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Rudy Ray Moore, “The Godfather of Rap”, pioneering independent auteur and comedian, and creator of the black action hero, Dolemite, is dead at 81.

The entertainment maverick died in Ohio of complications from pneumonia.  According to a spokesman for his longtime collaborator and distributor Xenon Pictures, he had been in declining health over the last several years, suffering a stroke in 2006, along with chronic diabetes and kidney problems.  Rudy remained unstoppable until the end, and was seen in Las Vegas just before his passing on his motorized scooter, wearing a sequined blazer and playing poker.  He is survived by his two siblings, daughter Rusty, and his 95-year-old mother Yvette.

Rudy Ray Moore was a classic symbol of cool, whose appeal defied racial, generational and national boundaries.  Fans of comedy, hip hop, punk rock, and independent film consider him both a hero and a spokesperson for the independent spirit.  His likeness, seen in cartoons and ads for Altoids, is instantly recognized by iconoclasts of all ages.  A virtual pioneer of the D.I.Y. ethic, Rudy produced and distributed his own records and movies outside the system for over 50 years.  This freedom allowed him to present his uniquely hilarious, X-rated vision of the world, which continues to be a strong influence on contemporary filmmakers like Robert Rodriguez and the Hudlin Brothers.

Filmmaker Quentin Tarantino, hip-hop icon Snoop Dogg and film star Eddie Murphy consider Rudy to be a major creative force.  He’s been sampled dozens of times by N.W.A., the Beastie Boys, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, Too Short, Busta Rhymes and Dr. Dre on his chart-busting CD The Chronic.  He appeared in a recent video by the band Cobra Verde, a video game with Insane Clown Posse, and continues to garner tens of thousands of hits on YouTube.com and on music download sites.  His live performances, which attracted sell-out crowds made up primarily of 18 – 34-year-old Caucasians, continued up until his death, and at a recent event, several Goth girls asked him to autograph their breasts.  What makes these events even more incredible is that thirty-five years ago, Rudy played to exclusively black audiences.  His creative vision and hilarious persona, tested over decades, remains timeless and accessible to anyone with a wild sense of humor, despite their race.

Rudy Ray Moore was the oldest of seven children, born March 17, 1927 in Fort Smith, Arkansas.  The family moved to Cleveland when Rudy was 15, and it was there, after seeing a local talent contest, that he decided to become an entertainer.  In addition to his singing ability, which he had developed in church, Rudy also studied modern dance and began making the rounds of night clubs and talent shows.

His career began in the 1950s as an R&B singer, but racism, coupled with heavy competition from white performers of the day such as Pat Boone, made it almost impossible for him to break into the mainstream.  But rejection always drove Rudy to new heights of ingenuity and resourcefulness.  He reinvented himself as a comedian, producing some of the most influential comedy records of all time.  He left Cleveland for Los Angeles in the early sixties and worked at the legendary Dolphin’s of Hollywood record store as a DJ on the store’s in-house radio station, and as an MC at the California Club.  It was there that he honed his chops and molded what would become his trademark material.  His party records, Below the Belt (1959), and The Beatnik Scene (1962), among others, featured the first expletive-filled, “adults only” humor to fall on the public’s ears, opening doors for the likes of Richard Pryor and Redd Foxx, and inspiring a whole new generation of comedians like Eddie Griffin, the late Sam Kinison, and Eddie Murphy.  He also joined forces and worked the clubs with comedienne LaWanda Page, who would find fame in her recurring role on as Aunt Esther on “Sanford and Son”.  Their close friendship would endure until her death in 2002.

Rudy and his collaborators drove through big-city and small-town streets with their car trunks stocked with his albums.  He toured tirelessly from one side of the country to the other.  His grassroots marketing campaigns proved to be quite successful and opened doors to future success.  His two 1970 releases, Eat Out More Often and This Pussy Belongs to Me, charted concurrently on the Billboard R&B Top 50, a record industry first.  One of Rudy’s best-known monikers (along with “King of the Party Records” and “High Sheriff of Hell”) is the well-deserved “Godfather of Rap”.  His early party records feature what Rudy calls “toasts”—rhyming, over-the-top folk tales like “The Signifying Monkey” and “Shine and the Great Titanic”—which were recited against a musical background, creating some of the first rap records ever made.  Rudy kicked down the door for every rapper today, making him an object of reverence for younger artists.  Snoop Dogg has said, “If he wasn’t here there wouldn’t be no rap community…we should cherish every moment we spend with Rudy Ray Moore.”  Said Layzie Bone of Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, “We can’t get away from him because he is our roots.”  Proving that there is some justice in the world, Rudy’s early R&B recordings were compiled on the 1991 release Hully Gully Fever, which became an instant classic.

As seminal as his records are, Rudy’s true influence can be seen in his movies, which are prime examples of blaxploitation, giving back the “street cred” to a genre that had been diluted by major studio productions like Shaft and Superfly.  By the early 1970s, Rudy was not content being a successful comedian, and decided to seek film stardom.  Using the money he made from sales of his albums and from ceaseless touring of night clubs on the “Chit’lin’ Circuit”, Rudy went on to produce his first film, Dolemite (1975), which was recently deemed “The Citizen Kane of blaxploitation” by The New York Times.  He said of that time, “I would never have got on the screen unless I put myself on it”.  Always ahead of the curve, Rudy knew what the public wanted years before of the film industry did—Dolemite grossed $5,200,000 (modern equivalent: $26,000,000) in its first three months.  Dolemite presented audiences with an empowered and fearless black action hero, irresistible to woman and a scourge to the enemies of his people.  Said Rudy: ”‘Stead of them kickin’ me in the ass, I’m kickin’ them in the ass.”

Daniel Robert Epstein wrote on Suicidegirls.com, “‘Rudy Ray Moore is Dolemite.’ When these five words came across movie screens back in 1975, they made history.  Film history, black history, everyone’s history!”

Among the many highlights of the film are Rudy’s outrageous insults, such as “you born insecure, rat-soup-eatin’ motherf**ker”, which have appeared as samples on records by Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, and N.W.A; and his eye-popping fashion sense, which included wildly colorful suits, animal prints and wide-brimmed hats, giving birth to the “pimp chic” look.  The film also introduced Rudy’s discoveries, singer James Ingram and actor Ernie Hudson.  Since then, screenings of Dolemite continue to sell out in places like Montreal and Seattle, while Xenon Pictures has sold over one million units since the company’s inception (some video-store owners admitted having to constantly reorder Dolemite because it was their most stolen title).

Rudy’s follow-up films, The Human Tornado, Petey Wheatstraw: The Devil’s Son-in-Law and Disco Godfather, are also heralded as classics of the genre.  According to actor/rapper Ice-T, “These are some of the maddest films of all time—as a black actor, he’s the greatest.”  As further proof of the enduring impact of these films, director Quentin Tarantino chose The Human Tornado to be screened at his 2007 Grindhouse Festival in Los Angeles.  Even “Tonight Show” host Jay Leno regularly uses clips from the film on his show.

Rudy’s audacity and ambition, on both a business and a creative level, earned him an ever-expanding audience over the years, and a presence in both mainstream and underground culture.  His image has been used in advertisements for Altoids, while he’s also name-checked by the likes of Wu-Tang Clan.  His sold-out shows attracted youthful crowds that enthusiastically adored his bold humor, lining up at his appearances for his merchandise and autograph.  Dozens of websites, run by iconoclasts of all ages, often selling merchandise with bootlegged images, are dedicated exclusively to Rudy.  Rudy’s films are among Xenon Pictures’ bestselling titles, and the current explosion of interest in exploitation cinema, evidenced by the 2007 Tarantino/Rodriguez release Grindhouse, pushed Rudy farther into the spotlight.  However, success never meant selling out.  Moore’s distributor Xenon Pictures worked with Miramax in 2001 to offer him sizable deal, but Rudy refused it because he could not “bow down to the man.”

Wherever there was a venue that wanted him, Rudy was there—and many did, right up until the end.  His 80th birthday was celebrated at conventions and theaters across the country, with Rudy appearing at every one.  Tireless, eccentrically visionary, and a true survivor, Rudy Ray Moore was an American original.

 

REVIEWS FOR THIRSTY? LA

Astro Burger
7475 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood, CA 90046
323-874-8041
http://www.astroburger.com

Type/Category: Fast food

Hours: Sun.-Thurs. 7 a.m.-3 a.m., Fri.-Sat. 7 a.m.-4 a.m.

Price range: $-$$

Parking: Small but adequate parking lot. Also some parking on both Santa Monica and Gardner.

Payment method: Cash

Unique drinks: Pineapple shake

Food: Burgers of all kinds, hot dogs, sandwiches, fried chicken, steaks, salads, Greek and Mexican specialties, and a menu for vegetarians and vegans. Most popular items include the bacon-avocado cheeseburger, onion rings, fried zucchini w/ranch dressing.

Seating: Approximately 50 inside, 25-30 on the patio

Ambiance/Clientele: Classic fast-food restaurant décor, including the requisite chrome and formica tables with vinyl-covered seats. This is a popular after-hours hangout, especially on weekends. All kinds of characters show up there, including some of the ex-men who patrol Santa Monica Blvd., though very family-friendly during daylight and evening hours.

Extras/Notes: Astro Burger is one of the rare fast food joints that caters to the LA demographic, with menu items for carnivores, vegans, and just about everybody else. Good food for the price, and they will take special orders, so if you can get your sandwich any way you want.

Taix French Country Cuisine
1911 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles 90026
(213) 484-1265
http://www.taixfrench.com

Type/Category: Restaurant/Lounge

Hours: Mon - Thur 11:30am - 10:00pm, Friday 11:30am - 11:00pm, Saturday 12:00pm - 11:00pm, Sunday 12:00pm - 9:00pm

Price range: $$

Parking: Large valet parking lot and plenty of street parking besides

Payment method: Cash, Visa, MasterCard

Popular drinks: Taix has a large selection of domestic and imported wines, along with a regionally-brewed house ale.

Food: Nice selection of classic French cuisine, along the lines of escargot, coq au vin and chocolate mousse. Their soups du jour are worth the trip alone. Among them is a clam chowder that’s loved by people who don’t like clam chowder. They’re probably best known for their rotisserie chicken dinner, a rather large meal at a very reasonable price.

Seating: Seemingly infinite. Besides the main dining rooms, there are several banquet rooms, and the 321 Lounge.

Ambiance/Clientele: The décor is mid-century mid-priced restaurant, popular with all ages, especially for birthdays and other special occasions. The 321 Lounge hosts live music several nights a week, and attracts all sorts over 21.

Extras/Notes: Arguably, Taix’s biggest selling point is their bang-for-the-buck dinners, which include crudites, French bread, organic mixed green salad, soup, entrée, and sorbet, all for $2 or $3 more than the entrée alone. The 321 Lounge is a good place to see live music, especially because there’s no cover or minimum—so why not have a drink or two? There’s also Happy Hour 5 days a week with some great prices on wine, beer and snacks.

The Buccaneer Lounge
70 Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre, CA 91024
(626) 355-9045
www.myspace.com/piratedive

Type/Category: Neighborhood Bar

Hours: 11:00 am - 2:00 am

Price range: $-$$

Parking: Street parking in front, large parking lot in back

Payment method: Cash only (there’s an ATM across the street)

Popular drinks: Beer! A decent selection in bottles and on tap. They keep their taps exceptionally clean, and have possibly the best-tasting Newcastle this side of the Atlantic. They also pride themselves on their stiff mixed drinks

Food: No

Seating: Table and chairs that accommodate around 40 people, and plenty of bar stools.

Ambiance/Clientele: Lots of pirate art, jukebox, pool table; clientele is mostly neighborhood folk.

Extras/Notes: Established in 1960, the Buccaneer is one of the SGV’s favorite watering holes. They host live music on Friday &

Saturday nights starting at 9 pm (they raise the drink prices a bit to pay the bands). There’s also a juke box packed with some great classic, alternative and punk rock.

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