings back a lot of memories. Times have changed on 157th street that's for sure.
About Mr. Prinze, well I was a photographer in NYC and L.A. for many years, and Freddie was one of many celebrities I photographed during the years I was active. He was always friendly and would stop and say hello to me, especially when he found out I was Puerto Rican--------that really did it. From that point on, he would go out of his way to talk to me and ask how I was, about my family etc. I never found him be rude to any of the other press in the area. He knew it was part of his job and did what he needed to do.
I was sorry to hear of his death, and the circumstances. I have very nice memories of my many encounters with him.
It was a great experience working on the show and it was one of my first
acting jobs. Freddie Prinze and Jack Albertson were great to work with.
"As a celebrity photographer for many years, I met Freddie several times in Los Angeles. Although I never got to know him well, he did know me by name and would always stop to chat and say hello, and would always introduce me to whoever he was with. He discovered I was from Puerto Rico and from then on he would go out of his way at celebrity events to see me. He was charming and very friendly and had a high regard for his fans. I was sorry to hear of his passing but I have many lovely photos of him and think only pleasant thoughts of him whenever I happen across these pictures".
I went to audition at Catch A Rising Star in NYC... this was the early 70. It was held in the afternoon. Before I sang, I suggested that instead of having the auditions in the afternoon, that they change it to Monday nights and have a real audience there -- to see how good the act really was.
The next week I was at the club and they announced that the auditions would now be held on Monday nights. This guy who was in charge of the auditions had gone to Rick Newman (the owner) and gave him my suggestion, but took all the credit AND would not allow me to sing there!
I left the club in tears. I was standing outside crying and this tall, adorable guy walks up and asks:
"Hey Mommie, why ya cryin'?"
I told him I wasn't his MOMMIE... then I said:
"You're Freddie Prinze! I saw your act this week. You're really funny! One day you're gonna be famous!"
And he looked at me with those big brown eyes and said,
"Yes, I know!"
That was the beginning of our friendship.
He grabbed me and took me back inside the club and told Rick Newman I needed to audition for HIM because I was great singer (even though Freddie had never heard me sing, lol) so...
we went inside... Rick heard me and from that night on, I was a regular at Catch.
Freddie looked out for me. I loved him with my heart and soul. He was one in a million.
I had a job as a waitress at a Greek restaurant. Freddie would come in and I'd sneak him free food.
One day I was wearing four inch heels with my uniform (yes, silly huh?) and as I carried a huge pot of pilaf across the room, I slipped and the pilaf went everywhere.
Freddie was sitting at a nearby table... walked outside, and laughed 'til he cried. I saw him through the picture window and started laughing too.
He made it a point to walk out and laugh. He didn't want to embarrass me and laugh in the restaurant!
I got fired on the spot.
We would share cab rides (when we had the cab fare) to the Improv. One day he was going over some songs for me to sing. He was always encouraging me to work on new songs, and "You Are The Sunshine Of My Life came on the radio."
It was a hot and steamy NYC summer night, and the two of us sang along, loud, to the whole song. He had a great voice, but his love for comedy won out.
My family loved him too. I come from Detroit, so when Freddie came to MI, my mother would cook Armenian food for him. Everyone loved Freddie.
He would make me laugh from the gut whenever we were together. He was funny on stage and off. His mind was as sharp as a sword. He was brilliant.
Once, my sister Jackie was in a fight with her boyfriend Vinnie. Freddie called her up and told her if Vinnie messed with her again, he'd go and beat the crap outta him. Not a man of violence, but nobody messed with Freddie's friends.
We ALWAYS would talk about working together some day. It was a dream we had.
A man walked into Catch and I got a job on "Welcome Back Kotter." The man also produced "Chico" and he was going to write in a part for me on the show.
The plan: NOT to tell Freddie.
I wanted it to be a surprise.
The next night Freddie called from L.A. but... I would talk to him. I knew if I spoke to him, I would spill the beans and ruin the surprise. And after all, I'd be flying out to L.A. in a few days to surprise him!
The next morning I woke to the news on the radio that he shot himself.
I took the red eye to L.A.
I went directly to the hospital and waited there all night.
They declared him legally dead the next day.
That Monday was his funeral at Forest Lawn.
For years, I had LOVED Paul Williams and Freddie and Paul were friends. Freddie told me that one day he would bring Paul and me together.
At the funeral, in that little chapel, standing next to me (at the very back of the room) -- right by the door, was ... Paul Williams.
A look back at the most versatile and talented actor comedian ever! Remembering the legendary Hungarican Freddie Prinze