The Wetlands. Sept. 23, 2000. Rudy Ray Moore sat at the merchandise table selling goods and signing whatever before he and a full band started the show. Accompanied to the center of the stage by some fine young women who helped him off with his coat, Rudy was ready to go. He performed many of his old R&B songs, along with his patented style of X-rated comedy. The man can still put on a show.
Rudy, you can still put on a show.
Marc, I am so delighted that people received me and showed so much love. Let me tell you, I have been a comedian for 30-odd years. Those [R&B songs] were my 10" I released on Norton Records. I hadn't performed them in 35 years because I had made my popularity from stand-up. So when I went out to sing these tunes I had to apply some energy to it and I'm so delighted I got it across.
Compare your audience now and from the '70s.
My audience now is a total crossover. In the '70s I had no whites in my audience.
How do you feel about that?
Great. Because financially it works better for me that way than it did with just a black artist appeal. The money is owned by both sides, but there's a great deal of money on the white side. I've made a lot of money, especially with products. Some people came over on Saturday night, some of them bought 4 or 5 different items, tee-shirts and everything. And then I noticed my audience was primarily a white audience.
How long were you writing songs before comedy?
I was doing these songs from 1956-1970. I recorded all those records Ñ gorgeous records Ñ and I did not have the money to pay to get them played. I know some of them would have made it for me. But I stood in the shadows of Pat Boone and other white rock 'n' rollers. And I was not able to come through. So I went into comedy in the '70s and I hit solid with almost a million selling albums with no airplay. So it got stuck in that groove.
Is it true that you paid for your first comedy album by yourself?
I paid for it. And it only cost me $253.
That's quite an investment.
Record people made fun of me. They said, "Rudy, you will never get that record off the ground." I walked the streets and handed it out to people and stores started calling for it like mad. This man called me two days later and said "Bring me a thousand copies." He said, "Rudy, I'm so sorry, I guess I just didn't know what you had." That record that they made fun of me is now on Capitol Records.
Those records then influenced Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy, right?
Yes. Richard Pryor come along at an early age after me. But I encouraged him to do x-rated comedy. He was not doing it in his early years because he was appearing on the Ed Sullivan Show. And four years after I had popularized this comedy he jumped on it. And a lot of times people like Don Cornelius give him the credit of being the backbone of the Def Jam and the new comedian out there. But I am the world's first comedian to use explicit four-letter words on party records.
Did you start off on x-rated material?
I decided to do it becasue I knew I could get a hit like that. But I was really afraid because it had never been done with hard four-letter words on a record. Redd Foxx would say "ass" and things like that, but he never used the "MF" word or the "F" word. He never used that. When I did it, it broke through like hotcakes. All other comedians started following my trend. Including Richard Pryor Ñ the only one that ever hit besides me solid with four-letter comedy.
How do you feel about the resurgence of Dolemite?
It has been strong for 12 years. I'll tell you when it came back to light. There was a group called the 2 Live Crew. They sampled one of my albums. And people said "Oh Rudy, I like your new record." I said I have no new record. They said, "Man, I know your voice anywhere." They took me in the booth where the disc jockey was playing it and I heard this record with the 2 Live Crew. I went out on the road and worked from this record. I said, "Ladies and gentlemen, I'm out to do my brand new record." And I started coming back. Then a little later here comes Eazy E with his NWA group. They sampled me. Then in '89 I was sampled by other artists. Then I come to New York and worked with Big Daddy Kane. So it has been rising for quite a while. I did the Arsenio Hall Show and a bunch of things. So it has been on the rise for at least 12 solid years.
What does the name Dolemite come from?
Dolemite comes from the vitamin that you take to get strength. And I said, "Well I already have strength, so I am Dolemite."
How did you get involved in Big Money Hustlas?
I haven't seen the film yet. They had no script for me. I had to improvise and write my own lines. Although I was treated so royal by the Insane Clown Posse. Those boys come up and tip me graciously for performing with them. And they took care of me graciously. I don't know how they put it together, they just let me adlib. I got to look at it.
How about Dolemite 2000?
This is called The Return of Dolemite 2001. And it is awesome. Totally awesome. I am definitely going to show the film industry and show them how rude they have been to me as an artist. I'm going to show them that I can take a molehill and make a mountain out of it. I can take the power of the people and make it work into what you'd call total greatness. 'Cause strong as I am in this film, I guarantee people will come and support it.
Will it have the same campiness as the originals?
Yes. Only updated in structure. The fight scenes are done by a great martial arts choreographer from Taiwan. They'll be climbing walls, and walking up the sides of them, and jumping down and doing a helluva battle. So it's got all of the ingredients my audience I'm sure will love. What others do with millions of dollars I do with chump change.
Did you ever actually study kung-fu?
A little bit from martial arts director Howard Jackson. He's in the original Dolemite.
What was your favorite blaxploitation-era movie?
I don't like the term blaxploitation. Just say black movie. I don't like the word exploitation. I exploited nothing. I did a movie that would appeal to an audience Ñ at that time which was a black audience. I didn't exploit us. So when you say blaxploitation, I would rather you ask me which was my favorite movie.
Which was your favorite movie?
Two or three of them. I felt the energy that I portrayed bled off of Max Julien's The Mack. I liked Superfly with Ron O'Neal. Another one I like is Richard Pryor in Which Way Is Up? But my number one favorite I would have to say from film quality, music structure, is Superfly.
How do feel being The Godfather of Rap?
Well, The Godfather of Rap. I should be that. Due to the fact that I have influenced so many rappers. Even no later than a few months ago, they took my body and put it in Dirty 'Ol Bastard's video and put his head behind my body and he's rapping to the movement of my body. Which is a great feeling that that influence is spread all around. And I influenced, I'd say, Dr. Dre, because he used six samples on his smash hit The Chronic from my party records. And Eazy E used many samples in NWA. Too numerous for me to name all the artists. But I did rap live with Busta Rhymes. They sent for me to come to New York. I did a session with him. I did another session with Eric B. and Rakim. So they all consider me The Godfather of Rap.
Is it true that you planned to run for president and change the White House to the Black House?
I did run for president. I had a small campaign. But after I found out that Bush was leading so strongly I backed out.
Do you think there will ever be a Black House?
Very easily. I live in a black house now. My house was white and I painted it black.
How often do you still perform?
I perform every week. Sometimes two or three times a week. I'm gonna cut back some because they're working me too hard. I've got a lot of jobs offered to me. I hate to turn them down because I enjoy doing them but it's a little too hard. So much energy I supply.
What's next for Rudy Ray Moore?
After The Return of Dolemite I will do another film. Possibly The Return of Petey Wheatstraw. And possibly a film, The Return of the Mack with Max Julien.
You're a busy man!
I don't intend to quit. Then I'm gonna do The Undisputed, Original Kings of Comedy. I don't like Steve Harvey, Cedric the Entertainer, Bernie Mack, and D.L. Hughley, new comedians on the market today calling themselves the originals. That hurts me. Because they are not the original kings. I would pat them on the back and say they are the New Kings of Comedy. But don't take the "original" away from me and Redd Foxx. So I'm disgusted with that. But I have to take my hat off to Steve Harvey and the kings of comedy, the non- original kings of comedy.
Did you ever expect this kind of lasting popularity?
No, let me tell you what I expected. I expected the movie Dolemite to have played a theater run, and afterward it would die and that would be the end of it. That's like many of the black films that have come out. You can't give some of them away. Dolemite was one of the last expensive pictures from that era still sells. Box sets. DVDs. I never dreamed that it would last.¥
Photo ©2000, Liz Steger photography
Back Cover #74