In the early 1970s, Rockets lived with the actress Baybi Day before moving into a second floor apartment on Third Avenue, off 14th Street. In the late 1970s, Morra spent most of his time in the East Village, where he "became a permanent fixture in the punk and porno film scenes." Morra worked as bouncer at the Red Bar in the East Village as a roadie for a band called The Hassles (with a young Billy Joel), and acted as a bodyguard and drug supplier to punk rock bassist Sid Vicious and artist-musician Jean-Michel Basquiat. The night Sid Vicious is alleged to have killed his girlfriend, Nancy Spungen, Morra had delivered 40 capsules of Dilaudid to the couple's room at the Chelsea Hotel. In his book, Pretty Vacant: A History of Punk, Phil Strongman states that he believes Redglare murdered Nancy Spungen. Redglare always denied involvement in Spungen's murder to the press, but often "confessed" to the murder within his circle of friends, to mixed reaction. Friends like Zoe Hansen took Redglare at his word, but others like Howie Pyro have cast doubt on Rockets' alleged claims, insisting he enjoyed telling exaggerated stories for attention.
Morra began performing stand-up comedy routines at East Village/Lower East Side bars such as Pyramid and Club 57 in his own show titled Taxi Cabaret, and he also did performance art. He made his acting debut in the 1985 Eric Mitchell film The Way It Is, also known as Euridice on the Avenues, a film whose cast also included Steve Buscemi and Vincent Gallo (who composed the soundtrack). Later that year, he appeared in the Jim Jarmusch film Down by Law. He often was cast as a rough or seedy character, which echoed his real-life upbringing and drug addiction.
Morra died in 2001 from a combination of kidney failure, liver failure, cirrhosis and hepatitis C. Morra's death was hastened by his multiple addictions: He admitted that "Anything I ever liked ... I always did to excess," including heroin, cocaine, food, and alcohol. At the time of his death, Morra was morbidly obese and hospitalized. In 2003, director Luis Fernandez de la Reguera released a documentary about Morra titled Rockets Redglare! a "portrait of the New York personality from his early days around '50s hustlers to the East Village crowd of the '80s to his tragic death in 2001."
After Morra's death, obituary-writers tried to sum up Morra's life and involvement in New York's creative scenes. The Chicago Reader called Morra a "compulsive hustler who became obese once he decided to substitute beer for drugs," and acknowledges that "he was also a gifted raconteur", especially in informal, relaxed settings. Seattle newspaper The Stranger wrote that Morra became a New York City "alternative celebrity" in the city's East Village bars and clubs where he drank and told stories.
Rockets was an good old friend of mine. I met him one night at the Red Bar on 1st Avenue (at East 7th Street) in New York's East Village. I beleive it was in 1983. The Red Bar was one of the hot bars of the moment, I live two blocks away and I bopped in there one night. I was ordering a drink at the bar (Stoli & Grapefruit) and this big guy was standing next to me. I said "hello," and he extended his hand, and said, "nice to meet you Man, Rockets," and that's how I met this larger than life (lierally) guy named Rockets Redglare. We becam friends and hung out here and there, meeting up and hanging out at some of the local "dive bars" of the day, including, Blanche's, Bar 81, Sophie's, 7B and The Holiday Lounge on St Marks Place. We'd just hang out and talk about this and that. Just two friends hanging out, chit-chatting, and having a couple drinks together.
When I first met Rockets, I had no idea that he was addicted to heroin, and had a somewhat drug problem. He was a good guy I thought, we hung out together, we became friends. I was in my early 20s at the time, living in New York's Eat Village, loving life, working hard, and just trying to enjoy life and have a good time.
The East Village, at the time, was the Capital of The Art World. And I'm not talking about just in New York, or Amaerica, but the entire World. The East Village of New York was the epicenter, with artist like Keith Haring and Jean Micjel Basqiat, living, painting, and exhibiting art in East Village Galleries.
I met quite a number of what most would consider prominent people, celebrities and what-not. I was dating one of the Worlds Top Models of the day, Isabelle Oduber. And through ISabelle, it came to be that I was hanging out with people like Rinaldo and Catellina Hererra (a famous Venezuelan Fashion designer), Oscar de la Renta, Victor Hugo (Haltson's Lover), and other notables. I became friends with Matt Dillon, as well as Rene Ricard who was a art critic, writer, poet, artist, who wrote an articel for Art Forum, that once it came out, would proper artist like: Keith Haring, Kenny Scharf, and Jean Michele Masquait into super stardom in the art world.
It was poet / art critic Rene Ricard that wrote the article Radiant Child for Art Forum Magazine, Basquiat became famous over night as a result of Ricards's piece. Basquiat paintings starting selling for $30, 000 and up. Keith Harings success followed, as well as downtown artist Kenny Scharf and Francesco Clemente.
I met a beautiful Venezuelan girl, one night in 1984. I met her at a new little Venezuelan Restaurant on 2nd Avenue called the 11 Cafe. Her Name was Isabelle, and she was helping her friend Irma at the restaurant. I was smitten. I went back tot he restuarant a few nights later, and Isabelle was there. I asked her out, and to my surprise she accepted. I bought tickets to the Braodway Show 9 1/2, based on Felini's film 9 ... The night of the show I went up to Isabelle's apartment to pick her up. She lived in a high-rise building on East 87th Street. It was a big beautiful apartment. Wowm I thought. It turned out that Isabelle was a top model for the Ford Agency, as well as being a Hous Model for famed designer Oscar de la Renta. I hadn't known this at the time wehn I first met Isabelle. No wonder she could afford such a lavish apartment.
Isabelle asked me if I wanted a glass of wine. This was nice. Drinks before the show. We finsihed our drinks and went to the show. Isabelle and I dated for a little more than a year. We had a nice time together, but I guess it was only meant to last that long. To tell you the truth, I was shocked our relationship lasted that long.
A few months Isabelle and I stopped seeing each other, I started dating Suzanne Malouk, aka "The Widow Basquait," a moniker coined to Suzanne by none other than Rene Ricard. At the time, Suzanne was working as a waitress at a Mexican Resytaurant called Banditos on 1st Avenue in the East Village. I had my eye on Suzanne, and wanted to go out with her. I asked her out, and she said to me, "I thiught you only go out with models," referring to Isabelle. Our relationship did not last that long, just about two months.
I remember one quite interesting thing when I was seeing Suzzanne. I was over at Suzanne place one night, and she said to me. I'm going to call up Andy to see if he wants to buy this refrigerator. The Andy that Suzanne was referring to, was none other than Andy Warhol, and the refrigerator in question was a refrigerator than Jean Michele (Basquiat) had painted on when Suzanne was still together with Jen Michele. Andy ended up buying the refirgerator for $4,000. Today that refigerator is worth more than 3 Million Dollars.
to be continued ...
Daniel Bellino Zwicke
Sept. 3, 2022