Friday, October 24, 2008

Dolemite R.I.P.

Rudy Ray Moore, the comedian best known for playing Dolemite (a parody of blaxploitation heroes) passed Sunday. The cause was complications from diabetes. He was 81 years old.

Rudy Ray Moore was born Rudolph Frank Moore on March 17, 1927 in Fort Smith, Arkansas. As a teenager he moved to Cleveland. He initially peeled potatoes and washed dishes for a living. While there he won a talent contest. Moore was draughted in 1950.

After being discharged from the Army, Moore performed both as a dancer and even recorded some records as a singer. Eventually he moved into comedy, releasing a few comedy records in the Sixties. He practised a raunchy brand of comedy not unlike that of Richard Pryor, a situation which prevented him from appearing on television. It was while working at a record store that he listened to a regular named Rico's stories of Dolemite. Moore incorporated Dolemite into his routines. In 1975, towards the end of the blaxploitation cycle, he financed the film Dolemite, playing the title role. The film incorporated such blaxploitation hallmarks as a pimp hero and plenty of martial arts. It was followed by a sequel, The Human Tornado.

The Dolemite movies were the height of Moore's success. He would continue to release comedy records well into the Naughts. And he would appear in a few more films, such as Disco Godfather, B*A*P*S, and Shoeshine Boys.

The raunchiness of much of his material probably kept Rudy Ray Moore from mainstream success. Most of the dialogue in the Dolemite films could not repeated on network television or the average newspaper. But he was one of the funniest comics of his time. And with Dolemite he developed a hilarious parody of blaxploitation films that sent up nearly every cliche of the genre. Ironically, his act would have an impact on rap music, but I hardly think that can be held against him. To this day the man maintains a cult following among fans of good comedy and the character of Dolemite.

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