I first met Bob and Sody Clampett when they appeared at Sheridan College in Oakville. I was so taken by his warmth and genuine interest in everyone he met (you can’t fake that) that I decided that moment that if I were ever to bring anyone up to Toronto from Hollywood Bob would be the first.
In the fall of 1978 I started a program at Innis College in Toronto that ran from 12 pm to 12 am and pulled just 12 people. My first thought was not, “How do I get more people out,” but, “I have to do something new to get through this year.” One of the 12 was John Kricfalusi who came by to tell me Sheridan College refused to allow him to continue as, in his teachers’s opinion he had no talent and was a bad influence.
Salvador Dali’s teachers said the same thing about him.
I had met his teachers through the programs John and I did there. They were all sticks in mud.
John gave me Bob Clampett’s phone number and told me Clampett had said he could have a room in the space over Clampett’s garage (which, for some reason, John now denies).
When I got home I called Bob, got his answering machine and invited him to Toronto.
The next morning Bob returned my call saying he would be glad to come.
Bob was and remains a real inspiration to me (as is everyone in his family) because, first and foremost, they are extremely decent people.
I spent five years listening to the tapes of the talks Bob gave in Toronto as I transcribed them for publication. My only regret is that I was not able to have Bob video as well as audio recorded.
My deep appreciation for his work is grounded in Mike Barrier’s FUNNYWORLD interview which was and remains a real inspiration to me:
Bob was generous in every way a person can be generous. It pains me when I encounter people who never met the man and who parrot the damned anti-Clampett claptrap that persists to this day.
It is fortunate that Larry Jackson was not able to employ the ideas he wanted to employ in the creation of BUGS BUNNY SUPERSTAR. In the first place they were awful. And in the second, I don’t think he really understood what an invaluable resource he had in Clampett.
“An art form requires genius. People of genius are always troublemakers, meaning they start from scratch, demolish accepted norms and rebuild a new world. The problem with cinema today is the dearth of troublemakers. There’s not a rabble-rouser in sight. There was still one, but he went beyond troublemaker to court jester. He clobbered the status quo. That’s Godard. We’re fresh out of “bad students.” You’ll find students masquerading as bad ones, but you won’t find the real article, because a genuine bad student upends everything.”–Henri Langlois.
Bob Clampett, Tex Avery, and Chuck Jones embody Langlois’ quote. They were geniuses.
We still have a dearth of bad students. God, I wish people who want to make movies (animated or otherwise) would just stay the Hell out of film school, start from scratch, demolish accepted norms and rebuild a new world. That is what I am doing here which is why I piss off all the right people.
My programs have always been first and foremost about sharing with others what I am learning.
After Bob’s passing I was asked to host an animation program at a local university. I wanted to get Shamus Culhane and Zack Schwartz together for one last hurrah before they moved on so I said to the people who had asked me, “How would you like to have somebody up here who actually worked on these films?”
“Who can you get?” they asked.
“Shamus Culhane,” I replied telling them what he had done.
“Who else can you get?”
“Bob Clampett’s widow, Sody and, maybe, Friz Freleng,” I said.
Friz’s health was bad so he was not traveling but Sody and her daughter Ruth came up.
We had a grand time turning new people on to Bob’s genius. I got to meet Ruth.
The entire Clampett family is one of a wonderful kind.–Reg Hartt
Post Script: The cds, dvds and publications of my special Bob Clampett, Friz Freleng, Grim Natwick and Shamus Culhane (which is a LOT of stuff) is available for a donation of $200 towards The Cineforum. Get in touch.