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Charles Rocket

Why am I posting about Charles Rocket? It’s not like he’s a standout, master comedic talent or A-list celeb. It’s because, for me, his most memorable gig was his stint in several episodes of one of my favorite TV series, Moonlighting.

He played Richard Addison, David Addison’s (Bruce Willis) deadbeat, smarmy, but charming brother. It was perfect casting; he had amazing comic timing and stole every scene he was in. His first appearance, in the episode “Brother, Can You Spare a Blonde?” (September 1985) was so memorable that it was the first episode Tim and I watched when I got the Moonlighting DVD a couple of months ago.

Charlie Rocket (real name: Charles Claverie) will probably best be remembered for uttering “f*ck” on live TV on Saturday Night Live during the 80-81 season, which was easily the worst period of the show. He hosted the Weekend Update. From the Wikipedia entry:

Unfortunately, Rocket would eventually doom both his and [jean] Doumanian’s tenures on the show with one word. The February 21, 1981 episode hosted by Dallas star Charlene Tilton featured an ongoing joke in which different cast members would vow revenge on him for some reason, in a parody of the famed “Who Shot J.R.?” episode of Dallas. Rocket was then shot in the chest by a sniper in the final sketch. At the end of the show, there was some time to kill, so members of the cast appeared onstage with Tilton, who improvised and asked Rocket how he felt about being shot. A wheelchair-bound Charles audibly mumbled that he’d like to know “who the f___ did it,” followed by the cast and audience reacting with shock and embarrassed laughter. The incident seemed to encapsulate all that was wrong with Saturday Night Live at the time, and both Rocket and Doumanian were soon fired (along with some of the writers and fellow cast member Gilbert Gottfried). New producer Dick Ebersol replaced most other cast members later.

His died on October 7. it was ruled a suicide — he slit his throat. When you decide to leave this planet in such a horrifying way, you have to wonder where it all went wrong, what drove him to take this route, what pain could he have been in to do this. We’ll never know, and it sounds like people that knew him didn’t know either.

What a different path Charlie Rocket’s career might have taken if that F-word incident had only occurred just a few years later, after NYPD Blue’s bare behinds, Janet’s booby flashing, Bono uttering the same word on live TV, and countless other incidents that make Rocket’s F-bomb seem inconsequential.

There’s a good profile in the Providence Phoenix on him.

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Pam Spaulding

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