the unknown side of what's bumpin' in the trucks

Long live Dolemite! Rudy Ray Moore dies at 81

In posse on 2008/10/21 at 8:44 pm

I had the pleasure of hanging out with Rudy Ray Moore for an hour or so back in 1999, when he came to Montreal to present Dolemite at the Fantasia Film Festival. This is an Interview that I did with him over the phone prior to his arrival in the city.

—————

You’ve heard of Shaft, you’ve heard of Superfly, but you probably haven’t heard of Dolemite. The high-rollin’, gun-totin’, babe-lovin’, martial arts master and all-around entertainer known as Dolemite was immortalized on the screen by Rudy Ray Moore in the ’70s and early ’80s.

Here in 1999, Fantasia audiences will not only get a taste of the festival’s first foray into blaxploitation with a screening of the original Dolemite, but Rudy Ray’s going to be here to work the crowd.

Rudy Ray, a California native and a living comedy legend, is now enjoying a second honeymoon with stardom thanks in part to the magic of home video. Working the standup circuit during the ’60s in California, Rudy Ray developed a reputation for talkin’ dirty onstage, not to mention making light work of any skeptic, heckler or critic in the place. He soon capitalized on his popularity by making movies like Dolemite, The Devil’s Son-in-Law, Avenging Disco Godfather and, due out sometime next year, Dolemite 2000. Dolemite works like a cartoonish amplification of the real Rudy Ray Moore, who also happens to be a smart talker with a penchant for lovely ladies and gutter-born humour. I had the pleasure of speaking to the one and only Dolemite recently, on the phone from Norfolk, Virginia.

Mirror: What was the first movie you ever made? Was there anything that came before Dolemite?

Rudy Ray Moore: No. The first movie that I ever made was indeed Dolemite. I had appeared in other movies, being from Hollywood, California and all. We were with Central Casting, out there working in pictures, but I was never featured in any. I remember doing a movie with Angie Dickinson, called The Sins of Rachel Cade, years ago, but I played an African in the jungle, so stuff like that I don’t even mention.

M: What was the average budget of a movie like Dolemite or The Devil’s Son-in-Law?

RR: $90,000, plus a few thousand dollars more that I had to raise or struggle to get hold of. I was, of course, the sole producer and the star of all my movies.

M: Who directed them? I know a lot of movies that told black stories and starred black people back then were ironically directed by white people.

RR: Then those are considered blaxploitation. But the ones that were directed by black directors were not exploiting us. The white side did make stories that would be more exploitive then the ones we did ourselves.

M: So you don’t consider your movies blaxploitation?

RR: Certainly not. It is a word that has been tagged upon us that really has no meaning at all. I never heard anyone calling movies Indiansploitation or Italiansploitation, so why Blaxploitation? Does that make any sense to you?

M: I actually have seen Indiansploitation…

RR: But they don’t call it that!

M: I’m talking about any movie that has exaggerated stereotypes about a certain race that are played upon to the hilt. A lot of movies have been successful based solely on these stereotypes, and in the process exploit a certain race. You don’t think that’s remotely true even in your films?

RR: Well, that tag was put on us by pro-black groups in the United States, not white people. These black groups wanted Hollywood to let them read the scripts before the movies were made, although they weren’t even puttin’ up a dime to make the movie. If we had made the movies that those groups had wanted to see, they would have died at the box office the first day. Makin’ movies is all about makin’ money with whatever the ingredients have to be. This is what I did when I made my movies. They can call it blaxploitation–I don’t like it, but I did what I did in my movies in order to survive on the screen. Any other way and I wouldn’t be here today.

The Undisputed…

M: Do you consider yourself the Godfather of Rap?

RR: I don’t consider myself; I am the Godfather of Rap. Call me the front-runner, ’cause when I did “The Signifying Monkey” back in 1969, and did Dolemite when I was saying “…way down in the jungle deep, the lion stepped on the monkeys feet,” it was set to music. There were no rappers out then, but when rap came about, they started takin’ pieces of my record and puttin’ it in their rap, slightly identifying with me. I got a lot of money off them, but that’s what they did.

M: So you’ve been compensated?

RR: Oh yes, Scotty! Thousands and thousands of dollars. I was through with it before they learned what to do with it! I am the undisputed godfather of all rappers and the king of comedy today.

M: What? You’re the king of comedy too now?

RR: There’s a lot of comedians out there callin’ themselves the king of comedy, but they’re not. Redd Foxx and myself were the kings of comedy. Now Redd Foxx is gone, and there is only one left. So I am not only the godfather and the king, I am great also. I’m not conceited, I’m merely convinced.

M: (laughing) Does anyone ever challenge you on any of those claims?

RR: Oh, no! I stand on stage and I burn ’em up! I’m not afraid of any comedian that could ever go onstage. It’s not good for a comic to work behind me, because I did done destroyed the house when they get ready to come on.

M: Are you more famous now than when your films were being screened in theatres during the ’70s?

RR: I’ve become popular now thanks to video. I was on the screen from 1975 to 1982 and the films that I did had died, but video brought them back to life, thus bringin’ in a generation that wasn’t even born when I made ’em. That generation wants to see just how baaad Dolemite is. My movies have been sampled 71 times by various hip hop groups, taking things even further.

High rollin’ & kickin’ strong…

M: You know that scene in Dolemite where he rolls down that huge hillside buck-naked? Is that you or is it a stunt double?

RR: That is me! The guy who jumped off at the top of the hill was a stunt double, but I had to do the last 50 feet rollin’! I was so scratched up and cut up, Lord have mercy. I did that myself in order to be brave and bold and didn’t have one stitch on me. Not even a jockey strap.

M: Did you ever study any martial arts?

RR: Yes, I did. The reason I have the co-ordination that I do in my films is because I was a modern Adagio dancer. We used hand movements, neck movements and I mixed that with my martial arts training. That’s how I developed my style. I have no black belts, no green belts, nothin’. I’m just a good actor.

M: What ever happened to your ol’ pals Leroy and Skillet?

RR: Leroy died in 1993. Skillet is 81 years old and still around.

M: What about Queen Bee?

RR: Queen Bee died 16 months ago in February 1998. Durville Martin, the director of Dolemite and star of many films, died in 1982. So of all of those that were with me, I am still around and still kickin’ strong. I intend to come over there and turn Montreal out. I’m a little leery about whether they can receive me because I’m raw and crude, but I’m decent on top of it.

M: I’m sure you’ll be surprised.

RR: The racial jokes I will not do over there.

M: (choking)Why not!!!?

RR: I just won’t.

M: You can’t water down any part of your act simply because we’re not Americans! We can handle it.

RR: You think so, Scotty? Let me tell you, a white lady was on the bus and smellin’ real good. A black lady got on the bus and sat down beside her and said, “Honey, what’s that perfume you got on? That’s some nice perfume. What is it?” The white lady says, “Black Knight, black bitch, $100 an ounce.” This made the black lady mad. She eased on down the seat of the bus and farted. The white lady said, “Ooh! What’s that terrible smell I smell?” The black lady says, “White beans, white bitch, 15 cents a pound.”

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