19 April 2024
Entertainment Music

Rock Brynner, Son of Hollywood Royalty Who Reduce His Personal Path, Dies at 76

Rock Brynner, whose life as a street supervisor for the Band, bodyguard for Muhammad Ali, farmer, pilot, avenue performer, novelist and professor of constitutional historical past overshadowed what, for a lesser mortal, could be a greater than ample laurel on which to relaxation — he was the son of the actor Yul Brynner — died on Oct. 13 in Salisbury, Conn. He was 76.

Maria Cuomo Cole, a detailed good friend, mentioned the reason for his dying, in a hospice, was issues of a number of myeloma.

Like many kids of the wealthy and well-known, Mr. Brynner led a charmed life. His father, a Russian émigré, was finest recognized for his starring position in each the stage and display variations of the musical “The King and I,” and later performed lead Hollywood roles as a gunfighter, a Russian normal and, in “The Ten Commandments,” Pharaoh Rameses II. A-list glamour encircled the son: Liza Minnelli was a good friend from childhood; Elizabeth Taylor got here to all his events. The French poet and playwright Jean Cocteau was his godfather.

However Rock Brynner did extra together with his silver spoon than most. A gifted pupil, he attended Yale, Trinity School Dublin and Columbia, the place he obtained a doctorate in American historical past in 1993 earlier than educating for over a decade at Marist School, in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

In between his stints on campus, he shifted out and in of assorted milieus and demimondes. He wrote a one-man play primarily based on Cocteau’s habit memoir, “Opium,” which he carried out briefly on Broadway in 1970. Afterward he traveled round Europe as a mime, a interval wherein he struggled together with his personal drug and alcohol issues — a theme that fueled his first novel, “The Ballad of Behavior and Accident” (1981).

Mr. Brynner had a penchant for falling into movie star orbits. Whereas nonetheless in Europe he joined the entourage of Muhammad Ali, who was on one thing of a world tour after being stripped of his heavyweight championship title over his antiwar stance. Ali referred to as him his “bodyguard,” despite the fact that Mr. Brynner was a lot shorter and slighter than the deposed champ.

“Who’d ever have thunk,” Mr. Brynner recalled Ali joking, “that the son of the pharaoh of Egypt can be defending slightly Black boy from Louisville?”

Mr. Brynner was no mere hanger-on: He labored as Ali’s press liaison, and it was partially due to him, and his connections in Dublin, that Ali was capable of struggle a high-profile bout towards Al “Blue” Lewis in that metropolis in 1972.

After returning to the US and largely sobering up, Mr. Brynner made mates with Robbie Robertson, the guitarist and chief songwriter for the Band, and for a time drove the group’s tour bus.

When Mr. Robertson expressed curiosity in making a rock documentary, Mr. Brynner, by his account, put him in contact with one other good friend, the director Martin Scorsese. The outcome, in 1978, was “The Final Waltz,” broadly thought of among the finest live performance documentaries ever made.

Mr. Brynner not often stayed in a single position for lengthy. In the future within the early Nineteen Seventies he was hanging out at a London lodge bar when he met an entrepreneur named Isaac Tigrett, who had an thought for a rock ’n’ roll-themed restaurant.

The 2 grew to become shut mates, and Mr. Brynner and his father grew to become early buyers within the Arduous Rock Cafe, based by Mr. Tigrett and Peter Morton, whose father had began the Morton’s steakhouse chain. When Mr. Tigrett expanded to New York in 1984, he employed Mr. Brynner as supervisor. The restaurant was, for a time, the place to see and be seen in Manhattan, and Mr. Brynner proved greater than able to dealing with all of the boldfaced names angling for a desk.

“He grew up with celebrities, traveled with celebrities,” Mr. Tigrett mentioned in a cellphone interview. “He knew this scene properly.”

Mr. Brynner managed to remain on the Arduous Rock Cafe for a yr earlier than changing into stressed as soon as extra. He had at all times wished to personal a aircraft, he informed Mr. Tigrett. He and his father used their earnings from the restaurant to open a constitution air service, primarily based at a small airport in Danbury, Conn., not removed from the Westchester farm the place Rock was now residing in a guesthouse, freed from cost in change for working its small area of greens.

By the mid-Nineteen Eighties, together with his wild days behind him, Mr. Brynner returned to his mental pursuits. He wrote a biography of his father, “Yul: The Man Who Would Be King” (1989), whereas finishing his doctorate in American historical past at Columbia, with a specialty in constitutional historical past.

The biography, which appeared 4 years after Yul Brynner’s dying at 65, exploded sure myths that his father had informed about himself (he didn’t, as he claimed, descend from Roma inventory). However it additionally painted a portrait of a sophisticated man, whose immense ego typically acquired in the way in which of his real love for his solely son — and of how that son struggled beneath the burden.

“It’s a examine of how a son fashions himself on his father,” Rock Brynner mentioned in a 1991 radio interview, “after which should distance himself later in life.”

Yul Brynner Jr. was born on Dec. 23, 1946, in Manhattan. His father, nonetheless a struggling actor, was away in California searching for stage work, whereas his mom, Virginia Gilmore — who would additionally obtain cinematic fame — saved home in a small residence on East thirty eighth Avenue, above a dry cleaner’s.

There was no query what the boy’s first title can be: “In our household,” Yul Brynner Sr. mentioned, “Yul isn’t just a reputation. It’s a title.” However he additionally gave his son the nickname Rock, after the boxer Rocky Graziano, in a bid to toughen him up for the tough streets of New York.

Rock lived a wandering childhood, following his father’s profession from New York to Chicago to Los Angeles and, lastly, to Switzerland, the place he attended the Worldwide College of Geneva, a famed boarding faculty.

He enrolled at Yale, however after a yr transferred to Trinity School Dublin — partially as a result of, he later mentioned, he was enthralled with the work of Samuel Beckett, whom he had met, and that of James Joyce, who could be one of many few Twentieth-century notables whom he didn’t. (Joyce died earlier than Mr. Brynner was born.)

He graduated with a bachelor’s diploma in philosophy in 1969 and obtained a grasp’s in the identical topic, additionally from Trinity, in 1972.

Mr. Brynner’s marriage to Linda Ridgway, in 1973, led to divorce. He married Elisabeth Coleman in 1978; in addition they later divorced. He’s survived by his sisters, Victoria, Mia and Melody Brynner and Lark Bryner, who makes use of the unique Russian spelling of the household title.

Mr. Brynner explored his household’s Jap Russian roots in a 2006 e-book. Credit score…by way of Distinct Press

After receiving his doctorate, Mr. Brynner taught at Marist and at Western Connecticut State College. He additionally continued to write down. Together with one other novel, “The Doomsday Report” (1998), a prophetic satire about local weather change, he wrote concerning the controversial drug thalidomide (“Darkish Treatment: The Affect of Thalidomide and Its Revival as a Important Medication,” 2001); his household’s roots in jap Russia (“Empire and Odyssey: The Brynners in Far East Russia and Past,” 2006); and, with Andrew Cuomo, the brother of Maria Cuomo Cole, who was governor of New York on the time, state water coverage (“Natural Power: The New York Power Authority’s Origins and Path to Clean Energy,” 2016).

Because of his analysis on jap Russia, the State Division despatched Mr. Brynner on a number of lecture excursions within the area. There he paid tribute to his household by serving to open a Brynner museum and unveil a statue of his father in Vladivostok, the place the elder Mr. Brynner was born.

“Sure, it’s troublesome for the kids of iconic figures to determine unbiased identities,” he informed The New York Occasions in 2001. “However with all of the struggling on this world, I wouldn’t shed too many tears for many who had privileged youths.”