Monday, October 20, 2008

Rudy Ray Moore (1927-2008)


Standup comdedian, singer, actor, writer, and the embodiment of American Badassitude, Rudy Ray Moore has passed from this world. He is best know as the star of Dolemite!, the most ridiculous (or at least the most entertainingly ridiculous) movie to come out of the blaxploitation genre (although Moore, like many of the genre's stars, hated the term "blaxploitation," and thought it was the equivalent of "nigger"). Dolemite! has some of the best one-liners in the history of cinema. Well, actually, some of them end up being two or three liners, like "Fuck you, you born-insecure, rat soup eatin', junkyard MORTHERFUCKER!" Check out the amazingly funky drum break going on in the background of the above scene! Even funkier is the Hamburger Pimp's Theme. A couple years ago, I saw Moore introduce the film in person at the Egyptian. He walked into the room handing out red roses to all the girls in the theater! Anyway, during the Q&A, he told the story of casting the Hamburger Pimp. The guy they cast was not an actor, but an actual junky haning out on the street near where they were filming. You can probably guess how this story goes. He filmed half his scenes, then refused to continue unless they scored him some dope. So in the middle of filming, the director had to go score heroin for the guy!

Moore's comedy routines include "toasting" or "signifying"--the recital of storytelling poetry--and he carried these routines into the Dolemite films. Moore probably didn't write any of these routines. "The Signifyin' Monkey," which he recites in the film's climactic scene, can be found in similar forms in the early 20th century (oops, had to edit that--I said "this century." Come on, Chris, we're 8 years into a new one!), and can be traced back to African mythology.

the sequel, The Human Tornado, is even crazier, and more clearly a comedy, but I like the more deadpan humor of the original (just as I find the straight-faced Evil Dead funnier than it's slapstick sequel). The Avenging Disco Godfather and Petey Wheatstraw, The Devil's Son-in-Law, are also pretty funny. He made some more sequels to Dolemite in his later years, although I haven't watched any of them. He's also produced a pile of raunchy comedy albums and a few kickin' rhythm and blues records. Here's a good one, probably from the late 50's, courtesy of Rev. Frost:


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