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Charles Rocket, 56; Actor, Comedian on 'Saturday Night Live'

October 18, 2005|Valerie J. Nelson | Times Staff Writer

Charles Rocket, an actor and former "Saturday Night Live" comedian who gained notoriety almost 25 years ago for uttering an unscripted obscenity during a skit on the NBC show, has died. He was 56.

Rocket was found dead Oct. 7 in a field near his home in Canterbury, Conn. His throat had been cut, and the Connecticut medical examiner's office has ruled his death a suicide.

"Our investigation at the scene determined there was no criminal aspect to this case," State Police Sgt. J. Paul Vance told The Times on Monday.

Rocket joined the "SNL" cast in the fall of 1980 and let an expletive slip the following February during a spoof of the famed "Who Shot J.R.?" plot line from the CBS night-time soap "Dallas." Viewers complained and NBC issued an apology.

The former television newscaster was fired soon after along with other cast members and writers on the show, which had tepid ratings.

"I'm not proud of the fact it slipped through," Rocket told People magazine in 1989 of the single word that derailed his early career. "But that's all it was -- a slip."

He went on to appear in many television shows and to provide voices for animated series.

Rocket portrayed Bruce Willis' brother on "Moonlighting" (ABC) and was featured in recurring roles on "Touched by an Angel" (CBS) and "Max Headroom" (ABC).

In film, Rocket was the philandering husband of Geena Davis in "Earth Girls Are Easy" (1989) and an obnoxious campus administrator in "How I Got Into College" (1989).

His movie credits also include "Dumb & Dumber" (1994) and "Dances With Wolves" (1990). His last movie role was in the 2003 Sylvester Stallone film "Shade."

Born Charles Claverie in Bangor, Maine, he attended the Rhode Island School of Design and was influential in the Providence arts scene.

He spent much of the 1970s as a news reporter and anchor, using the name Charles Kennedy. His network debut was on "SNL," where he anchored the "Weekend Update" news parody.

As an accordion player, he performed with many bands and played on a tribute album to composer Nino Rota, who scored a number of Federico Fellini films.

Rocket is survived by his wife, Beth, and a son, Zane.

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