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A fond farewell to Rudy Ray Moore

Comedian, singer, movie producer and blaxploitation legend Rudy Ray Moore died yesterday morning due to complications from diabetes. Moore began his 60+ year career in entertainment as an R&B singer. But in barber shops and on street corners he was known for reciting traditional rhyming legends about tall tale characters like Dolemite and Shine, the black survivor of the Titanic. People liked his recitations so much he decided to put them on record and sell them himself, and a comedy career was born. To call Moore's comedy obscene would be an understatement. His main topics are the female and male genitals and their activities. In a never-ending quest for the most ridiculous thing to brag about he often finds himself talking about feats such as having sex with an elephant or eating nine tons of cat shit without getting sick. One of his most famous comedy albums is called Eat Out More Often, but he is, it could be said, not respectful of women. Still, his stories and jokes are so ridiculous, so over the top, that even if you're initially uncomfortable you'll have a hard time not laughing. And his stories are mostly told in rhyme, often with a soulful backup band. But of course the reason we at Scarecrow love Rudy Ray Moore is his movies. A true independent artist, Moore self-financed his films starting with the legendary Dolemite, which translated his best known routine into a pimps and hoes vs. The Man blaxploitation tale. Moore's movies have a very unique feel - they have all the funky music, goofy clothes, cars and jive talking that young people get a kick out of in vintage blaxploitation, but they're way more extreme and ridiculous than the others because they're not meant to be serious. The filmmaking is hilariously sloppy and the fight scenes are unbelievable - let's just say that the slightly portly Moore is not entirely convincing as a karate master. One of Moore's catch-phrases is "Bitch, are you for REAL?" and that is also a pretty good description of the reaction many newcomers have to his movies. The characters in Moore's routines are mythical tall tale figures capable of supernatural acts on the level of Hercules or Pecos Bill. For example, when Dolemite encounters the Rocky Mountains he says, "Mountains, what y'all gonna do?" and they say, "We gonna part, Mr. Dolemite, and let your bad ass through." On the screen this is not generally depicted literally, but he does work in many outrageous boasts ("when I see a ghost, I cut the mothafucka") and often rhymes ("Man, move over and let me pass 'fore they have be to pullin' these Hush Puppies out your mothafuckin' ass!"). But Moore is at his most mythical in my personal favorite, Petey Wheatstraw, the Devil's Son-in-law. The movie opens with a preposterous depiction of Petey's earthshaking birth (turns out he was not "born in a barrel of butcher knives" as he brags in the poem) and the story has him making a deal with the devil to marry his daughter, and having to get out of it because he thinks she's ugly. I don't know of any other movie like this one. The Dolemite routine ends with Dolemite's funeral: "The preacher said, 'Ashes to ashes, and dust to dust.' Said, 'I'm glad this little bad muthafucka called Dolemite is no longer here with us!'" Well, we don't agree with that last part. essential viewing: DOLEMITE - Obviously this is the one that started it all, and the one most central to understanding Rudy Ray Moore. THE HUMAN TORNADO - This Dolemite sequel is arguably better than the original. You have to especially appreciate the scene where he jumps off a hill naked and is so proud of the stunt he rewinds it and shows it again. PETEY WHEATSTRAW, THE DEVIL'S SON-IN-LAW - Rudy outsmarts Satan himself. You have to wonder if he's trying to pull something like this right now. RUDE - If you want an idea of Moore's comedy, this is his 1982 concert film. If you don't like his jokes you might still get a kick out of the way they keep unconvincingly cutting to footage of audience members laughing way too hard.