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'Shaft,' Scientology and 'South Park'

Chef keeps Isaac Hayes' career simmering along

July 7, 1999
Web posted at: 1:58 p.m. EDT (1758 GMT)

From Mark Scheerer
CNN Entertainment News Correspondent

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Musician, actor, radio jock and former Cool Brother No. 1 -- in his 35-year career, Isaac Hayes has worn many hats on that famous bald head. But it's this big white one that's drawing the most attention lately.

"I get involved in this stupid, crazy, insane cartoon, and now I'm hotter than I've ever been."
— Isaac Hayes talking about "South Park"

Hayes voices the "South Park" animated comedy's character Chef, king of the school cafeteria, known for serving up impromptu sexy ballads and dishing out pearls of wisdom to the show's potty-mouthed kids.

The new and loudly debated film "South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut" opened with an enviable fourth-place showing in box-office revenues over the July 4 weekend, drawing $14.8 million in ticket sales despite many cinemas' tougher enforcement of the R rating.

"Hey, let me tell you I worked years to achieve artistic excellence," Hayes says, "and then all of a sudden, I get involved in this stupid, crazy, insane cartoon and now I'm hotter than I've ever been. I love it. I love it."

Hayes jokes that the animated Comedy Central show is expanding his fan base to include anyone from age 6 to 96.

Damn right: Hayes' best-known cinematic contribution was the theme from "Shaft"

Chef: 'You got to hold your football like you hold your lover'

In his spare time, Hayes -- who'll turn anywhere from 57 to 61 on August 6, depending on which biographical source you consult -- hosts a morning show on a New York radio station.

There, the man once known for pillow talk on R&B albums -- and who had a smooth noggin long before the look was considered 'hood-handsome -- has played hardball on some high-profile but unauthorized use of his music. He put the kibosh on former Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole's use of "Soul Man" (reinterpreted as "Dole Man") as a theme song during the 1996 campaign.

Want to share your opinions on Chef, the 'South Park' series and the movie? Go to the boards!

"It wasn't authorized," Hayes says. "He didn't get permission."

Hayes co-wrote the song and dozens of other hits such as "When Something Is Wrong With My Baby" for mid-'60s stars Sam and Dave.

A rendition of "Walk on By" in the 1995 film "Dead Presidents" reminded audiences of his 1969 album "Hot Buttered Soul," which put Hayes on the music map.

"Dead Presidents" came out the same year Hayes became active in the Church of Scientology, which has drawn other notables including John Travolta and Tom Cruise.

The "South Park" movie is just the latest release in a series of '90s film work. Hayes has taken roles in "Six Ways to Sunday" (1996), "Flipper" (1996), "Johnny Mnemonic" (1995), "Robin Hood: Men in Tights" (1993) and other pictures.

But his career's most notable achievement remains, as he sums it up: "'Shaft.' Damn right."

The theme from "Shaft" in 1972 earned him an Oscar for best song, and a nomination for the film's original score. He was the first African-American to win the best-song honor.

"It was just one of those things in history that you did the right thing at the right time," Hayes says.

And perhaps history will repeat itself. Hayes says he's working on a new album for release early next year.

Life imitating art imitating life -- raunchy 'South Park' opens
July 1, 1999
U.S. report backs Scientologists in dispute with Germany
January 30, 1997
Celebrities speak out at the Million Man March
October 1995

Official 'South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut' site
'South Park' on Comedy Central
Internet Movie Database: Isaac Hayes
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