Rock Brynner, son of the legendary actor Yul Brynner, passed away on October 13 at the age of 76. Despite being born in the shadow of his famous father, Rock managed to carve out a multifaceted career for himself. Throughout his life, he took on various roles, including road manager, bodyguard, farmer, pilot, street performer, novelist, and professor of constitutional history. With an impressive academic background and a diverse range of experiences, Rock Brynner left a lasting impact on the entertainment industry and academia.
Like many children of renowned celebrities, Rock Brynner sought to establish his own identity. He embarked on a journey to explore his own passions and interests, which led him to myriad experiences and professions. After attending prestigious institutions such as Yale, Trinity College Dublin, and Columbia, where he obtained a doctorate in American history, Brynner utilized his knowledge to teach at Marist College for over a decade.
Brynner’s artistic inclinations were evident early on when he wrote and performed a one-man play based on French playwright Jean Cocteau’s addiction memoir, “Opium.” This venture allowed him a brief stint on Broadway in 1970 and showcased his talent as a performer. Reflecting on his own struggles with drug and alcohol addiction, Brynner channeled his experiences into his first novel, “The Ballad of Habit and Accident,” published in 1981.
During his time in Europe, Brynner crossed paths with the legendary boxer Muhammad Ali. Despite their unlikely pairing, Brynner became Ali’s press liaison and worked closely with him during a period when Ali had been stripped of his championship due to his anti-war stance. Thanks to Brynner’s connections in Dublin, Ali was able to fight a highly publicized bout against Al “Blue” Lewis in the city in 1972. Brynner’s diverse network and ability to navigate different worlds became apparent through his association with Ali.
Rock Brynner’s life took an unexpected turn when he befriended Robbie Robertson, the renowned guitarist and songwriter of The Band. This friendship not only led him to become The Band’s tour bus driver but also facilitated the introduction between Robertson and acclaimed director Martin Scorsese. This meeting ultimately resulted in the creation of “The Last Waltz,” a concert documentary that received widespread acclaim. Brynner’s ability to connect and create collaborations showcased his knack for fostering artistic alliances.
Brynner’s entrepreneurial spirit led him to become an early investor in the famous rock ‘n’ roll-themed restaurant chain, the Hard Rock Cafe. Alongside his father, he seized the opportunity to invest in the venture founded by Isaac Tigrett and Peter Morton. Brynner’s managerial skills were put to use when he was appointed as the manager of the New York branch in 1984. The restaurant quickly became a hotspot for celebrities and trendsetters in Manhattan, solidifying Brynner’s reputation as an astute businessman.
While Brynner experienced success in various fields, he never strayed far from academia. In 1989, he published a biography of his father, titled “Yul: The Man Who Would Be King,” showcasing his expertise in American history and his ability to portray his father’s legacy. Even as he pursued his passion for writing and teaching, Brynner maintained his commitment to academic pursuits.
Rock Brynner’s life serves as a testament to the power of self-discovery and the importance of forging one’s own path. From his diverse range of professions to his influential connections, Brynner showcased his ability to excel in various fields. Whether through his artistic endeavors, entrepreneurial ventures, or academic pursuits, Brynner left an indelible mark on the worlds of entertainment and academia. His legacy serves as an inspiration for individuals seeking to navigate their own unique journeys.