Your upcoming book Thank You for Letting Me Be Myself - in a
few words, what's it going to be about?
is the authorized biography of comedian and filmmaker Rudy Ray Moore.
Most people know him as his character Dolemite.
The book covers
every aspect of his life and career, from his poor and abusive
childhood, his life-long struggle for relevance through now being a
household name, thanks to the Eddie Murphy film Dolemite
is My Name.
For the uninitiated among my readers, what can you
tell us about Rudy Ray Moore's impact on pop culture and about his legacy?
worked hard to be a success and tried to achieve that any way he could.
Singing, dancing, comedian, filmmaker… He really hit big in the early
to mid- 1970’s with some widely popular explicit comedy albums and his
films (Dolemite, The Human
Tornado, Petey Wheatstraw and Disco Godfather). His material was based in African American verbal
traditions, largely spoken in rhyme and accompanied by music. In the
1980’s he was nearly forgotten, but all of the up-and-coming rappers
had been exposed to him by their fathers, uncles, etc. and took great
influence from his work. Artists like 2 Live Crew, NWA, Ice-T, Dr. Dre,
Too Short, pretty much everyone, began to sample and reference him, and
in some cases even include him on their albums. He would become known as
“The Godfather of Rap” for this influence.
how would you describe Rudy Ray Moore as a filmmaker, and some of your
favourite and least favourite movies of his?
films were made on incredibly low budgets. Dolemite
cost him $140,000
and over a year of work to get that film distributed across the country.
He knew he had an audience and he risked everything he had to make that
film. Yes, they are poorly made and it shows on the screen, but his
films have heart. They are totally outrageous and unlike anything out
there really. You can laugh at them and with them at the same time, but
they all are entertaining in so many ways. Rudy’s and my personal
favorite was his second film The Human Tornado. At the end of the 70’s
he tried to clean up his image a bit, and that film, The Disco
Godfather, was a commercial failure. I love it for many reasons, but it
was Moore’s least favorite because it ended his film career.
From what I
know, you've been working on Thank You for Letting Me Be Myself for
close to three decades now - so what inspired you to write a book about
Rudy Ray Moore in the first place? And what do you think makes you the
perfect man to write about him?
I first saw Dolemite
in 1991 at 17 years of age, I was awestruck. It was
so insane to me, and it’s my nature to find out everything I possibly
can when I become interested in something. There was no information on
him available then but I discovered he was a comedian, had more movies
and just kept digging. Luckily, I was able to track him down just a
couple years later and began to help promote and support him any way I
could. Having an official webpage
was one of those ways. In 2001, he agreed for me to write his biography,
but it was a struggle as he was often times not cooperative when it came
to subjects that were painful to him, like his childhood. Even after his
passing in 2008, I continued to put all the puzzle pieces together until
I had the entire story. Nearly everyone who was around Rudy and involved
in his career during the 60’s and 70’s has long passed and I was
fortunately enough to not only interview them all, but also become close
to many of them individually, and all of that is a major part of this
project. It’s not just an author paraphrasing statements. All of these
people, Rudy included, have their voice in this story.
According to my
information, you've been friends with Rudy Ray Moore from the 1990s to his
death in 2008 - so what kind of a person was he privately?
I mentioned, Rudy was private and often very reserved. He was also very
sensitive and not like his public persona of Dolemite. It was hard
at times to get through that protective shell. There were many times
when I had to really push him to open up and he would usually get very
angry with me, but those were the moments when deeper truths and
emotions would come forward. His main concern in life was his career and
he never stopped working or trying to get that next project going.
from knowing Rudy Ray Moore personally, what can you tell us about the
research you've done for Thank You for Letting Me Be Myself?
made a promise to him that his story would be told and that I would do
everything I could to keep his legacy alive. I always said the book
needed to be “right, not rushed,” so I waited patiently for the
things that I needed to become available. From making a necessary
contact, finding some paperwork or a script and for other things to
happen like his biofilm Dolemite
is My Name to be made. There was an
order I felt necessary for everything to fall in line. This book is that
final part. Outside of hundreds of hours of interviews with dozens and
dozens of people, I’ve scoured every possible newspaper article,
magazine article, book, film and whatever else I could find for even the
most minute of details. I’ve spent thousands of hours and three
decades of my life to complete this project.
were some of the most surprising things you've found out about Rudy Ray
Moore while doing your research for the book?
don’t know if this was the most surprising, but I really connected
personally with Rudy and his story by just how determined he was. The
deeper I got into his story, I really was in awe of that determination.
He just did not quit and his failures far outweigh his successes. He’s
become a champion now of believing in yourself and to just keep pushing
forward if you believe you have something. Eddie Murphy called him
“the loser who refused to lose.”
research, what can you tell us about the actual writing process?
been laborious really as I felt it was necessary to create not only a
document of Moore’s life and career, but also the need to put
everything into historic/cultural context. To fully understand his
story, we really need to know what was going on around him, who he was
acquainted or working with. He truly was one of a kind and largely
dismissed because of the language and sexual nature of his comedy and
low budget films. He was and continues to be an inspiration to so many,
and because he never gave up on himself, I kept plugging away at this
book, no matter how long it took me. Basically, I felt his story was
important enough to dedicate thirty years of my life to and I would give
it more if it was necessary.
currently running a fundraiser for the physical release of Thank You
for Letting Me Be Myself - so what can you tell us about your
campaign, and what will the money actually go to?
its minimum, I’m basically looking for 1,000 people to support and
make this a physical reality. Of course, I believe Moore’s story
should be read by millions. If it gets funded at its base amount, I will
actually lose a little money on the crowdfunding campaign but will have
a couple hundred books to sell afterwards when all is said and done.
Moore made all his projects happen by sheer determination, and I always
envisioned this book happening the same way. He always said “you take
your product to the people and they will decide if it is a hit,” so I
am doing just that to see if his fans want this story to be told. In a
way, this is my ultimate tribute to Rudy trying to make my project
happen in a “grass roots” way. In his honor, I launched this
crowdfunding campaign on what would have been his birthday, 3/17.
In 2019 you were the lead historian on the Eddie Murphy
starring bio-pic Dolemite
is My Name - so what can you tell us about your work on that
movie, and your thoughts on the outcome, also in comparison to your book?
was already in touch with the writers, Scott Alexander and Larry
Karaszewski, who were known fans of Moore’s work. They of course knew
of my book and when the film finally began to get moving they brought me
in. I shared my writings, research and contacts as needed, and they wrote
a fabulous script. During my set visit the cast and crew were all truly
incredible, and I’m biased of course, but the film came out much better
than I thought it ever would. Netflix flew me down for a screening in
their offices before it was released and I honestly cried while I
watched it. Rudy deserved this and I had been pushing his legacy forward
for so long, not that I am solely responsible for all of this, but it
was finally happening. Eddie Murphy, possibly the most famous man on the
planet, was playing Rudy and that movie did something that myself or my
book could never do, introduce Moore and a part of his story to millions
of people around the world. I later saw another advance screening with
Jimmy Lynch and Ben Taylor, the only living participants from that part
of Moore’s life who are portrayed in the film. They both were very
happy and loved it as well. I can’t imagine a better endorsement than
future projects beyond Thank You for Letting Me Be Myself you'd
like to share?
in the initial stages of my next book, another authorized biography,
this time on Gloria Leonard, an icon of 1970’s and early 80’s adult
films. She was a pioneer, a mother and a free speech activist. She even
created “phone sex”, but there is so much more to her story as well.
I’m excited to get that one rolling, but I swear it will not take me
three decades to complete. I have all the materials I need basically. I
joke that I will have taken on the most difficult and easiest book
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
book's website, social media, Kickstarter, whatever else?
available from 3/17/2021 – 4/15/2021: www.kickstarter.com/projects/mjmurray/thank-you-for-letting-me-be-myself
for the interview!