Sunday, November 30, 2008
Pamela Suzette "Pam" Grier (May 26, 1949) is an American actress from the early seventies. Grier was born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, U.S., the daughter of Gwendolyn Sylvia, a homemaker and nurse, and Clarence Ransom Grier, who worked as a mechanic and Technical Sergeant in the United States Air Force. Grier is African-American, and also has Native American, European, and Asian ancestry. She has one sister and one brother, and is a cousin of football player Rosey Grier. Because of her father's military career, her family moved frequently during her childhood, to various places such as England, and eventually settled in Denver, Colorado, where she attended East High School. While there she appeared in a number of stage productions, and participated in beauty contests to raise money for college tuition toward Metropolitan State College.
Grier moved to Los Angeles, California in 1967, where she was initially hired as a receptionist at the American International Pictures (AIP) company. Her movie career began in 1971 when Roger Corman of New World Pictures launched her into The Big Doll House (1971), about a woman's penitentiary and The Big Bird Cage (1972). Her strong role put her into a five year contract with Samuel Z. Arkoff of American International Pictures and from then Grier became a leading lady in action films such as two of the Jack Hill films: Coffy (1973) and Foxy Brown (1974), and the comic strip character Friday Foster (1975) and the William Girdler film 'Sheba, Baby' (1975). She continued work with American International where she portrayed William Marshall's vampire victim in the 'Blacula' sequel, Scream Blacula Scream (1973). Grier was noted as the first African-American female to headline a film, as protagonists of previous blaxploitation films were all male.
With the demise of blaxploitation, Grier's career went on hiatus for many years. She acquired progressively larger character roles in the 1980s, including a prostitute in Fort Apache the Bronx (1981), a witch in Something Wicked this Way Comes (1983), and Steven Seagal's detective partner in Above the Law (1988). She made guest appearances on Miami Vice, Night Court and The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, and also had a recurring role in the TV series Crime Story between 1986 and 1988.
In the late 1990s Grier was a cast member of the Showtime series Linc's. She again appeared in 1997 with the title role in Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown, a film that partly paid homage to her '70s blaxploitation movies. As of 2004, she appears in the cable television series The L Word as Kit Porter and occasionally guest-stars in such television series as Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (where she is a recurring character).
Grier dated basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar during the early 1970s and actor/comedian Richard Pryor in 1977. She was also romantically linked to actor/comedian Freddie Prinze in the 1970s. In 1998, she was engaged to music executive Kevin Evans, but they split in 1999.