Wednesday, November 5, 2003

Rockets Redglare

Posted By on Wed, Nov 5, 2003 at 12:00 AM

Minor cultural icon Rockets Redglare describes himself as a person with identities within identities. His most famous identity is a toothless, seedy bit player in films such as Desperately Seeking Susan, Drugstore Cowboy, Animal Factory and many Jim Jarmusch pictures.

In the beginning he was Michael Morra, born (addicted to heroin) to a 15-year-old dope-shooting mother and a gangster father. After a harrowing Brooklyn childhood that ended with his mother’s death, Morra became Rockets Redglare, an all-around New York badass, bouncer at a gritty after-hours club, and finally drug dealer and bodyguard to Sid Vicious. His next incarnation was as a raunchy standup comic working through his troubled past in Alphabet City nightclubs. He began an uneven movie career as his successful friends gave him work as a character actor — when he wasn’t drowning in dissipation.

This film captures some of the energy of Redglare’s old performances, but the documentary that was intended to help Redglare pull it together instead illustrated three years of slow descent, as Redglare rode a disastrous train — a methadone program, cirrhosis and Hep C — to the end of the line. It can be depressing to watch his labored breathing, continuous alcohol consumption and semi-articulate methadone nodding. At the end, barely able to speak, he sits in a hospital bed with frightened uncertainty in his eyes as he faces oblivion.

Through amusing and disturbing interviews with people like Jarmusch, Steve Buscemi and Matt Dillon, this film explores Redglare’s multifaceted life, especially the charismatic sponging, the astonishing excess, the zonked out highs and dangerous lows. And Rockets lets the voluble raconteur himself spin vivid, pornographic and disgusting stories of his exploits. His hilarious and unsettling storytelling is both a way to engage the world and a front to protect against it.

The videotaping is raw, the pacing is sometimes slow and many will find Redglare to be offensive and obnoxious. But it’s a very personal documentary about an authentic character, from unfortunate beginning to unfortunate end, and it could provide the sort of vindication Redglare was hoping for.

E-mail Michael Jackman at


We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Detroit Metro Times works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Detroit and beyond.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Detroit's true free press free.

Read the Digital Print Issue

April 14, 2021

View more issues


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Best Things to Do In Detroit

© 2021 Detroit Metro Times - Contact Us

Website powered by Foundation