Name at birth: Frederick Karl PruetzelFreddie Prinze was one of the most popular comedians in America when he shot himself in 1977. The son of a Puerto Rican mother and a Hungarian father, Freddie Prinze was a 20-year-old stand-up comedian when he won the title role on the TV sitcom Chico and the Man in 1974. He played Chico Rodriguez, a sharp-witted young Latino who gets a job in a garage run by a cranky old white man (Jack Albertson). The show made its debut in 1974, was a ratings success, and by 1977 Prinze was one of the biggest stars on TV, even performing at that year's inaugural ball for President Jimmy Carter. At the height of his popularity, despondent over personal problems and apparently under the influence of drugs, Freddie Prinze shot himself in the head and died several hours later.
Freddie Prinze married Kathy Elaine Barber in 1975; they were estranged at the time of his death in 1977. Their son, the actor Freddie Prinze, Jr., was born in 1976… Freddie Prinze’s career, like that of Bill Cosby, took off after he appeared on Johnny Carson‘s Tonight Show… The actual details of Freddie Prinze’s death remain controversial: coroner Thomas Noguchi ruled his death a suicide, but after Prinze’s family challenged the ruling, a civil jury decided that the shooting was accidental, allowing Prinze’s family to collect on his $200,000 life insurance policy.
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