Wheeling, WV — Shaking her head and fighting off tears, the mother of Karate Kid actor Rob Garrison bought her son a body bag for his birthday for the 23rd straight year. The bag, which was purchased from Gary’s Crime Scene Outlet on Tuesday, had been loudly requested by the former teen actor during a contentious phone conversation with Cynthia Garrison back in June.
Garrison, who acted in small roles in a number of 80’s films, received his big break in 1984 when he was cast as the easily excitable Cobra Kai henchman Tommy in the wildly successful film The Karate Kid. The young actor made his most indelible mark on the film during a scene in which a red-faced and smiling Tommy maniacally yells “Get him a body bag! Yeah!” (click here) following an illegal leg strike against the film’s hero, Daniel Larusso.
While Garrison’s acting career fizzled out in the late 80s, his spastic quote regarding non-porous cadaver pouches became firmly cemented as one of pop-culture’s most commonly repeated phrases. Riding high on the notoriety the quote brought, Garrison has since become dangerously addicted to collecting body bags from around the world, mostly requesting them as gifts from friends and family in the same voice he used in the film.
Cynthia Garrison estimates that the family has spent between $12,000 to $15,000 on body bags since her son first requested one in 1985, his first birthday following the film’s release. She also revealed that the family was forced to take out a second mortgage to pay off massive credit card debt, much of which was accrued purchasing the unique birthday gifts.
“Ever since that damn movie came out, shopping for Robby has been a nightmare,” said Cynthia Garrison, tears rolling down her cheeks. “When he was little, he would ask for toy trucks and those G.I. Joe dolls. Now, whenever I ask him what he’d like for his birthday, he just gets all red in the face and yells ‘Get me a body bag!!!’ It’s absolutely killing his father and me.”
According to relatives, Garrison’s obsessive fixation on body bags has estranged him from the majority of his extended family. The breaking point for several family members came during the funeral of Garrison’s grandmother, Estelle Madlock, in 1994.
“We had all been taking our turns praying at the open casket when Rob began asking my grandma’s corpse if she had enjoyed being taken out of her apartment in a body bag,” said Vance Madlock, Garrison’s cousin. “When he didn’t get an answer, he began screaming at my poor dead grandma about how she didn’t even deserve a coffin, let alone a body bag. If we weren’t in a church, I swear my dad would’ve killed him right there and then.”
While Garrison has been absent from the Hollywood scene for nearly three decades, he has continued to make public appearances as a motivational speaker and uninvited red-carpet walker. In 2005, he published the self-help book What’s In Your Bag?, selling just under forty copies to date.
Rarely seen by his former Karate Kid co-stars, the occasionally homeless Garrison has skipped nearly two dozen film reunions throughout the years. The Kentucky native has, however, remained in sporadic contact with William Zabka, the actor who played Johnny Lawrence, The Karate Kid’s lead antagonist.
“I went to Rob’s birthday party about ten years ago, but only because I was convinced it was part of Punked or something,” said Zabka during an interview with Barely Legal in 2009. “I get there and the place is decorated like the Cobra Kai dojo, there’s a cake with a depiction in the icing of Bobby sweeping Daniel’s leg, and Rob’s dad is in the corner drinking Jack Daniels straight from a bottle. When Rob ran out of his bedroom screaming about body bags, I faked a phone call and got the fuck out of dodge.”
Attempts to interview Garrison for this story were not successful, but a video posted on his YouTube page on July 12, 2012 provided a glimpse into the former teen actor’s views on his place in film, and cadaver accessory, history.
“To most people, I’m just this great actor who recited one of the most memorable lines in the history of film,” said Garrison, zipped up in a body bag, only his face showing. “I don’t buy into the hype, though. I’ll always just be a simple guy who enjoys taking naps in a 36″ x 90″ BioVu body bag. End of story.”