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The late Dick Gregory said he owed a lot to Hugh Hefner, the man who gave the comic his big break.
Hefner died Wednesday. He was 91.
In 1961, Gregory, who died Aug. 19, was working at the black-owned Roberts Show Bar in Chicago when he was spotted by the Playboy founder, who was in the audience.
Hefner hired Gregory to work at his Chicago Playboy Club, a move the comic called brave and important during the 2001 Comedy Central roast of Hefner.
“You had a courage when no one was bringing in blacks and minorities, and let you stand flat-footed in America and just talk, you brought me in” Gregory said during the roast. “You didn’t give me a lecture. You gave me no instructions.”
He continued, “I come here tonight not to roast you, but to say that had you not had the guts back then, we black comics that the world has been able to look at and understand our genius, we would be in some pot, roasting in debt, knowing we were never going to make it.”
Gregory later told Hefner during the roast he loved him.
“We thank you. Gold bess you, my brother,” Gregory said.
It was also Hefner who gave Gregory the funds to help locate the bodies of three slain Civil Rights workers in Mississippi in 1964.
Watch Gregory’s speech to Hefner below.
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