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The Legend of Dolemite
with Gaydar

The great thing about film festivals is that it's the only time you can really expect to see a bunch of documentaries and short films, and quite frequently, you'll see one of each on a program.

This year's Cinequest film festival gave us a great treat with a double bill that worked together against all odds. The story of blaxploitation legend Rudy Ray Moore, The Legend of Dolemite, followed the short subject Gaydar, and both brought the audience to its knees.

Gaydar is the story of a flaming gent, brilliantly played by New York actor Terry Ray, who visits the yard sale of a jilted lover, played by JM J. Bullock, who sells all his former lover's stuff.

At the sale, he finds a Gaydar gun, a gun which allows anyone to discover the true sexuality of anyone just by shooting them with the ray. It's a great gimmick, as he goes through magazines checking on everyone's favorite stars, and he even discovers that it works on cats. He takes it back to the office to see what team the office hotty bats for, when the real fun of the short begins.

The short does use a ton of standard gay jokes, but they are so sincere you can't help but forgive it with a belly laugh. The appearance of Charles Nelson Reilly adds to the hijinx. The short plays very well and had the audience eating out of its hand.

Writer and star Terry Ray was in attendance and explained that the film was funded by hosting yard sales, selling stuff on Ebay, and even hosting a bingo night. He shot on the leftover ends of 35mm film, which gave him no more than 2 minutes for any one take. Impressive that it came out half this well, and the fact that it looks like a million bucks is even more impressive.

From a gay short to an ultra-raunchy, ultra-dope, fine, fine, superfine documentary on the life and times of Rudy Ray Moore, the Disco Godfather, the Human Tornado, or just simply Dolemite. From his beginnings as a recording artist, through his high life in the days of his movie career, to the days when he would appear on rap albums and TV programs, The Legend of Dolemite is as entertaining as the movies it details. Sections of the films are mixed with shots of risqué album covers, shots of his nightclub appearances, and interviews with everyone from the Late Easy-E, and Snoop Dog, to John Landis and Robert Townsend. Every interview gives the impression that Moore left a much bigger mark than anyone would have ever guessed.

The language is as rough as it could be. F-bombs, P-words, and even a few terms I've never come across pop up throughout the clips, though when they interview Rudy himself, he keeps it clean, and comes off as eloquent as Ozzy Davis would.

His manner is controlled, confident, and most of all, realistic. He objects to the term "blaxploitation" as crass, saying that no one ever accuses the Godfather of being Italploitation. He makes a good point, and the force of his words, combined with the strength of his personality, hits hard.

The documentary is made in a TV friendly style, with a look that could easily land it on HBO, the only choice as the language would make Tony Soprano himself blush. The look is clean, but there is still the edge of the Dolemite pictures evident in the composition of the interviews. Ice-T sits in a chair that looks like it could have been straight out of Petey Wheatstraw, in a suit that screams Dolemite far louder than it does Cop Killer.

His nightclub routines were detailed and show a man fast on his feet. Even now, well past 60, Rudy's delivery is perfect, impassioned and harsh. His 30 minute set at Cinequest was brutal, targeting members of the audience for his stabs, and getting huge laughs from the entire audience. While the audience was made up of 80% Silicon Valley white folk, Rudy hit his target on every move, and went out to an amazing reception.

If you get a chance to see either of this films, do it. You can order The Legend of Dolemite on line, and Gaydar can be found on several sites around the web. If you are looking for a lot of exploitation laughs, these are two sure-fire starting points.

All in all, a great night that could have asked for a two drink minimum and I wouldn't have complained.

Chris Garcia

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