Charles Rocket

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Charles Rocket
RocketCharlesz.jpg
Born Charles Adams Claverie
(1949-08-24)August 24, 1949
Bangor, Maine, U.S.
Died October 7, 2005(2005-10-07) (aged 56)
Canterbury, Connecticut, U.S.
Resting place
Cremation
Nationality American
Other names Charlie Hamburger
Charlie Kennedy
Alma mater Rhode Island School of Design
Occupation Actor
Years active 1980–2004
Spouse(s) Beth Crellin (m. 1970–2005)
Children 1

Charles Adams Claverie (August 24, 1949 – October 7, 2005)—known by such stage names as Charlie Hamburger, Charlie Kennedy, and, most famously, Charles Rocket—was an American film and television actor. He was best known for his tenure as a cast member on Saturday Night Live, for his appearance as the villain Nicholas Andre in the film Dumb and Dumber, and for his appearance as Dave Dennison, the father in Disney's Hocus Pocus.

Early life[edit]

Rocket was born in Bangor, Maine. He attended the Rhode Island School of Design in the late 1960s and was part of the Rhode Island underground culture scene in the 1970s that also included Talking Heads frontman David Byrne and film director Gus Van Sant.

Career[edit]

Rocket appeared from time to time with his friend Dan Gosch as superheroes "Captain Packard" and his faithful sidekick "Lobo".[1] In a RISD yearbook, the dynamic duo appeared in a photo at the Rhode Island State House with then-Governor Frank Licht.[citation needed] Rocket made several short films and fronted his band, the Fabulous Motels, on accordion (which he used in an SNL skit about a crazed criminal who uses an accordion to kill his dates and is killed himself by a bagpipe band). He later anchored the local news at Channel 12 WPRI and at KOAA-TV in Pueblo, Colorado under his own name, and WTVF Nashville under the name Charles Kennedy.[1] He made his network debut on Saturday Night Live in 1980,[1] using the name Charles Rocket. Later in his career, Rocket would lend his accordion talents to the David Byrne-produced B-52's album Mesopotamia.[2]

Saturday Night Live[edit]

Rocket was cast for the 1980–81 season, which followed the departure of the remaining members of the show's original cast and executive producer Lorne Michaels. Singled out by new executive producer Jean Doumanian, he was promoted as a cross between Bill Murray and Chevy Chase.[3] Rocket was tapped to anchor Weekend Update, and was featured in more sketches than any other male cast member that season with the exception of Joe Piscopo.

Rocket portrayed recurring character Phil Lively, a game show host who took his larger-than-life persona home and treated life as if it were a game show. His celebrity impersonations on SNL included Ronald Reagan, David Rockefeller, Prince Charles, and Marlin Perkins.

Firing[edit]

The Saturday Night Live episode of February 21, 1981, hosted by Dallas star Charlene Tilton, featured a parody of the famed "Who Shot J.R.?" story arc from the then-popular nighttime soap. During the show J. R. Ewing, played by Rocket, was shot in the chest by a sniper in the middle of a sketch. In the show's closing moments, as cast members gathered with the host to say good night, Tilton asked Rocket how he felt about being shot. In character, Rocket improvised, "Oh, man, it's the first time I've ever been shot in my life. I'd like to know who the fuck did it."[4]

Due partially to the violation of broadcast standards, along with Saturday Night Live '​s low ratings and constant barrage of negative press over the new cast, Doumanian and Rocket were soon fired (along with most of the writers and fellow cast members Gilbert Gottfried and Ann Risley).[citation needed] Joe Piscopo and Eddie Murphy were the only cast members to survive the axe, as new producer Dick Ebersol replaced Denny Dillon and Gail Matthius after one episode. Saturday Night: A Backstage History of Saturday Night Live revealed that Rocket was particularly hostile toward Murphy and Piscopo, as Doumanian set him, Denny Dillon, and Gail Matthius up to be the show's biggest stars, only to receive mixed to negative reviews about their performances and be upstaged by Murphy and Piscopo.[5]

Post-SNL career[edit]

Rocket recovered from this early-career setback and worked steadily in film, with roles in such movies as Hocus Pocus, Earth Girls Are Easy, It's Pat, Steal Big Steal Little, How I Got into College, Dances with Wolves, and Dumb and Dumber, often playing comedic foils.

On television, in addition to guest spots on several 1980s sitcoms, Rocket played network president Ned Grossberg on the cyberpunk series Max Headroom, Richard Addison (brother to Bruce Willis's David Addison) on the comedy-drama Moonlighting, and Adam on Touched by an Angel.[6]

While Rocket saw disappointment with a string of short-lived series, including Tequila and Bonetti in 1992, The Home Court in 1995, and Normal, Ohio in 2000, he continued to make guest appearances on a variety of shows such as Quantum Leap, Wings, and The King of Queens.

A guest role as a con man/murderer on Law & Order: Criminal Intent marked his final appearance on network television. He also lent his voice to the popular video games Star Wars: Starfighter, Star Wars: Jedi Starfighter (as the character Nym in both games), Descent 3, and Age of Mythology. His final film role came in the 2003 movie Shade.

Personal life[edit]

Rocket married his college girlfriend, Beth Crellin, on board the battleship USS Massachusetts anchored in Fall River, Massachusetts, in 1970.[7] The couple had a son, Zane, and remained married until his death.[8][9]

Death[edit]

Rocket was found dead in a field near his Connecticut home on October 7, 2005; his throat had been slit. The state medical examiner later ruled the death a suicide. He was 56 years old.[10]

Filmography[edit]

Television[edit]

Music videos[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Authorities rule Charles Rocket's death a suicide. Providence Journal. October 18, 2005.
  2. ^ Mesopotamia (Media notes). The B-52s. Reprise/WEA. 1990. B000002LN6. 
  3. ^ Hill, Doug; Weingrad, Jeff (1986). Saturday Night: A Backstage History of Saturday Night Live. William Morrow & Co. ISBN 0-688-05099-9 p. 390.
  4. ^ Shales, Tom; Miller, James Andrew (2002). Live from New York: an Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live. Little, Brown and Company. p. 215. ISBN 978-0-316-78146-6. 
  5. ^ Hill, Doug; Weingrad, Jeff (1986). Saturday Night: A Backstage History of Saturday Night Live. ISBN 0-688-05099-9. (what page?)
  6. ^ IMDB Charles Rocket Filmography Retrieved April 22, 2007
  7. ^ Rein, Richard K. (March 23, 1981). "Charlie Rocket Blasts Off Amid the Turmoil of the 'Saturday Night Live' Massacres" 15 (11). People. 
  8. ^ Starr, Michael (October 20, 2005). "Charles Rocket, 56, TV and Movie Actor, Dies". Reuters. Retrieved July 21, 2007. 
  9. ^ "R.I.P Charles Rocket - Tragic End For SNL Comic 25 Years After F-Bomb". nypost.com. October 18, 2005. 
  10. ^ "Charles Rocket's death ruled a suicide". North County Times. October 18, 2005. Archived from the original on October 22, 2012. Retrieved August 14, 2013. 

Bibliography[edit]

  • Hill, Doug and Weingrad, Jeff (1986). Saturday Night: A Backstage History of Saturday Night Live. New York, Beech Tree Books/William Morrow. ISBN 0-688-05099-9.

External links[edit]


Media offices
Preceded by
Jane Curtin and Bill Murray
Weekend Update Anchor
with Gail Matthius 1981

1980–1981
Succeeded by
Brian Doyle-Murray and Mary Gross