By Carter Higgins –Blackdoctor.org
Comedy, activist and author Dick Gregory began his career as a comedian while serving in the military in the mid 1950s. After being drafted in 1954, he served in the army for a year and a half at Fort Hood in Texas, Fort Lee in Virginia and Ft. After being discharged in 1956 he returned to the university but did not receive a degree. With a desire to perform comedy professionally, he moved to Chicago.
From there Gregory performed in night club after night club before being noticed by Hugh Hefner. Hugh offered him a job which added to him becoming more of a household name in comedy at the time.
Many say that Gregory’s activism started with his style of comedy. Gregory’s comedy focused on current events and politics. But it was then that some of the funny one liners about the state of Black America weren’t as funny as it used to be. In 1984 he founded Health Enterprises, Inc., a company that distributed weight loss products. With this company, Gregory made efforts to improve the life expectancy of African Americans, which he believes is being hindered by poor nutrition and drug and alcohol abuse. In 1985 Gregory introduced the “Slim-Safe Bahamian Diet”, a powdered diet mix. He launched the weight-loss powder at the Whole Life Expo in Boston under the slogan “It’s cool to be healthy”. The diet mix, drunk three times a day, was said to provide rapid weight loss. Gregory received a multi-million dollar distribution contract to retail the diet.
In 2001, Dick Gregory was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. He refused traditional medical treatment – chemotherapy –and with the assistance of some of the finest minds in alternative medicine, put together a regimen of a variety of diet, vitamins, exercise, and modern devices not even known to the public, which ultimately resulted in his reversing the trend of the Cancer to the point where today his body shows no sign of cancer and is cancer free.
Gregory journey to stop eating meat came long before, beginning in the South during the late 1950’s. “I became a vegetarian after I saw a Mississippi sheriff kick my wife when she was nine months’ pregnant,” he says. “I had to convince myself that the reason I did nothing was that I was non-violent. I was scared. But afterwards I decided that if I wouldn’t hit a man who kicked my pregnant wife, I couldn’t participate in the destruction of any animal that never harmed me. That’s when…
… I became a vegetarian. Before then, I didn’t even know the word. In the 1960’s you rarely saw a Black person in a health food store. But it was something I knew I had to change.”
In the late 1960s he regularly fasted in excess of 40 days at a time, to publicize world famine. For two-and-a-half years, he ate no solid food as a protest against the Vietnam War. He was still following this regime when he completed several long-distance runs – one from LA to New York – frequently accompanied by Muhammad Ali, who described Gregory as “one of the greatest Americans of modern times”.
“The first time I met Dick,” Ali said, “I knew I was good for five miles. I decided I was going to take this chump and see what he could do. We went four miles and Dick wasn’t even breathing hard. I stepped up the next mile real fast. Dick followed me, then he got faster. After that, I got into the car. Dick ran another 15 miles. I said to myself, ‘This man is crazy.’”
At legendary singer and composer John Lennon’s request, Gregory devised a diet to help him withdraw from opiates and alcohol.
“When John called me,” he says, “he told me to come to Holland, where he was ‘living in a cave’. To me, a cave was a dark place where bats hang out. His cave looked like Buckingham Palace.”
These days,, he rarely performs comedy, he’s still married for over 50 years, but he’s constantly on the road, lecturing on diet and ethics.