17 October 2005

Rocket NOT Reported...

Sure, he'll never be mentioned in the same breath as Bill Murray, or even Garrett Morris for that matter, but it strikes me as rather sad that one of the more-notorious "Not Ready For Prime Time Players" passed away last week, and his obit has received little coverage (as of this posting, his IMDB bio page lists him as still living). Charles Rocket, of the ill-fated and much-lamented 1980-81 season of "Saturday Night Live", died on October 7th in Connecticut at the age of 56. Sadly, the cause of death has been ruled a suicide--Rocket reportedly cut his throat with a knife. Rocket is survived by his wife Beth, and son Zane.

Rocket (formerly Charles Calervie)--a former news anchor and weatherman, was arguably groomed to be the new cast's Chevy Chase, with his blandly handsome features and sneering delivery. But he blew his chances at his own "Oh Heavenly Dog" by blurting out the once-shocking "f-word" during a parody of the "Dallas" "Who Shot J.R." episode. Rocket would claim it was an accident, but there are many who maintained it was a deliberate stunt to get himself fired from the show, which at the time seemed on the brink of cancellation (Dick Ebersol had taken over the producing reigns from creator Lorne Michaels, who eventually returned, of course).

Rocket continued on as a voice and supporting actor, appearing in such varied fare as "Moonlighting", "Earth Girls are Easy," "Dumb & Dumber", "Dances With Wolves" and "Max Headroom". He also played accordion in many bands, and performed on a tribute album to Fellini composer Nino Rota with "Blondie"s Deborah Harry and Chris Stein.

For more on the 1980-81 season, check out the excellent "Saturday Night: A Backstage History Of Saturday Night Live", by Doug Hill and Jeff Weingrad.