09/23/1991 at 01:00 AM EDT
WHEN SHOWBIZ TYPES WANT TO lend moral support, they can round up a pretty impressive supporting cast. That was certainly the case when Eddie Murphy set out to cheer old friend Richard Pryor, laid low by triple-bypass heart surgery in May and the ongoing effects of multiple sclerosis. Among those on hand Sept. 8 for a Murphy-em-ceed tribute at the Beverly Hilton hotel: Arsenio Hall, Patti LaBelle, Stevie Wonder and more than 900 other Pryor pals and admirers.
The guest of honor looked frail but happy as guests at the two-hour salute—taped for airing on CBS in November—swapped memories and praised Pryor for so bravely weathering his illnesses. "He's a man who brought the black perspective to comedy," said In Living Color star Keenen Ivory Wayans, acknowledging the comic's ground-breaking humor.
Noting that the show's producer, George Schlatter, had staged a similar tribute to Sammy Davis Jr. shortly before that showman's death, Murphy quipped to Pryor, "I bet it scared your ass when George called you up to do this." But Pryor seem unconcerned. "I'm alive and well and happy to be here," he assured the crowd. "I have MS, not death."