Farewell Apollo, Chubbs, Greef Karga

Published 4:56 pm Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Carl Weathers, one of my favorite actors, died last week at the age of 76.

As a fan of all the “Rocky” movies, I was first introduced to Weathers in the first of those films (1976) featuring Sylvester Stallone as the loveable underdog boxer Rocky Balboa.

In the first Rocky, we meet the main characters…Balboa and Apollo Creed (Weathers). Although the movie’s plot pulls the audience in a direction to fall in love with the bumbling, stumbling Rocky, I was drawn in to dissect the inner struggles of Apollo Creed.

While unbeaten in the ring and the proclaimed “Master of Disaster”, Weathers did a marvelous job in showing Creed’s life outside of the ring. Like his counterpart Rocky, Apollo was just trying to make a living for his family and not get caught up in the extravagant lifestyle of a heavyweight boxing champion.

While Creed beats Balboa in the climatic ending of the first Rocky movie, the two meet again in Rocky II (1979). This time around it’s Balboa’s turn to raise his arms in triumph after 15 grueling rounds of boxing.

By the time Rocky III hits the big screen in 1982, Apollo has retired from the ring, but takes on the role as Balboa’s manager as they join forces to defeat Clubber Lang in a rematch of a championship fight at the first of that movie. Creed and Balboa come out on top in that rematch vs. Lang.

However, the Rocky series sadly loses Weathers in the sequel’s fourth film. Apollo dies in the ring during an exhibition match against Russian boxer Ivan Drago (portrayed by Dolph Lundgren). That prompts Balboa to avenge his friend’s death and Rocky IV follows all the twists and turns as he goes back to the basics and trains to meet, and eventually defeat, Drago.

Later in the Rocky series, Balboa, now retired, takes on the role as the mentor and manager of Adonis Creed, the fictional son of Apollo who has followed his late father into the world of professional boxing.

Fortunately for fans of Carl Weathers, life on the big screen goes on even after Apollo’s death.

He had roles in Predator (1987) as Colonel Al Dillon; the lead part in Action Jackson (1988) as Sgt. Jericho Jackson; and the starring role in Hurricane Smith (1992) where he travels to Australia to rescue his sister.

But outside of making his name in the Rocky series, Weathers may be best remembered as Derick “Chubbs” Peterson, a one-handed golf pro in the hit comedy Happy Gilmore (1996). Chubbs, who lost his right hand when attacked by an alligator while playing on the PGA Tour, is tasked with teaching Happy Gilmore (Adam Sandler), a want-to-be hockey player, the finer points of golf, to include proper etiquette on the course.

It’s safe to say that Happy Gilmore is a barrel of laughs, other than, of course, witnessing Chubbs falling to his death.

Weathers continued his career in movie and TV roles, to include two seasons (1989-90) as Colonel Carl Brewster on Tour of Duty. He also had the main role as Adam Beaudreaux in another TVs show – Street Justice (1991-93). Additionally he portrayed Police Chief Hampton Forbes in the TV series – In the Heat of the Night (1993-95).

I lost track of Weathers after that, but he popped back up in an unexpected fashion and showed his comedic genius on the TV sitcom Arrested Development, which began airing in 2004.

He returned again to my liking in the early episodes of the Disney+ series The Mandalorian, somewhat of a spinoff of the Star Wars saga, that launched in 2019. Weathers portrayed Greef Karga, the former leader of a Bounty Hunters group that provides the funding for The Mandalorian that leads him on a quest to find “Baby Yoda” who later in life becomes a main character in Star Wars.

Sorry to bore you with all the nerd stuff, but hopefully you can see how that all ties together with the infamous Luke Skywalker character of Star Wars fame.

Meanwhile, there was another side of the life of Weathers that made him one of my favorites.

Standing 6’-2” and tipping the scales at 225 pounds, Weathers played college football at San Diego State. In 1970, he signed a professional contract as an undrafted free agent with the Oakland Raiders, playing just one season under legendary coach John Madden. The Raiders won the AFC West Division title that year.

Oakland released him in 1971, but Weathers pressed forward as a pro athlete, signing with the BC Lions of the Canadian Football League.

He retired from pro football in 1974 to pursue a career in acting. We’re all better off for that decision.

So when you kick back in your easy chair this coming Sunday to watch Super Bowl LVIII between the Chiefs and the 49’ers, don’t get caught up in all the Taylor Swift sightings. Rather, I implore you to recall the life of Carl Weathers. Perhaps you can skip the halftime show and watch a few minutes of any of the early Rocky movies, or catch Chubbs and Happy Gilmore’s adventures on a putt-putt course, or flip the channel to Disney+ for an episode of The Mandalorian.

Rest in peace, Apollo, Chubbs, Greef Karga. You made a fan out of me!

Cal Bryant is the Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at cal.bryant@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7207.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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