Actor and comedian Redd Foxx was a Hollywood legend, but by his sixties, he lost his wealth. Originally named John Elroy Sanford, Foxx was born in 1922 in Missouri, U.S., and passed away on October 11, 1991, after suffering a heart attack. He is known for his raunchy comedy, which had inspired many aspiring comedians. He also starred in the hit TV series, Sanford and Son, which aired from 1972 to 1977. Foxx occasionally worked in films, including Harlem Nights in 1989 with Eddie Murphy.  The two maintained a strong friendship, which culminated in Murphy paying for Foxx’s funeral and headstone.
Eddie Murphy Paid for Foxx’s Funeral
In an interview with Vanity Fair, Murphy explained the painful experience. “I buried Redd Foxx, I literally had to bury Redd Foxx. I buried so many people over the years. For some strange reason, a lot of people in show business, when they die, they don’t have their stuff in order. Buried a lot of famous people—if you only knew. If you only knew.”
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The interviewer questioned further, asking if this meant Eddie Murphy was a pallbearer. He corrected this, saying, “No, I physically had to pay for their stuff and bury them. Redd Foxx, I had to physically pay for his funeral, and buy his headstone, and do all that stuff… We were close, and I did love Redd Foxx. Yeah, I did give him a shout-out [in Dolemite] and all that stuff.”  He refers to Dolemite Is My Name, a 2019 film starring the actor. You can see the clip he mentioned below.
Redd Foxx’s Financial Hardships
Despite all of Foxx’s success, he died without a penny to his name. A few years before his death, his home was raided by IRS agents when Foxx failed to pay $755,166.21 in back taxes. The agents took his cars, furniture, and other items. “They took my necklace and the ID bracelet off my wrist and the money out of my pocket,” said Foxx, who was 67 at the time. “I was treated like I wasn’t human.”
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This was one of the last of many financial hardships. He had once earned $4 million in one year but he had used up his wealth on a lavish lifestyle, worsened by “very bad management.” In 1981, he also had to pay a $300,000 divorce settlement to his third wife. The following year, he had to pay $25,000 to a hotel employee who had pressed charges for his screaming obscenities at her.
”I’ve been married three times and I’m out. I’d rather have kids because when I give up all this money on divorce, it should go to the children and not some guy,” Foxx said in an interview at that time. Then, in 1983, he began to declare bankruptcy, a proceeding that never reached its conclusion.
At that point, he had only 30 to 45 days to square his accounts and stop the auctioning of his home and possessions. He thought he could receive help, however, “people I thought were my friends haven’t contacted me,” he said.  “I just look for a telegram to say: ‘Hey man, look, I’m sorry. Keep a chin up.’ But I haven’t received anything. I’ve been in the business for 50 years. I’ve helped a lot of people, started them off.”
Foxx’s Unpaid Tax Debt
When he passed away from a heart attack in 1991, Foxx’s financial debt left nothing for a proper burial, which is where Eddie Murphy came in. The actor and comedian began his own career as a teenager doing standup. He went on to become a popular cast member of SNL and star in many hit films, including 48 Hours, Beverly Hills Cop, Coming to America, and Shrek, and many other dramas, comedies, and family films. 
Speaking about Redd’s tax debt, Eddie Murphy speculated on whether the IRS was able to recover all of their dues. But he added that Foxx probably would’ve felt a lot of satisfaction for passing away before paying the IRS.
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- “Redd Foxx.” Britannica.
- “‘Nobody Laughed’: Eddie Murphy on His Harrowing First Audition.” Vanity Fair. Anthony Breznican. January 14, 2020
- “After the IRS Comes to Collect, An Angry Redd Foxx Starts Playing to An Empty House.” People. December 18, 1989
- “Eddit Murphy.” Biography. April 27, 2017