Cody Hamman pays tribute to Jason Voorhees performer Richard Brooker.
Yesterday, I was shocked and saddened to read the news that Richard Brooker, who played Jason Voorhees in 1982's Friday the 13th Part III, had passed away of an unspecified and apparently very sudden illness. 2013, the year in which we would ideally be celebrating the release of a new Friday the 13th film had the studio made the no-brainer decision to greenlight one for such an appropriate year, will instead be remembered as the year in which we lost a Jason performer for the first time.
Brooker's portrayal of the character is one of my favorite performances that has been given in the role, and he was the man behind the mask for what is my absolute favorite version of the character. I've written about part III twice before on the blog, naming it my favorite slasher movie and doing a full Appreciation article on it, and in those posts I went on about how I love the look of Jason in its final third, when he has put on the hockey mask for the first time in the series. Jason is perfect in that film, and Brooker's acting beneath the badass look has a lot to do with it.
Brooker did quite a few conventions in recent years, but I was only lucky enough to meet him one time, at the spring 2006 Cinema Wasteland. That was actually the first horror convention I ever attended, and the fact that Brooker was a guest, along with fellow Jasons Ari Lehman (part 1), Steve Dash (part 2), C.J. Graham (Jason Lives), and Kane Hodder (parts 7, 8, 9, and X) is what got me there. They were all really nice and it was great to be able to meet them. I got them all to sign the title page of my copy of the Crystal Lake Memories book, and that book became my most prized collectible that day. It has been signed by a lot of other people since then, and over the years I was able to add the signatures of Ted White (part 4), Tom Morga (part 5), Ken Kirzinger (Freddy vs. Jason), and Derek Mears (F13 '09) to that title page, as well as Betsy Palmer, Mrs. Voorhees. I'm very proud of that signature collection, that I was able to meet every primary Jason performer and get them to sign that page, collecting a complete set. With the loss of Brooker, it's a feat that could never be repeated, so I cherish that book and those experiences meeting the actors even more now.
The Friday the 13th franchise is very important to me, it's been a big part of my life since I was three years old. As far as I'm concerned, the F13s are some of the most entertaining movies out there. They're a cinematic comfort to me. Jason Voorhees is one of my all-time favorite characters. I wear his image on my clothes, I carry (a miniature version of) his mask on my keychain whenever I leave the house, I have a six foot tall animatronic Jason in my house. I've said that no matter how down I get in life, one thing that is always there for me is Jason. When I'm feeling depressed, I can put on a Friday the 13th and get enjoyment from it. Watching Jason in action puts a smile on my face. So the fact that Richard Brooker played what I find to be the perfect version of this character that means so much to me, that's a big deal in my life. A former trapeze artist, Brooker put on the makeup and wardrobe of Jason Voorhees and, while doing stunts and going through the motions of hacking up a bunch of people, gave a performance that has entertained me, awed me, thrilled me, and brought moments of happiness to me throughout my life, and will keep on doing so. The viewings of Friday the 13th Part III and the enjoyment they bring will continue.
Richard Brooker is gone now, and I offer my condolences to his friends and family. I may not have known him personally, but I do deeply appreciate his contribution to the character of Jason Voorhees, and he will always have a place in my heart and mind because of it. I thank him for bringing the character to the screen in such an awesome way.
1954 - 2013