Clint Cary, the storied cosmic artist, raconteur and serial inebriate who was a mainstay of Ocean Beach from 1963 to 1993, hasn’t been resurrected.
But 20 years after his death at age 84 in 1993, the Spaceman’s legacy continues. He’s being immortalized by Rick Bollinger in a screenplay titled “The Return of the Spaceman of Ocean Beach,” being performed Friday and Saturday, Aug. 9-10 at the Ocean Beach Playhouse & Arts Center, 4944 Newport Ave.
If you ever met the “Spaceman,” you never forgot him, said Bollinger, who hopes his screenplay and theatrical reading garners enough attention that, someday, Cary will be deemed worthy of a movie documentary.
The Spaceman’s story is, well, far out.
Bollinger said Cary was an extraordinary artist, as well as an alcoholic, derelict and certified psychotic who became notorious and widely known as “The Spaceman of Ocean Beach.”
Cary claimed to have been an alien abductee who was whisked away during a visit to Joshua Tree in 1957 to the planet Rillispore, where he was told Earth was doomed.
The spaceman “returned” to warn Obecians of the world’s demise and to “save” those he deemed worthy of salvation on a departing spaceship by assigning them a number, either verbally or on printed cards.
“When I met him in 1991, he was blind. I helped him self-publish two books on his life story,” said Bollinger, who also helped exhibit some of the hundreds of captivating canvases Cary painted and subsisted on during his time.
“He’d be drunk for months at a time, but then he’d sober up and start painting and that would be his commodity, his barter,” Bollinger said. “He was an amazing artist, very detailed, very intricate metaphysical-type paintings.”
One of the select few who were given a number to be saved by the Spaceman was local musician Richard James, who remembers Cary well.
Whatever else he was, James said Cary was a self-promoter par excellence.
Did Cary really believe his extraterrestrial spiel?
“Sometimes, salesmen take on the guise of what they’re spouting,” James said. “They start to believe what they’re saying.”
Noting Cary wasn’t always “the most charming person,” James said, “He had his followers. People were just crazy about him.”
Is there something to be learned from the “Spaceman’s experience?”
“He was another instance of someone who made a splash, had potential, perhaps could have done something more constructive,” James said.
He said Cary, like so many others gifted artists who could have had “amazing lives for decades and decades,” instead “burned brightly — and quickly.”
Of how the Spaceman is woven into the fabric of Ocean Beach, Mike James, who knew him well and whose family ran The James Gang graphic-arts business for 25 years, said, “He added to the flavor of Ocean Beach, which has always been seen as a little bit nonconformist.”
“He set the tone for me on the whole Ocean Beach culture,” he said.
The screenplay tale of the Spaceman is a story about friendship and jazz musician Bob Oaks, who befriended the troubled Cary in 1963. Oaks created the Spaceman brand and promoted Cary’s extraordinary art.
“All while trying to keep him out of trouble and jail as a result of his alcoholism and often psychotic behavior,” Bollinger said. “My screenplay is a story about an alcoholic artist and his friends trying to save him, about their relationship as it was over those 30 years.”
Bollinger’s theater production on the spaceman will feature 10 cast members, augmented by the Richard James Quartet.
The production will also showcase Cary’s extraordinary art work, dated as far back as 1958, illuminated by black lights. The show will also include historical photography by Ocean Beach’s own Steve Rowell.
Asked if he’d gotten a number from the Spaceman to be on the last flight out of Earth to Rillispore to escape Armageddon, Bollinger replied, “I didn’t. But I’m carrying the story forward. After all this time … I’m pretty sure I’ve got a spot on there somewhere.”
To learn more about the Spaceman, visit www.spacemanofoceanbeach.com, oceanbeachplayhouse.com or Facebook.com/spacemanofoceanbeach.