A Quick Tribute to Hy Pyke, Gone Fifteen Years Now
I first saw Hy Pyke as the weird and shifty Mayor Daley in Dolemite. Unlike the latecomers who discovered this blaxploitation classic via Eddie Murphy, my friends and I somehow obtained VHS copies of Rudy Ray Moore’s Dolemite, The Human Tornado, and Petey Wheatstraw: The Devil’s Son-in-Law back in the early ’90s, passing them around and repeating their oddball dialogue. Though the role was a minor one, Hy Pyke’s mayor was a seminal aspect of Dolemite. Here was this weird, little bald man with sideburns and a mustache trying to orchestrate our streetwise hero’s defeat from a mid-day cocktail party in the hills.
The next time I noticed Hy Pyke was in Lemora: Child of the Supernatural. This bizarre horror movie was released around the same time at Dolemite, though I saw it much later. Once again, the actor’s role was minor. He played the spooky bus driver who picks up the main character, but then he gets attacked by the creepy creatures running around in the woods. As the scene was playing, I kept thinking, I know that actor . . . then hit me— he was Mayor Daley!
If you knew Pyke as Taffey Lewis from 1982’s Blade Runner, you wouldn’t make those connections. He looks totally different, much more conventional, and until I read his filmography, I had no idea he was even in that movie. He’s clean cut and older, and basically kind of normal looking. His other film credits include an appearance in one of Ray Manzarek’s student films, as well as roles in The First Nudie Musical, in a Spanish adult-film adaptation of Don Quixote, in the 1978 horror-sci Spawn of the Slithis, and in two kitschy ’80s horror films Vamp and Hack-o-Lantern. IMDb describes him as a character actor, and I think that’s a fair assessment.
Hy Pyke died fifteen years today, in 2006. Though I can only name one film he was in that was actually good – Blade Runner – it was his presence and his style in other films that made me remember him. Born in 1935, he was the son of vaudeville performers and came along in his mid-30s at a time when wacky was hip. A guy like this wouldn’t even make it near the studio’s front desk today, but in a time before homogeneity and commercialism ruled the film industry, his uniqueness had a place, albeit minor. Who else could have driven that bus that Lemora got on? Nobody.