Charles Rocket

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Charles Rocket
RocketCharlesz.jpg
Rocket in 1989
Born Charles Adams Claverie
(1949-08-28)August 28, 1949
Bangor, Maine, U.S.
Died October 7, 2005(2005-10-07) (aged 56)
Canterbury, Connecticut, U.S.
Cause of death Suicide
Nationality American
Other names Charlie Hamburger
Charlie Kennedy
Alma mater Rhode Island School of Design
Occupation Actor, comedian, television news reporter
Years active 1980–2005
Spouse(s)
Beth Crellin (m. 1972–2005)
Children 1

Charles Adams Claverie (August 28, 1949 – October 7, 2005), known by such stage names as Charlie Hamburger, Charlie Kennedy, and, most famously, Charles Rocket, was an American actor, comedian and television news reporter. He was best known for his tenure as a cast member on Saturday Night Live, for his role as the villain Nicholas Andre in the film Dumb and Dumber, and for his appearance as Dave Dennison, Max and Dani Dennison's father, in Disney's Hocus Pocus.

Early life[edit]

Rocket was born in Bangor, Maine, the son of Mary Aurelia (Fogler) and Sumner Abbott "Ham" Claverie.[1][2] 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.[3]

Career[edit]

Rocket appeared sometimes with his friend Dan Gosch as superheroes "Captain Packard" and his faithful sidekick "Lobo".[4] In an RISD yearbook, the 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 sketch 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. He made his network debut on Saturday Night Live in 1980, using the name Charles Rocket.[4]

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.[5] 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. He also hosted "The Rocket Report”, a series of filmed segments where he posed as a roving reporter around New York, which reviewers in later years mentioned as one of the few consistently strong parts of Doumanian's shows.[6]

Dismissal[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 a plot line had Rocket and Tilton flirting while other cast members expressed jealousy, leading to Rocket being 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 replied "Oh, man, it's the first time I've ever been shot in my life. I'd like to know who fuckin' did it."[7] He attempted to explain it away as an extemporaneous exclamation.

Due partially to the violation of broadcast standards, along with negative press regarding the new cast and declining ratings for both the series and the network in general, NBC replaced Doumanian with Dick Ebersol after one further episode. Ebersol, who placed the show on hiatus for a month to retool, dismissed Rocket, along with several of the writers and fellow cast members Gilbert Gottfried and Ann Risley, before the next episode. A writers' strike led to the suspension of the rest of the season, and when the show returned in October 1981, Joe Piscopo and Eddie Murphy were the only cast members who were held over from Doumanian's era. Saturday Night: A Backstage History of Saturday Night Live revealed that Rocket was particularly hostile toward Murphy and Piscopo, as Doumanian had set him, Denny Dillon, and Gail Matthius to be the show's biggest stars, only to have all three receive mixed to negative reviews about their performances and to have Murphy and Piscopo upstage them all.[8][page needed]

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 comic 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, an angel of death, on Touched by an Angel.[9]

In addition to his acting work, Rocket played accordion on the David Byrne-produced B-52's album Mesopotamia[10] and the album Amarcord Nino Rota, produced by Saturday Night Live music coordinator Hal Willner.[11]

Personal life[edit]

Rocket married his college girlfriend, Beth Crellin, on board the battleship USS Massachusetts anchored in Fall River, Massachusetts, in 1972.[12] Their son, Zane, was born in 1976. They were married at the time of Rocket's death.[13][14]

Death[edit]

Rocket was found dead in a field on his Connecticut property on October 7, 2005, with his throat slit. Ten days later, the state medical examiner ruled the death a suicide. The police investigation determined that there was no criminal aspect to the case. Rocket was 56 years old.[15]

Filmography[edit]

Television[edit]

Music videos[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Morse, Susan (February 1, 2011). "Charlie (Claverie) Rocket was a local boy, WHS grad". Hampton Union. Retrieved September 8, 2017.
  2. ^ "Mary Aurelia Fogler". Archived from the original on February 17, 2015. Retrieved 2015-02-17.
  3. ^ "RIP, Charles Rocket Remembering a giant of the Providence underground". The Providence Phoenix. October 14, 2005. Archived from the original on September 22, 2015. Retrieved August 6, 2015.
  4. ^ a b "Comedian Charles Rocket's death was suicide". Seattle Times. October 17, 2005. Retrieved September 8, 2017.
  5. ^ Hill & Weingrad 2011, p. 390.
  6. ^ Hill, Doug; Weingrad, Jeff (December 15, 2011). Saturday Night: A Backstage History of Saturday Night Live. Untreed Books. p. 423. ISBN 9781611872187.
  7. ^ Hill & Weingrad 2011, p. 215.
  8. ^ Hill & Weingrad 2011.
  9. ^ "Charles Rocket: Filmography". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved April 22, 2007.
  10. ^ Mesopotamia (Media notes). The B-52s. Reprise/WEA. 1990. B000002LN6.
  11. ^ "Amarcord Nino Rota". Discogs.
  12. ^ Rein, Richard K. (March 23, 1981). "Charlie Rocket Blasts Off Amid the Turmoil of the 'Saturday Night Live' Massacres". People. 15 (11).
  13. ^ Starr, Michael (October 20, 2005). "Charles Rocket, 56, TV and Movie Actor, Dies". The New York Times. Reuters. Retrieved July 21, 2007.
  14. ^ Starr, Michael (October 18, 2005). "R.I.P Charles Rocket - Tragic End For SNL Comic 25 Years After F-Bomb". New York Post.
  15. ^ "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