Charles Adams Claverie
August 28, 1949
Bangor, Maine, U.S.
|Died||October 7, 2005 (aged 56)|
Canterbury, Connecticut, U.S.
|Other names||Charlie Hamburger|
|Alma mater||Rhode Island School of Design|
Charles Adams Claverie (August 28, 1949 – October 7, 2005), known by stage names Charlie Hamburger, Charlie Kennedy and Charles Rocket, was an American actor, comedian, musician, and television news reporter. He was a cast member on Saturday Night Live, played the villain Nicholas Andre in the film Dumb and Dumber, and played Dave Dennison in Disney's Hocus Pocus.
Rocket was born in Bangor, Maine, the son of Mary Aurelia (née Fogler) and Sumner Abbott "Ham" Claverie. He attended the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) 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.
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 was then a news anchor at WPRI-TV in Providence, Rhode Island 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.
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. 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.
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 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."
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.[page needed]
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 antagonist 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. He later guest starred in the T.V. series Wings as long time friend to Brian Hackett, Danny. Rocket also appeared in a season six episode of 3rd Rock From The Sun as a physics professor, Grant.
In addition to his acting work, Rocket played accordion on the David Byrne-produced B-52's album Mesopotamia on the track "Loveland", and the album Amarcord Nino Rota on the track "La Dolce Vita Suite", produced by Saturday Night Live music coordinator Hal Willner.
He also provided the voice of Leo Lionheart Jr. in the "MGM Sing-Alongs" videos in 1996.
Rocket married his college girlfriend, Beth Crellin, on board the battleship USS Massachusetts anchored in Fall River, Massachusetts, in 1972. Their son, Zane, was born in 1976.
Rocket was found dead in a field on his Connecticut property on October 7, 2005, with his throat slit. He was 56 years old. Ten days later, the state medical examiner ruled the death as suicide. The police investigation determined that there was no criminal aspect to the case.
Some of the names here will be familiar only to die-hard fans; others, like Murphy, defined what was funny for generations of viewers.
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