Monday, August 11, 2008

Another Side of Isaac Hayes

Just like everyone else, I was shocked when I learned that Isaac Hayes unexpectedly died on Sunday at the age of 65. When reading the various online stories/tributes about Hayes' death, most of the writers focused on Isaac's undeniable influence on popular music and his role as the voice of "Chef" on the animated series South Park. Since I had nothing unique to add from either of those angles, I thought this would be an excellent opportunity to focus on his acting and pay tribute to my favorite Isaac Hayes' portrayal... his recurring role as badass Gandolf "Gandy" Fitch on The Rockford Files (which ran on NBC from 1974-1980).

As some of you may know, Jim Rockford knew Gandy from their days in prison. In Gandy's first appearance on the show (in the 2nd season episode "The Hammer of C Block"), he has just been released from prison (although he was innocent, he served 20 years for the murder of his girlfriend). Because Rockford owed him a lot of money from a crap game while they were locked up, Gandy came to collect. He gave Rockford (or as he usually called him "Rockfish") two options on how he planned to collect the money: hide or services. Since Jim wasn't keen on going toe-to-toe with Gandy, he took the second option and hired himself out to find the real killer of Gandy's girlfriend. For most of the episode, Rockford and Gandy are adversaries. At one point, Rockford gets so fed up with Gandy that he challenges him to a fight (saying that he'd rather spend a month in the hospital than take another minute of Gandy and his mouth). Over the course of the episode, Gandy and Rockford become friends. I won't give it away, but we also learn who killed Gandy's girlfriend. In this episode, Isaac Hayes demonstrated that he could act and his chemistry with Rockford Files star James Garner is undeniable. Another plus is that this episode features the haunting ballad "Gandy's Theme". Written and performed by Hayes, to the best of my knowledge this song has never been officially released.

Isaac's second appearance on The Rockford Files occurred in the 3rd season and paired him with future Oscar winner Louis Gossett Jr. in one of my favorite episodes from the series, "Just Another Polish Wedding". Set up as a pilot for a possible series, the episode opens with Gandy proposing that he and Rockford become partners (he would serve as "the hammer" and lean on anybody who hassled Jim). Since Jim doesn't like to work that way, he introduces Gandy to fast talking private eye Marcus Hayes (Gossett) and suggests that they team up. At first, Gandy is distrustful of Hayes (he calls him Gabby because of his tendency to talk so much). Because "Just Another Polish Wedding" was a quasi-pilot, Hayes and Gossett carry most of the episode and do a damned good job. The episode is very much in the style of the "buddy comedies" that sprung up in the 1980s (48 Hours, Midnight Run, etc.) . In fact, the scene in 48 Hours where Reggie Hammond (Eddie Murphy) takes over a redneck bar is very reminiscent of my favorite scene from "Just Another Polish Wedding". Instead of a redneck bar, Gandy and Marcus go into a bar where a meeting of Neo Nazis is taking place. It's a shame that NBC didn't pick this up as a series because Isaac Hayes and Louis Gossett made quite a team.

Isaac Hayes' third and final appearance on The Rockford Files was in the 3rd season episode titled "Second Chance". Co-starring singer Dionne Warwick in a rare acting role and Flint native Tony Burton (Duke in the Rocky films), this episode comes highly recommended as well. My favorite moments are when Gandy knocks Rockford out cold with a sucker punch and when Rockford catches up with him later in the episode. "Second Chance" is also notable as being the only time in the series where Gandy calls Rockford by his actual name.

If you haven't seen Isaac Hayes in The Rockford Files, the episodes are well worth seeking out. Currently, Hulu.com has the entire first season of the series available for viewing. Hopefully, they will be adding the later seasons as well. Until then, here is a clip from "Second Chance". Towards the end of the clip, Gandy has his one and only encounter with weaselly con artist Angel Martin (played by Stuart Margolin).







7 comments:

Barbara(aka Layla) said...

You do such a good job describing things Malcolm! I could see the reruns of these shows play in my mind. I loved his acting ability. He was such a versatile - and oh so sexy - guy.

pjazzypar said...

I like the one when Gandy meets the Lou Gossett character Marcus Hayes (what a shyster). Anyhow I thought Gandy was going to beat his ass, but like you said they ended up becoming a team. I really liked Isaac as an actor. He wasn't have bad for a former cotton picker.

Candy Minx said...

I really enjoyed your memories and recounting of Issaac Hayes on "The Rockford Files" what a great memory nd style you have Malcolm!

I love Hayses car in the Staxx Records museum in Memphis...when you go close the car "speaks" and tells you to not scrape it and to step away etc. Hayes was a larger than life persona. I was very sad to hear of his passing away last night.

mister anchovy said...

I remember the Rockford episodes with Isaac Hayes well. I have another memory from when I was a kid...my big sister had this curious record called Hot Buttered Soul. I believe it came with a poster of Mr. Hayes wearing that chain outfit of his.

Jessica said...

Great post! It was nice to hear something about his acting too. I've never seen the show, but I will check it out.

JohnH985 said...

I remember Isaac Hayes from The Rockford Files too. That was one of my favorite shows.

Malcolm said...

Barbara: Thank you! When CBS made those Rockford Files reunion movies back in the 1990s, I was hoping that Isaac Hayes and Louis Gossett Jr. would return for at least one of them.

Pjazzy: Marcus Hayes was shady as hell! I liked when Gandy collared Marcus near the beginning of the episode and forced him to split 50-50 on the case they were undertaking. Gandy said, "You gone cough up half or you gone choke on your suede loafers."

Candy: Thanks! I'll have to make it down to check out the Stax Records museum. Seeing Hayes' talking car would be worth it alone.

Mr. Anchovy: I think you may be right about the poster being included with Hot Buttered Soul.

Jessica: "The Rockford Files" is my favorite detective series of all time. It's got plenty of action, a nice dose of humor, and lots of colorful characters. If you get around to watching some of the episodes available on Hulu.com, I'd be interested to hear your thoughts.

John: As a kid, I occas. watched The Rockford Files with my mother when it aired in primetime on Friday nights. However, I truly became a fan when A&E picked up the reruns in the early 90s. If you are interested, there is an excellent companion book to the series called "This Is Jim Rockford...".

 
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