As a lifelong St. Louisan, Chris is very proud of his place in the St. Louis arts scene. He graduated from St. Louis University High School in 1979 and with honors from Webster University in 1985. Drawing upon his background in film studies, mass media, and public-event coordination, he has been an intergral part of many important changes to the growth and artistic directions of the St. Louis International Film Festival (SLIFF) and the growing number of annual film-related events produced by CSL, including the St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase and an LGBT film festival called QFest. This is a dream job for Chris and he plans to keep it indefinitely by living forever. So far, so good. In June of 2011 however he was diagnosed with Stage 1E Mantle Cell Lymphoma in his throat and has been fighting the good fight against cancer ever since. While not completely done with chemotherapy treatments until July of 2013, his current good health is attributed to fierce determination, a relatively healthy lifestyle, swimming almost every day, and flinging himself headlong into the local stand up comedy scene, which had been a dream since childhood. Comedy is the best medicine after all. Chris regularly performs his scathing comedy routines several nights a week at a number of venues around the St. Louis area. He and his partner of eight years, Adrain, plus two spoiled and feisty dogs, Saki and Dahlia, live happily in Maplewood, MO. They will be married in October, 2013.
My dad taught me that the worst crime of all was lying, partly due to the fact that he was a frustrated young parent trying to take care of and do best by his children and I was a mischievous child. Sure one can imagine any number of crimes far more heinous and reviled like murder or torture, but few life lessons are as purely at the root of the basic requirements of a moral and just modern civilization. Trust is a priceless commodity, one which can never be restored once broken.
I grew up during a time that featured lots of curtain pulling and scab yanking - Nixon, Vietnam, and the first cracks in the holy visage of the Catholic church with regard to the growing priest child abuse scandals. Honestly I had checked out long before this because of archaic and seemingly ironclad rules regarding my people. This is the term of affection I often use to refer to my fellow homosexuals and whatever other alpha-designation you want to lump in with the abnormal freaky deakies like me.
But I digress, I had spit out the Roman Catholic flavor of Kool-Aid long before the abuse articles started bombing the local and national headlines. The sheer hypocrisy by which they have so strongly and piously denied any of this to be true is stunning. Maybe they should be playing Texas Hold-Em instead. Like this jaw-dropping article from last Friday's Post. http://www.stltoday.com/lifestyles/faith-and-values/archdiocese-data-give-fuller-accounting-of-st-louis-priest-abuse/article_3776ee89-8779-5534-8b88-52dbd2a1e6db.html. I mean wow. Seriously?
Growing up in the 60's and 70's in what was at the time ultra-Catholic, white bread, South St. Louis, I was at various points an altar boy, a cub scout, athlete, and bookworm. Since my birthday was at the end of September, I was a smart, shy and sensitive lad as well as one of the youngest kids in my grade and high school classes. Teachers (mostly) liked me and I took a lot of advanced level classes. As the oldest of my siblings and first-born son, I was the apple of my dear mother's eye. With my long, blonde curly hair and angelic, sheepish grin, who would have ever suspected that I, Christopher Joseph Stephen Clark, was a teenage hooligan. Boy, was I ever.
From the time I was a kid I always loved to watch the Oscars. Beautiful, handsome, world-famous movie stars vie for the greatest of all awards. They smile for the camera and nervously dodge questions about their own chances of winning. It is also a stunning fashion show with the hippest, most exclusive designers in the world creating gowns for women literally dripping in millions and millions of dollars worth of jewels. This spectacle of glamor and glitz is like no other event - like a Super Bowl for the Hollywood gods of world pop culture. I think the commercials run during the telecast try to be cool, but remain unmemorable. People need to chat amongst themselves during commercial breaks about very important global issues like "oh, he got chubby" "I loved that movie" or "wow, what a dress." However, I haven't actually seen the whole thing in over 15 years.
When I became involved with Cinema St. Louis, they were already hosting these elaborate Oscar Night America party fundraisers each year on that holy night. Over the years they were held at an impressive variety of locations all over St. Louis. Check this out: Planet Hollywood, Monarch, Cafe Zoe, Cafe Balaban, Duff's, The Grille at the Crowne Plaza in Clayton, Sheraton in Clayton, Centene Center for Arts and Education, Coranado Ballroom, The Moolah, Bar Italia and The Pageant. Some of these venues worked much better than others, but I personally had a hand in planning each and every one of these parties. Festive attire, much food and drink, plus both live and silent auctions ruled the night. Recently we added a prize vault for attendance gifts. Every guest got a fistful of nominee cards and if that person or film won, you got to collect a treasure. Everybody left tipsy with an armload of stuff including some official programs from the actual awards courtesy of AMPAS, which as we know stands for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. You know what, they really were fun.
I like it when different parts of my world collide. That's part of the St. Louis experience. If you are from here, you automatically get to play the game whether you realize it or not. Like that whole high school thing. I play the SLUH card all the time. My boss went to Rosary and would prefer to never hear again where I went to high school. There's always an excuse to bring it up though. My partner is not from the area, or even the state, and swears that I know absolutely everybody. I don't. I do however know a lot of creative people who are awfully cool. When odd combinations of the past and present collide with food and drinks, now that's a good day in the 314.
2013 was a big year for me in many ways. Like clockwork I work hard all year and not so much in December. One of the holiday highlights for me last year was a brunch gathering to watch a TV show. It gets more interesting when it is revealed that the forementioned brunch gathering was on Cherokee Street early on a Sunday morning in the studios of First Punch Film Productions. Love those guys! The TV show we were to watch was the first three epidosdes of the home-brewed Salvage City on the Discovery Channel. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z6kmDcWNzog
Better yet was an open bar with beer, bloody mary's and mimosas and a sweet spread of chicken, waffles and other tasty food items from Melt. Add in 100+ filmmakers, Cherokee denizens, family members of several of the guests, a large German shepherd and a festive pre-Christmas vibe made it a very fun morning indeed.
In the past I have gassed on about my sweet, ultra-cool and somewhat cushy job. If you are just tuning in I am the artistic director of Cinema St. Louis, presenter of the St. Louis International Film Festival and five other annual film events in St. Louis. I have been doing this for over 15 years now and it's fair to say that sometimes I am downright boastful of this position. I do this mostly out of pride, partly due to my own forever-a-child nature. I mean well. I really do. Sometimes I actually do work very hard, especially during any one of our mammoth, multi-day film events.
Recently I had the opportunity to really dig down and give back to the greater community that is my beloved St. Louis. I volunteered to travel over 1500 miles to represent St. Louis at the Palm Springs International Film Festival in Southern California for nine days. Somebody had to do it and I was happy to serve.
I had myself a merry little Christmas. It was really nice. I even repainted the eyes of the demon child who guards the garage and back fence. It's the holidays, so why not I thought. Uncle Chop was already having a good day.
I think all of us have moments we are not proud of. I have plenty and one of them is the harrowing tale of the emergency Christmas poop. Most of this story is true.
It's a snowy and cold December day with lots of holiday decorations adorning homes, businesses, and shelves of retailers near you. I am somewhat ambivalent about the ludicrous excess that now defines this time of year, but the little boy in me will forever have fond memories of presents and anticipation and lights and toys and sugary treats. All families, no matter what their faiths or belief systems, have some cherished memories of holidays during their childhoods. Tales of a favorite gift or toy, perhaps a hideous sweater from grandma, or handmade ornaments glued together by eager kindergardeners remind us of this magical time of year. Old friends and family are reunited, glasses are raised in toast, and people tend to open up their hearts (and wallets) even if for a brief amount of time. My family has many such memories, but one classic Clark family story has been repeated more than any other. This is my holiday gift to you and especially my siblings and parents.
If the Devil is in the details, then that sly bastard is like Waldo hiding in plain sight. I can't find him, but dear lordy are there plenty of details to go around. My usually neat desk area is surrounded by boxes and charts and speakers and cables and guest packets. It is a weird and almost overwhelming feeling of AAAAAAHHHHHHH sometimes, but I have been to this rodeo before. Fifteen times before in fact. My coworkers and I have been working on this event, the 22nd annual St. Louis International Film Festival, all year round. But now it's here and starting in two more days. Each of us does a ridiculous amount of work preparing for this mammoth event. Here are a few factoids: 11 days, 10 venues, 350 films, 54 countries, 150 guest filmmakers, 7 parties, and a staff of 4. I think I may be an adrenaline junkie because this sure is a rush.
I have a love hate thing going with my namesake holiday - Christmas. You may say whoa there, it's Christ they are celebrating heathen. And I say unto thee Chris comes before Christ in Christmas, so there. This decidedly Christian mega-holiday has turned into something gaudy and ostentatious over the years. Crass and pushy commercialism is everywhere. Impossible to miss until a week or so into January. The starting line has inched backwards each and every year as well. I spied with my little eye simultaneous Halloween and Christmas displays in a variety of stores. What the hell! Poor Thanksgiving decorations are just now being shoved into the mix. The topic of Thanksgiving decorations is another topic all together.
My friendly neighborhood 7-11 faithfully reminds me what holiday it is as well. Fall is for Pumpkin Spice coffee. Now it's Xmas for the next 2 months. You expect it now from big boxes like Walmart and Target, but even the grocery stores are dead-set on entering the fray as well. Merry Christmas Dierbergs! Happy Holidays Walgreens! Take a whiff of my roasted chestnuts Starbucks!