October 17, 2005

Foggy Memories, pt 10: Charles Rocket

Word has it that Charles Rocket died of a self-inflicted slit throat. Hmmm.

I don't know about that -- or much else about him. All I remember is that he was probably the most reviled of the reviled "new cast" of Saturday Night Live's '80-'81 season. I mean, he hosted Weekend Update looking like this:


His smirky I'm-sooo-gonna-make-you-laugh attitude rubbed skeptical viewers the wrong way from day one. I must admit that I didn't watch much of that season, and neither did many other people. The season did so poorly that, I believe, the entire cast was fired after the final episode. Not sure about that, but that's the way I remember it. (Perhaps Robin Duke was in that cast.)[UPDATE: As the fog clears I recall that Joe Piscopo was a late addition to the "new cast" and was a holdover for season 7.]

The futures of that season's cast-members were in doubt and many, including Rocket, were on edge for the season finale.

That final episode became infamous when Charles uttered the f-work during the final segment where the cast is on stage to say goodnight.

Charlene Tillman (was that her name?) [UPDATE: Tilton. Thanks Stevie!] from the cast of Dallas was hosting, and they did a spoof of the "who shot J.R." cliffhanger. Rocket played J.R. and was seated in a wheelchair during the final curtain call.
They ran a little long on time and the director instructed Charlene to "talk to Charlie". So Charlene simply asked Charles (J.R.) who he thought may have shot him. "How the fuck should I know who did it?" he replied.

It's interesting to note how SNL was not seen as a mainstay program then as it is now. The first season squeaked by; the second, third and fourth seasons really hit the mark and later came to be called the classic SNL; the fifth season, after the departure of John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd, skated by despite dwindling ratings as the season wore on.

That awful sixth season with the "new cast" cast doubt on whether Saturday Night Live could go on without the original Not Ready For Prime Time Players. Rocket's outragous gaffe at the end of a dismal season created doubts that a seventh season might even be scheduled.

Enter the anti-Charlie: Eddie Murphy. Add Tim Kazirinski, Mary Gross, Joe Piscopo, Robin Duke and the others that escape me now and all was well from the first episode of season 7 and SNL, now 30 seasons on, will need a few Rocket-like disasters to put a nail in it's coffin.

Then again, I haven't been watching recently. Maybe the show sucks these days.

Posted by Tuning Spork at October 17, 2005 08:09 PM | TrackBack

Tilton, Darlin'.

And, no incarnation of SNL will ever be as good as it was at first.

Belushi is God.

Posted by: Stevie at October 17, 2005 08:30 PM

Maybe I read too many mystery novels, but it strikes me that slitting one's own throat in a field is an odd way to do it....

Posted by: Susie at October 18, 2005 11:28 AM

I was a huuuge Saturday Night Live fan--I stayed up late to watch George Carlin guest-host that first episode (at the time I remember pretty much wondering, "WTF is this?) but I rarely missed an episode after that.

I remember Charles Rocket well during that first episode of the 'new' SNL. He did a (taped) bit where he wondered through the streets of NY, asking people, "Why do you look like you're on drugs?" You remember really good stuff, and you for damn sure remember the really bad stuff, and that was really bad stuff.

I've watched *maybe* three episodes ever since. For me, SNL will always be the Not Ready for Prime Time Players version 1...and 1.1 (after Chevy Chase left and Bill Murray came on).

Posted by: Victor at October 19, 2005 08:58 AM

Ah, Mr. Rocket. From what was said on the "news", apparantly he was found dead in a meadow with his throat cut from ear to ear, yet the "fine upstanding incorruptable" "law" enforcement assets assigned to the case are ruling it a "suicide", no questions asked. Dontcha just love American "justice"? Wonder how they would've ruled it a "suicide" if "Mr. Rocket" had shot "himself" in the back a dozen times instead of cut "his own" throat...

Posted by: Larry at October 27, 2005 03:03 PM
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