Rock Brynner, the son of legendary actor Yul Brynner, who cut his own path as a writer, historian, novelist, playwright, bodyguard, and more, has died. He was 76.
According to the New York Times, Rock passed away on Friday, October 13, at a hospice in Salisbury, Connecticut. His close friend, Maria Cuomo Cole, said the cause of death was due to complications of multiple myeloma.
Born on December 23, 1946, in Manhattan, New York City, Rock had big shoes to fill, given that his father, Yul, was one of the world’s most iconic and well-respected actors, best known for his Tony and Oscar-winning turns in the stage and screen versions of the musical The King and I. He also starred in The Ten Commandments, The Magnificent Seven, Westworld, and the CBS TV series Anna and the King.
However, Rock carved his own niche, embarking on a fascinating and varied career throughout his lifetime. He attended Yale, Trinity College Dublin, and Columbia, receiving a doctorate in American history in 1993 and going on to teach for over a decade at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York.
In 1970, he performed briefly in a self-written one-man play based on Cocteau’s addiction memoir, Opium. The play would become somewhat prescient as Rock went on to struggle with his own drug and alcohol problems as he traveled around Europe as a mime. He later used these struggles as inspiration for his first novel, The Ballad of Habit and Accident, published in 1981.
While in Europe, Rock became part of Muhammad Ali‘s entourage, with the boxing legend referring to him as his “bodyguard,” despite being much shorter and less imposing than Ali. He also acted as Ali’s press liaison and helped organize a fight against Al “Blue” Lewis in Dublin in 1972.
Rock would later sober up and return to the United States, where he became friends with Robbie Robertson, the guitarist for The Band, which led to him serving as the group’s roadie and tour bus driver. This connection with Rock was what put Robertson in touch with Martin Scorsese to make the highly-lauded concert documentary The Last Waltz in 1978.
In 1984, Rock served as manager of the Hard Rock Cafe in New York City after he and his father became early investors in the business. His celebrity connections made it the place to be in the Big Apple.
But he left Hard Rock after a year to explore another passion of his, owning a plane and opening a charter air service, which he did at a small airport in Danbury, Connecticut. During this time, Rock also worked as a farmer in Westchester in exchange for lodgings at the property’s guesthouse.
His wild and adventurous life slowed down somewhat by the mid-1980s as he returned to his studies and wrote a biography of his father, titled Yul: The Man Who Would Be King, which was published in 1989. The biography was released four years after Yul’s death from lung cancer on October 10, 1985, at the age of 65.
Rock is survived by his sisters, Victoria, Mia, Melody, and Lark.
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