Entries in Clay Chapman (1)

Sunday
May092010

Compulsion as vocation. Quentin Tarantino and Clay Chapman.

fBack in the days before the mercurial rise and fall of the mega-video chains, my video store was a small store in a small Manhattan Beach strip mall called Video Archives.  The two clerks behind the counter were named Quentin and Jerry.

Quentin, tall and thin was hype-kinetic and literally talked faster than you could hear.  Jerry was shorter, stockier and warmly laconic.  In other words, Quentin's opposite.

I called them the Siskel and Ebert of Video Archives.  If you asked for a movie recommendation, they would argue about the choice.  Quentin’s taste tended toward the oddity – the Kung Fu movie or an action movie that went under the radar. 

Quentin was so passionate about his recommendations that it was hard to refuse the offering.  So, I would walk out with both a Quentin and Jerry choice – a Japanese mob movie and a Harrison Ford tent-pole movie.

Jerry told me one day that Quentin has written a screenplay. Since nearly everyone in LA was writing a screenplay I said, “Oh, no, how bad is it?”  He replied, “actually it’s incredibly good.”  It was called True Romance. The other script Jerry mentioned was called Reservoir Dogs.

As you probably know by now, that clerk was Quentin Tarantino.  Curiously enough, Jerry plays a role in Pulp Fiction – “Big Jerry’s Cab Company”  is Jerry M including a  caricature of Jerry illustrated by himself.  (By the way Jerry, I still have that paperback copy of Jack Schaefer’s Shane you loaned me. Sorry for the delay)

Cut to:

Clay McLeod Chapman.   Clay and I worked together at a Barnes & Noble in Chesterfield, Virginia.  Clay was still in high school but much to my constant amazement, he had what could loosely be called a entourage. 

He was constantly scribbling in a notebook – writing plays and short stories.  The stories he wrote can be described as Edgar Allan Poe as a millennial.

I told Clay the Tarantino story and he scribbled out an autograph for me that said, “hold on to his because one day I will be famous and this will be worth something.”

Well, Clay did become well known.

"If Chapman keeps up with the oddball characters, well-crafted stories, and critical plaudits, that Faulkner guy better watch out," the Village Voice’s Alexis Soloski wrote in a review of Clay McLeod Chapman’s Pumpkin Pie Show.

Author Tom Robbins said of Chapman’s work, “Like a demonic angel on a skateboard, like a resurrected Artaud on methadrine, like a tattletale psychiatrist turned rodeo clown, Clay McLeod Chapman races back and forth along the serrated edges of everyday American madness, objectively recording each whimper of anguish, each whisper of skewed desire. Chapman as well.”

Clay’s first book was a collection of short stories called Rest Area.  He also wrote a novel called Miss Corpus both published by Hyperion books.  

What makes Clay unique is that he created “The Pumpkin Pie Show.”  Clay acts out his short stories accompanied by a small band.  The award-winning show has toured extensively throughout the world – traveling to the Romanian Theatre Festival of Sibiu, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the New York International Fringe Festival, Club, and throughout theaters in Manhattan.

Do I think a Tarantino Chapman movie would work?  Definitely.  If not, at the very least it would be provocative.

But the bridge that connects them isn’t me. 

It’s passion.  A passion to create and recreate.  A willingness to be out of their comfort zone. The last time I saw Clay, he talked about his idea of a comfort zone.  He said. “If you’re in your comfort zone, you’re probably not learning anything.”

They both scribbled away long into the night when it would have been easier to sleep. 

You can’t manufacture passion.  Quentin lives and breaths movies.  When he worked at Video Archives and a star or director died, Quentin, Jerry, Roger Avery and a guy I remember as Dan put together a tribute display.  The obituary was placed at the top and below were all the movies that connected the individual to other movies.

It was a prelude to the Kevin Bacon game.  I don’t know if it sold more videos, but it revealed a passion for movies.

And when Clay graduated from Sarah Lawrence, he met an editor in Manhattan who asked if he had any short stories to show her. He had dozens.  It was another version of how fortune favors the prepared mind.

While fame may have been the result of their work, it wasn’t the motivation.

Rather, it was the drive to get ideas on paper. On the stage. Or on film.  Or all three.  It is compulsion as vocation. 

Longfellow said it well, “the talent of success is nothing more than doing what you can do well, and doing well whatever you do without thought of fame. If it comes at all it will come because it is deserved, not because it is sought after.”

The summing up.

Fame is what other people write about you.

Drive is a gift that comes from within.

Success is the marriage of talent and drive. (And the blessings of good timing)

Talent without drive is treading water.

Drive without talent is not knowing yourself.

Notes:

For more information on Clay Chapman click here: http://www.pumpkinpieshow.com/

For more information on Quentin Tarantino

http://www.everythingtarantino.com/