This tough, eccentric and battered-looking nightclub habitue became a comic and eventually a successful character actor in more than 20 films. He was born Michael Gennaro Morra to a tough Brooklyn family; his father was deported, and his uncle reportedly gunned down a man in front of the boy. Morra became a ruffian himself, losing his teeth in a pistol-whipping and admitting to at least one stick-up. Morra changed his name to 'Rockets Redglare' when he became a nightclub comic in the 1970s.
Popular in the downtown punk scene, he was spotted by director Jim Jarmusch, who cast him as a poker player in the road comedy "Stranger Than Paradise" (1984). Redglare had found a new career and he never slowed down. With his tough, broken face, hulking presence and snaggle-toothed dentures, he was pretty much typed as a hood or lowlife. But his projects have run the gamut from major studio releases to such low-budget experimental films as "The Way It Is, or Eurydice in the Avenue" (1984), "Her Name is Lisa" (1986), "In the Soup" and "What About Me" (both 1992).
Cutting-edge directors are fond of him and Redglare's distinctive presence has graced such major productions as Martin Scorsese's dark comedy "After Hours" (1985, as a mob member), Susan Seidelman's "Desperately Seeking Susan" (1985, as a cab driver) and "Cookie" (1989, as a mobster), Jarmusch's "Down By Law" (1986) and "Mystery Train" (1989), and Penny Marshall's "Big" (1988, as a scary hotel clerk). Additionally, Redglare was the nuttiest caller in Oliver Stone's "Talk Radio" (1988), a denizen of old friend Steve Buscemi's "Trees Lounge" and himself in Julian Schnabel's "Basquiat" (both 1996).