Your grandparents and aunts, and uncles can probably share many stories with you of growing up in South Central Los Angeles. As many migrated here from the South, they landed in the SouthLA/Watts area. Growing up, Central Avenue was the epicenter of Black LA.
The corridor along Central Avenue, particularly between 41st and Vernon, was home to several long time Black establishments synonymous with entertainment and politics.
In the 60’s, 41st and Central was home to the Black Panthers. A documentary was made on their infamous battle with the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) that this author went to see a half dozen times.
At the corner of Central and Vernon was Dolphin’s of Hollywood, popular record store that featured a radio station and late night parties. It was owned by John Dolphin. At the time African-Americans weren’t “allowed” past Central Avenue, so he named his store Dolphin’s of Hollywood.
The record store became world famous for its being open 24 hours and their radio station featuring on-air interviews.
The life of Dolphin was turned into a 2016 stage play “Recorded in Hollywood” by his son.
Dolphin’s is also where Rudy Ray Moore worked and befriended a neighborhood fellow, who frequented the store, as the one who introduced Moore to the raunchy character Dolemite.
In the middle of 41st and Vernon lied the Dunbar Hotel at 4225 Central Avenue. The Dunbar was THE premiere location for Black jazz artists in the 1930’s and 1940’s.
As Moore’s popularity grew, from his stand-up Dolemite routine, he decided he wanted to bring his act to the big screen during the rise of blaxploitation films made by African-Americans in the 1970’s.
Moore and his friends self financed the first Dolemite movie and his “studio” was the abandoned Dunbar Hotel. Moore leveraged his lucrative royalties from his recording albums to ensure his movie was completed.
Moore poured in $300,000, of his own money, and Dolemite grossed an unprecedented $10 million dollars.
Dolemite is My Name is a movie about self-determination, friendship and hustling. Moore and his friends worked hard to see the movie to fruition and didn’t follow “mainstream” ideologies to get the project off the ground.
Eddie Murphy stars as “Dolemite” and his return to movies was nothing short of brilliant. This author likened this movie to another Murphy favorite, Bowfinger.
There was a time when African-American’s didn’t take no for an answer. They pooled their resources together and supported their own. When many white studio executives were turning Moore down, they begged for an opportunity to distribute Dolemite after its initial release.
Rudy Ray Moore is a Hollywood success story.
Dolemite is My Name is now streaming on Netflix.