May 8, 2006

Happy Birthday, Bob Clampett

I volunteered to work during the ASIFA annual cel sale in 1981; Bob Clampett happened to be there signing these preprinted drawings; his wife Sody was with him. I introduced myself, finally, after years of wanting to really meet him. In addition to being a fan, I mentioned I'd gone to Third Street with his daughters, thus the way he signed this paper, which I treasure. All we spent our time talking about was what Ruthie and Cherie were doing--both their mom and dad were just nuts about them, so proud of them. I saw Ruth once after that, when she worked at H.G.Daniels, the old art store that supplied the old Chouinard school, then later Otis. Now long gone.

I mentioned before that I've had a long relationship with the great Bob Clampett. It was 99.9% all from me to Bob and not the other way 'round, but nevertheless he was a formative influence on my little psyche. And in one of those bizarre details life throws at you, I discovered that two of my schoolmates at Third Street in Los Angeles had a closer connection to him--they were his daughters, Ruth and Cherie. These girls were very notable for their gorgeous red hair and freckles--perfect colleens...and I'd occasionally see them with their dad or mom Sody shopping on Larchmont(Hancock Park and its environs in those days was what an adult friend of mine, Cammie King, called "a little Peyton Place"; you'd run into everyone on Saturdays at Safeway or the dry cleaners. Small town L.A.).

I was just nuts for Cecil the Sea Sick Sea Serpent as a wee--really wee--child; although we moved six times before I was in the 7th grade, I managed to salvage my Cecil soaky as a kind of talisman from my earliest memories.

So I knew Clampett as a famous God of bizarre and cheaply made cartoons before I knew him as the director of some of the weirdest, wildest and most appealingly hilarious cartoons ever made at Warner Bros, starring another of my baby heroes, Bugs Bunny. That took a good while because the Bugs Bunny/Roadrunner Show, the venue through which I first saw the WB characters, was limited to later cartoons made well after Clampett left. I was probably 12 or 13 before I finally saw "Book Revue" or "Corny Concerto" as part of the KTTV afterschool series--the one with the cheap, handmade intro featurning a plastic Porky toy held in front of a backdrop of some kind. Great stuff and good times.

I think Bob Clampett was nuts in the best sense. He was certainly brilliant, and different, and he managed to translate his own personality and essence so strongly and successfully into film and art--and at such a young age, that I'd also be plenty comfortable calling him a genius. He's the only person in cartoons I know of who can make violence and hysteria happy things. You have to see the cartoons--especially with an audience--to get the full impact of this weird melange.

So happy birthday, Mr. Clampett. You're missed.


David Germain said...

What?? Noone posted a comment on your blog on Bob Clampett's birthday??? That's a sin. Oh well. A little late, but here I am. Actually, I posted a B-day pic to Bob on my blog as well. Check it out here.

It's cool how you went to school with Ruth and Cherie. Were they good kids?

Jenny Lerew said...

Yeah, I was surprised too, no comments--on Clampett?! ! Oh, well--as long as someone reads it, I'm happy.
They were very good girls! Well, Ruth was in my brother's class(3 years ahead of me--and in grade school, that might as well be 300, at that age), Cherie was younger, just; but both are super recognizable--at 100 yards--really red hair, and v. cute. I believe Ruth was a serious and excellent student.
I discovered just WHICH Clampett their dad was one day waiting to use the pay phone at school; Cherie was on it and calling her dad at work or whatever. I heard her ask for "Bob Clampett, please" and when she'd hung up I asked her(all excited)--is your dad THE "Bob Clampett??"; she said yes, and even though she was--what?--8 or so, she was obviously so proud of him. I knew him only because of the "Beany & Cecil" credits at the time.

Joel Mielke said...

Hey, thanks for posting this! I had the luck of running into Mr. Clampett at the San Diego Comic Convention in (I think) 1974. There was little interest in animation at the Con in those days, so he was happy to sit with me for hours, telling me wonderful stories about the Warner Brothers studios.

What a powerful, imaginative talent he was.