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I met Roy in the 70s at the Sea Gull. He was our most prolific napkin artist. I knew very little about Roy in those days even though I saw him often. We didn’t travel in the same circles. I wish I’d spent more time with him. I was busy running the restaurant. It took all my energy during those years.
I reconnected with Roy in the Spring of 2018 when I began working on the Napkin Art Gallery for this website. We started an email correspondence. He found a box of napkins in his attic and mailed them to me to photograph. They can all be found in the Gallery. I returned the napkins after I photographed them. Roy began sending snippets of his recollections of his years in Mendocino. I have included many of these unedited snippets in this post. The last email Roy sent included a picture of his beloved cactus: “My cactus, many more blossoms to come.”
Roy died shortly after. His was a life well lived. He was an artist who supported himself with his art. He was a political activist and a community volunteer. I’m proud to call him my friend. The best summary of his remarkable life can be heard in his own words in the clip below. It takes awhile to get started (3 minutes of music). Be patient. It’s worth listening.
David, I have so many fond memories of the Sea Gull, one of the best bar & restaurants, Mild craziness, philosophical chatter, ‘Mais ou sont les neiges d’anion’. (Where are the snows of yesteryear). Roy
Roy used his unique combination of humor and political conscience to create truly arresting napkin art. As you heard in the interview (above) his idiosyncratic approach to art arose from many sources–creating stage sets for theatrical productions, complicated floats for the Rose Parade, political posters, a fetish for paper lanterns throughout his life, and his true genius of combining humor with serious issues to garnish attention to those things that mattered to him. And he knew how to use the press to his advantage.
Consider, for example, this article aired on KCRA in 2014: Stockton Man Makes A Mission Out Of Saving Water. He reminds me a bit of Robin Williams in this clip, serious and hilarious at the same time.
Hi David, Remembering David Clayton, He and I look similar, blond beards blue eyes, David was taller. I spoke to him briefly in the coffee shop as he headed to work. [I too spoke with David as he left for work on that terrible day.] He turned into Russian Clutch, and was hit by speeding car, a neighbor to Dr. Bergin ran to him to tell that Roy (me) was killed. A few years later a local attorney (drunk) asked me if I felt guilty of killing David. I basically took over afterwards on the movie star’s house. Roy
[NOTE: This email from Roy is confusing. David Clayton was killed in a car accident after eating breakfast at the Sea Gull. He was driving north to Russian Gulch and the crash was caused when he turned onto the frontage road in front of a car traveling south. Perhaps Roy was saying that someone confused the facts and thought it was Roy, not David, who was killed. As for the later story about the attorney and the movie star’s house, these are a mystery to me. Roy was not particularly well at this time and he may have simply mixed up the facts.]
Roy was very active in his community. He created one of his unique posters for the Stockton is Magnificent event in 2014.
Hi, this the poster for the Stockton is Magnificent event coming soon, the founder of out little berg, Capitan John Weber, in clothes that make him into ‘super fly’ as though embroidered with the history of the area. Some of the type will be altered, added to and moved around before printing. Lots of fun. Roy
After his death Roy was recognized as One Of The Four Who Made The Stockton Art Scene A Brighter Place.
Hoggard, too, was an advocate for young people. An artist who had sketched and drawn and done interior decorating but was known locally for the gorgeous paper lanterns he created, taught chess to young people. He encouraged others to do the same, seeing the game as a means of expanding the thinking skills of students. He also supported environmental causes, specifically the Calaveras Rivers, and the environment. He was quiet, unassuming, and talented. His Stockton home was a bit of a gallery, a collection of different things he’d done over the years. The lanterns, though, which he started making as a kid on a camping trip when he saw how someone had taken an empty milk carton and cut it to serve as a candle holder, were his calling card.
Things that make you proud: A few time in life you find things where one might have to act. once in Central Park a pigeon was dangling from a fish line from a branch, several people were concerned,, I noticed a back hoe nearby, was able to get the driver to hoist me in the bucket,, got the bird free, some applause. Coming out of a weekend camping trip on the North coast of California spotted a lamb with all four legs in a cattle guard,, mom bleating nearby,, not easy to pull out,, Driving up a rural road in Mendocino County,, a little burro on the outside of a barbed wire fence,, mom braying,, getting the little guy back through the barbs difficult. I think we’ve all done some of these things,, these stick in my mind Roy
In response to a post I did on Big Al, Roy sent this email.
David, a few times I saw big Al hitching to Fort Bragg, would give him a ride. First thing was to rifle my ash tray looking for roaches. Once he was mowing the large lawn between the Hill Top [House] Inn and the highway. Monte Reid hired him for $3 an hour. I was standing with Monte: “Hey Al can’t you mow any faster”? Al says: “You want my $5 an hour speed?” I knew many tourists who were afraid of Big Al. Some would cross the street. I never saw Al in any of the bars. I’ve wondered what his living conditions were, he usually smelled of camp fire smoke. Many have lived to the calm of Mendocino, Matt Head, Cat Lady and a few passed as almost normal. Wonder about me. Roy
Roy was one of the founding artists in the napkin art group and surely the most active. I think (hope) he was pleased when I contacted him and told him I was setting up the Napkin Art Gallery.
David, Setting and drawing on napkins one afternoon with Bob Avery & Jack Haye, I suggested that we gather on Sunday, and produce napkins art, our first time, your bartender Becky had a heart-attack we raised about $135 for her recovery. About a year later I organized a napkin show in 3 or 4 local gallery’s. At Bob Avery’s I cut cardboard squares we mounted to them with cellophane over. Some visitors from S.F. PBS station interviewed me & Bob, they arranged for a showing at some gallery in S.F. I was in China when that happened, I think they all ended up in some closet, Do not know who they were, or what happened, they were the best of all our craziness. PS: I was told that one of my napkins almost started a fist fight, a perception of a racial slur, I should smoke less funny stuff Roy
David, one evening at the Gull, I thought Eleanor Cooney introduced me to Tom Wolfe, she doesn’t remember. I wonder who else it could’ve been? Maybe you? Roy
Hi David, After getting you to give us a freebie glass of wine, napkin art picked up. A few months later I got the Art Center to give us a room for a cartooning seminar. I got an easel with a large drawing pad, put Max Ephrom to draw for all of us. What a brilliant artist, so quick & poignant (sharp). We all sojourned to the Gull for more craziness. I love & miss Mendo, Bob Avery, Wingnuts, Larry Fuente, even Sylvia Coddington , Michael McGowan, Oh those heady days. Roy
David, Sunday April 22 was Jim’s (Jim Bertram) birthday. He would’ve been 98. He showed one day on the streets of Mendocino. He saw Dorr Bothwell, she says: “Jim Bertram, what are you doing here?”
“You preached so much about this place. I had to see if you were right”
Shortly afterwards Charles Stevenson saw Dorr on the street and ask Dorr where is a studio for me? They all fell in behind Bill Zacha, Created the Mendocino Art Center. Jim stuck to his art style doggedly until he was collected for it. He introduced me to John Griffith & Byrd Baker, Helen Reynolds, Emmy lou Packard, Hilda Pertha, Monica Hanish, and of course Bob Avery,
As the Haight-Ashbury soured many Hippy’s moved north, a new influx of artists. I first saw Mendocino in the mid 50s. No paint, empty, no one on the street, no autos, we drove thru, didn’t get out of the car. My first movie in mendocino was Dead and Buried, never got out of the Zombie smoke screen. Roy
Roy had many recollections and some Mendocino history that he emailed to me in our exchanges. These are his recollections and have not been verified but they seem mostly correct.
David, The first B&B in Mendocino was the White Gate, a block East of the Gull, opened by Emmy Lou, not sure if Byron was part of that venture. A guy later who bought the inn, showed me the great sliding doors,, all painted white, except one, beautiful wood graining, he was going to strip the white off, I explained that the wood grain underneath was also only paint,, it would go also,, there was an old bar the stood in the lobby of the Mendocino Helen Schoni theater, same wandering artist ? Wood grained with stains, sponges & feathers,, far finer than I could ever do, I miss the columns that stood across from the MAC, oddly shaped,, were a leftover from ‘East of Eden’ prop department. Now a library. Roy
David, the publisher of Copper Canyon Press. Sam Hamill passed in Anacortes Washington, was only 74, publisher of many beats, and story tellers, including Ursula K. Le Guin. I searched on line by going to ‘Beat Poets’, found a site with a Syllable Counter, to think I could have been a poet. As a guy fresh out of the Air Force, North Beach was hangout to me. City Lights & high school auditorium was reading every night. Many forgotten, Robin Blazer, Kermit Sheets, While putting up wallpaper in the Sea Gull Inn, one of the guests, Sutter Marin. We talked about the old days, Paddy Chayefsky, The Co-existence Bagel Shop, all black turtle necks and French berets, poetry & folk songs. Roy
Three recent suicides highlight the importance of sensible gun control. Roy was out front on this issue and many others.
Another school shooting. Arm in arm the NRA will drag down those who filled their pockets from these demons, hand in hand while professing the most ardent patriotism, wrapping the flag over their shoulders & thumping the bible. There is an undercurrent of unnoticed voters, just asking for sensibility. If the primary vote doesn’t start a change, a revolution might drain the swamp. We can’t look the other way. Roy
Reducing gun violence can be approached in many ways. Roy was a great advocate for Chess and for connections between the young and old.
Why do I promote chess? As a child with semi-nomadic life, impoverished Okies on the move, little mind improvement was offered. IIn Michigan the head of an Air Force Base paint shop taught me the game. My life changed that day. I saw strategy & planning as well as logic & patience, swoop in for the kill. Most successful people I’ve met have a grasp of the game. The values of befriending a child thru games & mutual interest cannot be surpassed, Before video games there was a guy around the corner who rebuilt old jalopies. Many a kid learned to pound out a fender, or re-ring a piston and listen to old war stories. These simple interactions made a better citizen. The creation of chess clubs gives elders the chance to observe possible troubled youth. A pat on the back is reassuring, roping in a bully to have new friends can alter a mind set. If we sit back and wait for some one else to befriend these kids, it is never accomplished. We will get more gang members, more school shooters. The America we want back is up to us. Roy
Bob Seaver, also ‘Very God Bob’ lived in his Volkswagen outside the coffee shop for sometime, always thought the FBI was watching him, was sure he was a re-incarnation of Jesus, had bad acne picked at it. I think his father bought him some property on Airport Road, Not sure what has happened to him. Roy
Declan told me about being delayed to do a chore for his mom, arriving late to join friends for a jaunt on their Vespa’s, & mopeds and heading out of Dublin for a weekend. When he arrived, all his buddies were dead. A car bomb went off nearby. The Irish Troubles lasted for ever. Roy
Hi David, One night Danielle made a pass at me in the bar. In Marilyn Solomon’s hot tub he tried to instigate an orgy. I made light of it, laughed the whole thing off. Michael McCowan was a handful (spell check gone) … There were many who had problems with sexual identity. Living in Mendocino was like becoming a hermit after years of big city’s where I had a hard time saying no, With no TV I got so much art work done. Roy
David, One of the regulars at the gull that I had forgotten is Adamu. He enjoyed fixing women’s hair with straws & tooth picks. He was an odd duck, sweet but effeminate. The other was a wild guy who worked at the Little River Market, name? Double-gated swinger. Cuban I think. Sitting one evening with one of your bartenders (who had pet snakes) a guy walks in the door with bath towel on his head. ‘Too tall towel head’ nothing sacred. Remember Feather and the back pack full of lobster tails, her last night. Dem was heady days. Roy
Hi David, So neat that you can adapt old napkins to fit todays dilemmas. I’m honored. Pity we aren’t together now days. Political crap of today sure wants for more napkins. I want Obama on Mt Rushmore more than Reagan. Hitler didn’t have instantaneous media or social media (spell check seems to have disappeared) going thru the pains of old age.. as Jinx said years ago the body is dented but the motor is still humming. Code in a couple of days Roy
The “Code” Roy refers to is the code to decipher the strange symbols on many of his napkins. He did eventually get it to me but somehow I have misplaced it. I’m searching.
David, The Sea Gull was the greatest hangout, so Greenwich Village. Sitting with Bob Avery, Jack Haye & James Maxwell. Sandra Windstorm, the meanest sense of humor. Thank You. Roy
Roy was an incredible person to which anyone who knew him will attest. He had a wonderful sense of humor, took life seriously but not too seriously and knew how to accept self-deprecating humor. We need more like him but there are none and will never be. I miss him. I’m very thankful that we were able to make contact before he left us.
David, I’ve attended several memorials of teachers, high school & college friends over the past few years. To hear the glowing accolades of their lives, leads me to believe I ran around with the wrong crowd. Wish I’d spent more time with you. Insightful, deep study of issues, understanding of ‘mans’ plight ,,,Thanks, Roy
Me too, Roy. Me too
I get elated when people like my art. Living in poverty not fun, perusing madcap design, total bliss. Roy