Isaac was found dead by his treadmill, but conveniently missing from the wire stories was a significant fact: in January 2006, Isaac had a significant stroke. At the time, the word went out only that he had been hospitalized for exhaustion.
But the truth was, Isaac, whom I’d seen just a couple of months earlier when he headlined the Blues Ball in Memphis, was in trouble. Having lost the rights to his songs two decades earlier, he was finally making some money voicing the character of Chef on “South Park.” But “South Park” lampooned Scientology, so the leaders wanted Isaac out.
Push came to shove on Nov. 16, 2005, when “South Park” aired its hilarious “Trapped in the Closet” episode spoofing Tom Cruise and John Travolta. “South Park” creator Matt Stone told me later that Isaac had come to him in tears.
“He said he was under great pressure from Scientology, and if we didn’t stop poking at them, he’d have to leave," Stone said.
The conversation ended there. Isaac performed Chef’s signature song at the Blues Ball a week later with great de light. Although he was devoted to Scientology, he also loved being part of “South Park.” He was proud of it. And, importantly, it gave him income he badly needed
But then came the stroke, which was severe. His staff — consisting of Scientology monitors who rarely left him alone — tried to portray it as a minor health issue. It wasn’t. Sources in Memphis told me at the time that Isaac had significant motor control and speech issues. His talking was impaired.
In March 2006, news came that Hayes was resigning from “South Park." On March 20, 2006, I wrote a column called “Chef’s Quitting Controversy,” explaining that Hayes was in no position to have quit anything due to his stroke. But Scientology issued the statement to the press saying Hayes had resigned, and the press just ate it up. No one spoke to Isaac directly, because he couldn’t literally speak. "Chef” was written out of the show.