Michael Flores interviews the original “King of Comedy”
Rudy Ray Moore has been a legend in the Black community for over 40 years and has been discovered by the white community with the release on video of his films: DOLEMITE, THE HUMAN TORNADO, PETEY WHEATSTRAW, DISCO GODFATHER and his live concert film, RUDE.
Before he made these films he had already built a large Black following with his record albums, which he sold without advertising or air play, doing sexually oriented material years before EDDIE MURPHY, RICHARD PRYOR, SAM KINNISON or ANDREW DICE CLAY. “EAT OUT MORE OFTEN” sold over 250,000 copies and his follow up, “DOLEMITE” sold even more and made him an instant legend. Rudy Ray Moore overcame all odds to create his films. The money he made from the record DOLEMITE went into the making of the film.
DOLEMITE opened in Atlanta and Chicago to lines around the block and became a huge hit. The critics trashed the film, but the people loved DOLEMITE and felt he had captured black street idiom.
Today RUDY RAY MOORE is still having an impact on the entertainment world. He is mentioned on a BEASTIE BOYS album, appeared in a ERIC B. AND RAKIM rap video, and he continues to tour and perform the comedy that now many comedians are trying their hand at.
FLORES: What was the comedy routine you performed that made you a hit in the Black community?
MOORE: DOLEMITE in the year 1970. I met a fellow who was a big wino when I managed a big record store. He used to come in reciting these lines about DOLEMITE which had been an expression in the Black areas for years. I’d give him money whenever he’d break into his rap so he could eat. He could only eat soft food because his teeth were so bad. I would tell him to do DOLEMITE for me and everybody in the store would start laughing. I had him put it on tape for me and hastily went to the recording studio and elaborated on these old expressions. I took it to the record store, which was called DOLPHINS in Hollywood. I put the needle on it and the customers in the store heard the first line of the album, “Some folks say Willie Green was the baddest motherfucker the world ever seen.” Immediately, a guy walked up to the counter and said, “Give it to me.” I sold 15 copies that night so I knew I had a hit. That started the rap for me.
FLORES: Had you done any comedy before?
MOORE: Yes, I was working professionally. I had tried comedy records before, but DOLEMITE was the first hit. I almost hit in the early sixties with an LP called THE BEATNIK SCENE, and I also recorded one on the Duo Tone label, which was the big Black comedy label of the time. I did an LP for them called BELOW THE BELT. That was the label that had Redd Foxx at the time.
FLORES: Did you know Redd Foxx?
MOORE: Oh yes. I’ve worked with Redd Foxx, he did blue comedy and was the biggest star for his period. He did a number called “THE RACE TRACK” but you had to read between the lines to get it. He’d say, “Pussywillow is up on my Dick, pussywillow looks very cool. My Dick is leading by a slight edge.” That kind of thing.
It wasn’t totally dirty. I was the first one to come out using actual pornography – porno phrases – and I was ahead of my time because now I see EDDIE MURPHY and ANDREW DICE CLAY doing the same material!
FLORES: EDDIE MURPHY and ANDREW DICE CLAY can do their material on cable, but there was no way TV could touch you in the 1970’s.
MOORE: No. I was so far out there that wouldn’t have happened. You know, I did a film festival at THE STRAND in San Francisco where they showed my turns THE HUMAN TORNADO and PETEY WHEATSTRAW. I was on stage live and the audience was 90% white! There was no chance of that in the 1970’s. I worked a souvenir stand in the lobby and the audience bought everything I brought with me. It was the most sensational thing to happen to me as a cross over artist. I’ve been attracting black a udiences for a long time but this was a whole new crowd. I stood there stunned for the first few minutes. When the crowd started cheering and laughing I remember thinking to myself that I never ever thought I’d be doing these jokes in front of a sold out, almost all white audience.
It has only been in the last two years that I’ve been “discovered”.
Rap acts have been dropping my name and the name DOLEMITE in their songs, the videos are available in the big chain stores. I’m not conceited but I’m convinced that I’m the greatest comedian out there doing ghetto expressions. EDDIE MURPHY said to me, “Man, I grew up on you.” Mr. Murphy has treated me like a King or something every time he meets me. He is the only one who, out of all the comedians doing dirty humor now who has given me both respect and credit.
FLORES: Did you mostly play strip clubs?
MOORE: No. The clubs I played were in the Chitlin’ circuit. A chitlin’ club was a club in the Black ghetto. Do you know what chitterlings are? They are the intestines from the hog which was all Blacks were fed during the slavery times. The master would keep the best parts of the hog and they’d give any of the parts they didn’t want to their workers. The slaves took them and cleaned them and made a delicacy out of them. Nowadays they sell them and they are very expensive. The Black man is the one who invented the chitlin’, you know, so we called the Black comedy circuit the Chitlin’ Circuit.
People had a real good time in them. They danced real close and all that stuff, you know. A little bump and grind. Like they did in 1949. You know.
FLORES: What happened to those clubs?
MOORE: You won’t believe it, but integration. Integration came in, people could go to fancy, expensive clubs and most of the chitlin’ circuit, which was Black owned, was replaced by these fancy places that didn’t do blue. The upgraded clubs did not want to expose integrated audiences to sex humor.
FLORES: Who first approached you about doing the film DOLEMITE?
MOORE: No one. I – myself, ME! Hey, as I say, I am the greatest! I am self-made. I made my own records. Put them out on my own label. In fact, when I made the DOLEMITE LP, I took it to the record distributors and they made fun of it. One said to me “What are you going to do with this piece of junk?” In front of me. I said, “Sell it.” This record distributor, three days later called and ordered 3,000 copies for his ghetto stores. And he apologized to me saying that when I played it for him he didn’t understand what it was. My luck started to change. After I did the record I took the money from the profits and shot the film myself with very little money, at least compared to Hollywood budgets. A shoe string.
The film opened in Chicago at the Woods theater. It broke records at the Woods. It took in over $17,000 on opening day at $3 a head. The last picture to do that kind of business there was a James Bond picture! It opened on Memorial Day of 1975, and the manager told me I had set an opening day record. I had to go see it myself.
FLORES: What did you see at the theater?
MOORE: They stood in line 5 deep. The theater stayed open until 3 a.m., not because the theater had bought lots oftv ads, like the Bond picture. Word of mouth in the Black ghetto was bringing in crowds of people.
I walked up and down the line with my bodyguards telling jokes to people out in the street. To thank them for standing in line. To see me live is well and good, but to come see me on film — well, I thought it was so beautiful that they came. So I walked down the line and started to do my routines. I’d spot a fat girl and say, “Oh I love those heavy girls, darlin’. You got the same thing them little skinny girls got but a damn sight more of it.” Then I’d turn to a guy talking and say, “Man, you better shut up or I’ll have this lady take one other titties and beat you to death.” Everyone in line would crack up. I had ’em whoopin’ and hollerin’ out in the street. Chicago was the greatest city for my movies. Atlanta was big too.
FLORES: This was really at the start of the 1970’s Black film movement.
MOORE: Yes. CORNBREAD, EARL AND ME was showing at the Oriental. MANDINGO was at the United Artists. Sammy Davis Jr. had a concert picture at the Michael Todd. So we had everything going for us in Chicago’s Loop. Everyone seemed to be doing something creative.
FLORES: Before Kung Fu pushed these films out of the theaters there were a lot of critics who were putting heat on your films and other Black filmmakers. Did that hurt you?
MOORE: Well, there were organizations that felt we should do turns with a message. I told some of them that if I made a turn with a message it would die at the box office the first day. The only reason I was able to survive was that I was extremely controversial. I was daring and bold.
One of my dear friends, at least I think of this critic as a dear friend, said that DOLEMITE wasn’t fit for a dog to go see! For 5 weeks they lined up to see it. Everybody wanted to see a picture that wasn’t fit for a dog to go see! I can’t get people to write anything bad on me now. That’s what I need. When people say you were the first you get respect, even from people that hate what you do. People want to read about controversy, so I think the attacks actually helped me. There are a lot of people in the ghetto who will go out of their way to see something if groups or critics attack it!
FLORES: The next album you did was DOLEMITE FOR PRESIDENT on Kent Records.
MOORE: The best of my product came out on KENT RECORDS. There’s even some music on DOLEMITE FOR PRESIDENT, which wasn’t just one routine on the album – it was the whole album. But I was running against Richard Nixon, Hubert Humphrey, McGovem – all of’em. They were all in the album.
FLORES: Did you vote for yourself in the election?
MOORE: No. I wasn’t a write-in, it was just a comedy routine!
FLORES: So you weren’t really trying to get into the office?
MOORE: Oh shit no!
FLORES: I know you did another huge selling album CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE SEX KIND.
MOORE: That was by Rudy Ray Moore, PHD. The PHD stood for PRETTY HARD DICK! On one side of the album I told a woman how to satisfy a man and on the other I told a man how to satisfy a woman. How to do what it takes. It’s very, very hard core. There weren’t any white comedians doing this stuff in the 1960’s and early 1970’s. Now I hear white girl comedians doing it on cable TV! This is based on a Black style of comedy that has always stayed popular in the ghetto comedians like LUWANDA PAGE, LADY REED and SAINT ESTHER were doing the double entendre years before these girls. It would be nice if they acknowledged where it was from.
FLORES: I know that EAT OUT MORE OFTEN and THIS PUSSY BELONGS TO ME sold over 300,000 copies without ads, radio play or TV appearances. Almost strictly by word of mouth.
MOORE: Yes. The records were in a storage place packed to the ceiling and more would come in from the packing plant and we shipped them to stores. We also sold the records through the chitlin’ circuit at my live shows, but most of the copies were sold through the community by word of mouth.
Remember, I was also handled by 32 record distributors all over the country. First I’d release it on my COMEDIAN INTERNATIONAL label, and if the record took off the KENT label would lease the record from me. I also toured with black music acts at the time. Millie Jackson, Bobby Bland and B.B. King among others.
FLORES: You not only did your own films, but appeared in some big studio films, too.
MOORE: Yes, others began to notice what I was up to. I did THE DISCO GODFATHER for MGM! I was also in a film called THE MONKEY HUSTLE for American International Pictures, which was produced by Arthur Marx and played the Roosevelt Theater in Chicago for 13 weeks. It was a big picture that also featured YAPHET KOTTO and ROSALIND CASH.
My own films were DOLEMITE, THE HUMAN TORNADO, PETEY WHEATSTRAW (aka THE DEVIL’S SON-IN-LAW), and my concert film RUDE.
FLORES: Do you think black people have different attitudes about language than white people?
MOORE: Sometimes they don’t. Now they don’t. Lenny Bruce did not even put his dirty routines on records, but I think white comedians were scared after what he went through to do blue. Lenny died all too soon. He was far out for his time, and white comedians toned down after what happened to him. So sometimes they understand street talk, sometimes they don’t, even if they use it in their everyday speech!
FLORES: In the early sixties, many southern and some northern states had laws against saying obscene words. People could get arrested for saying them in public.
MOORE: That law wasn’t enforced in black areas. In the early sixties it was rare to see policemen in black areas!
FLORES: Who influenced you when you were growing up? What made you want to be a comedian?
MOORE: Lady by the name of Cal Donia out of Cleveland, Ohio. We used to do shows together and I was able to do the whole act. In the army I was doing shows for the GIs and would MC the programs. Sometimes the acts would take longer to get ready so I started doing jokes from this lady’s act. I went over so well with it that I had to come up with my own material. I stuck with it after the Army.
I sure have enjoyed this interview, we’ll have to rap again.
FLORES: I sure hope so, or as you would say, “I ain’t lyin'”!
MOORE: Can you dig it! I ain’t lyin’ a pound. I would not lie to you baby. It’s been a ball.
FLORES: (Laughter) Alright! High 5 me!
MOORE: Right on!
Though most of his films are now widely available on videotape and even DVD, Rudy Ray Moore’s albums are difficult to find and many command high prices in used record stores. Finding them in good condition can also prove frustrating. Here’s some titles of RUDY RAY MOORE albums: CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE SEX KIND, THIS PUSSY BELONGS TO ME, EAT OUT MORE OFTEN, THE PLAYER, THE HUSTLER, DOLEMITE FOR PRESIDENT, ZODIAC, DOLEMITE IS ANOTHER CRAZY NIGGER, STREAKER, DOLEMITE and I CAN’T BELIEVE I ATE THE WHOLE THING. Look for the all new DOLOMITE 2000, coming soon!
For much more about Moore, check out the official Dolemite website, brought to you by Shocking Images.