Fans of the iconic 1984 martial arts film “The Karate Kid” who can identify more members of the bullying Cobra Kai karate dojo than just the primary antagonist Johnny (William Zabka) will probably remember Tommy. Played by Rob Garrison, he is easily recognized for his taunt about putting main character Daniel (Ralph Macchio) “in a body bag.” When Garrison reprised his role years later for YouTube Red’s “Cobra Kai” sequel series, franchise fans got a chuckle when his character, suffering from a terminal illness, dies and gets put in the body bag himself. That scene becomes more somber with news that the actor himself has passed away in real life.
People.com had the scoop as actor Rob Garrison, Tommy of “Karate Kid” and the body bag fame, has died last Friday, September 27, at the age of 59. This came following his month-long stay at a West Virginia hospital, and his death has been officially attributed to liver and kidney failure. This comes mere months following his one-episode appearance in season 2 of “Cobra Kai,” the distant sequel to “The Karate Kid” that made Garrison’s acting in one scene a memorable meme of the 1980s.
Immediately afterwards, words of condolences and tributes appeared on social media for Garrison, courtesy of his friends and costars on the franchise. His manager Rick Heriques, who officially announced Garrison’s passing last Friday, described him as “a great person and ambassador to the ‘Karate Kid’ legacy.” Martin Kove, who portrayed Tommy and Johnny’s malevolent Cobra Kai Sensei Kreese, called Garrison “one of his warriors,” adding that “Cobra Kai will not be the same” without him. Even Ralph Macchio, who played the hero bullied by the late actor’s character, expressed sorrow for his departure and expressed condolences to his family. Tom Hurwitz, show-runner of “Cobra Kai,” has also done the same.
Aside from “Karate Kid” and its 1986 follow-up movie, Rob Garrison also starred in “Iron Eagle” and made guest roles in several major TV series of the eighties and nineties. “Cobra Kai” season was his last role, where his character Tommy, dying of cancer, is taken on a motorcycle trip by his former Cobra Kai dojo buddies (like William Zabka, all reprised by their original actors), where they figure into a bar fight and Tommy gives Johnny advise over a campfire before succumbing to his illness in his sleep. The ensuing scene of his being put in a body bag by first-responders echoes the infamous line from his younger self.
“Cobra Kai” on YouTube Premium (formerly YouTube Red) focuses on Zabka’s Johnny as he tries to turn his middle-aged life around by restarting his childhood karate dojo, leading to friction between him and his old rival Daniel, plus their respective students. A third season is confirmed to premiere in 2020.
Image courtesy of Movie Web