Michael J. Weldon's Psychotronic Video Magazine's interview with actor Clu Gulager.

Clu Gulager

Interview by David Del Valle

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Clu Gulager with Carol Lynley on ALFRED HITCHCOCK
With Carol Lynley on ALFRED HITCHCOCK

Despite his homespun demeanor, Clu Gulager is a very eccentric, kinky and wildly creative artist. Fans primarily know him for his offbeat performances in such diverse films as THE KILLERS (63) with Ronald Reagan and in the now-classic horror film RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD (85) and the Vincent Price-hosted THE OFFSPRING (86). Clu and his actress-wife Miriam Byrd Nethery, conduct an experimental, to say the least, acting workshop and also produce their own Cassavetes-like home movies.

Clu & Miriam came into my life thanks to actor James Karen who had invited me to visit the set of RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, which was Dan O'Bannon's directorial debut. Clu greeted me as I arrived on the set and devoted himself to my well being during the entire visit. What I was unaware of at the time was the friction between O'Bannon and Clu. I saw none of it that afternoon but Jimmy told me afterwards that the two had squared off on more than one occasion. I would not see Gulager again until the following year when I would act as the unit publicist for Jeff Burr's directorial debut in THE OFFSPRING, which at the time was called FROM A WHISPER TO A SCREAM. Clu's role had been shot a year or so before in Georgia and when I came to work on the film we were shooting wraparound material with Vincent Price and Susan Tyrrell. Clu would visit the set frequently and posed for publicity photographs. It was during this time that I conducted this interview and also got to know Clu and his wife socially.

I remember liking him almost immediately although I knew he could be "difficult" when pressed. We had a little wrap party at my house for just the crew and a few cast members and I had asked him to autograph a still from RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD. He gave me one of those famous grins that I recall so well from his films and said, "I'll give this to you before I leave." At the end of the evening he handed me the photo that not only contained an inscription but a rather graphic rendition of a cock and balls in neon green drawn on his pants. I guess he thought I didn't have one like it and to this day he is the only actor to have drawn a dick on a picture for me. My lasting memory of Clu was seeing him a couple of years later at the Beverly Center

in West Hollywood conducting his acting workshop. His students were unleashed on the unsuspecting shoppers rehearsing their various psychodramas on a none-too-willing public. I mustn't leave out Miriam who is dear and strange at the same time. At the wrap party she went into my bathroom and discovered I had a photo of Peter Lorre on display. When she came out she went over to Clu and said, "Honey, did you know David has a picture of Peter Lorre in his bathroom? Isn't that cute!?! You knew Peter, didn't you honey?" She reminded me so much of a character out of a Tennessee Williams play and yet this couple is truly a hybrid of Los Angeles.

In the 18th Century, Christian Gulager, from Denmark, was an artist who once did a portrait of George Washington. He later deserted his family, moved South and had children with an Indian woman. Clu Gulager's father, John Gulager, was a vaudeville and Broadway actor, who was in a musical with George M. Cohan. Clu was born William Martin Gulager in Holdenville, Oklahoma on Nov. 16, 1928. He grew up, an only child, on his (alcoholic) uncle's large farm near Tahequah. Clu (the nickname means "Red Bird") is part Cherokee, and is a cousin of Will Rogers. He was in the Marines, stationed at Camp Pendleton from '46 to '48. "I started as an actor when I was 19, right after I got out of the Marine Corps and went to a small school in Oklahoma, then transferred to Baylor University in Texas where I happened to tie up with one of the few geniuses in theater called Paul Baker, he worked there for many years, and then started traveling around the world studying." While taking college drama programs on the G.I. bill he met and acted with Miriam Byrd Nethery (from Pine Bluff, Arkansas) in a production of One Touch of Venus.

"I used to work in Paris with Jean-Louis Barrault. He said "Clu, you can watch my work but at the same time I'd like for you to go to a theatre called The Grand Guignol and I'd like you to watch them do their horror." I said 'What are you talking about?' and he said 'Go And See.' I went there many nights and it was all good fun. He was a great advocate of it." The famous Theatre du Grand Guignol in Pigalle operated from 1897 to 1962. A sanitized version can be seen in MAD LOVE (35) and the theater's bloody ghoulish spirit was picked