Oliver Clark- 7 Questions
YOU’VE OBVIOUSLY EXPERIENCED A GREAT DEAL OF SUCCESS IN YOUR LIFE. WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IS YOUR GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT, AND WHY?
My greatest accomplishment in life is fulfilling my dream of becoming a respected professional actor and based on the odds, they were against me when looking at the proportion of people who try. Very few succeed and end up just not being persistent with it.
But in connection with that and upon embarking on my acting career in New York, I taught high school for a few years and loved working with the kids. So, it was with trepidation and regret that I left the school where I taught and made the two-hour trip to New York. The school, you see, was quite near the city, about a two-hour drive. And once I started auditions, I got very lucky and nailed a decent part on Broadway!
Opening night, as I emerged from the stage door after the performance, I saw to my astonishment, a crowd outside of most all my students! They had chartered a bus and bought tickets unbeknownst to me and were in the audience (probably in the balcony because even then tickets were not cheap). Anyway, it was a very moving experience for me and it so pleased me to know that I had an impact on those kids to whom I taught. So, in a nutshell, those two represent my greatest accomplishments: teaching and acting.
LIFE IS NOT ALWAYS SMOOTH. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT A SETBACK OR TRAGEDY YOU’VE ENCOUNTERED, HOW YOU DEALT WITH IT, AND THE IMPACT IT HAS HAD ON YOU?
Setbacks? And tragedy? Those are hard to answer because I’ve had many but none too monumental to affect my life. Of course, the deaths of both my parents is high on the list. Also, and this may sound petty, but all during my high school years as a student my dream was to attend Princeton and my grades reflected that I had a very good chance. Matter of fact, I visited the campus that summer before what I figured would be my acceptance and was guided around by an official who all but assured me that, given my grades, it looked like I was almost a shoe in. He said all you have to follow through on now is take the College Boards for a final decision. I did. They threw me! I almost froze in the auditorium during the testing and of course I ended up with a score that did not reflect my high school average nor did they come up to what was Princeton’s minimums in acceptance. I was devastated, and I remember burning just the edges of the rejection letter and framing it. I ended up going to the University of Buffalo, my home town. But in a way, there was a silver lining to this story. I think that had I been accepted to Princeton I very likely would have pursued a career in academia with never a thought to go on the stage. So, my so called “tragedy” ended not so tragically.
DO YOU SET ASIDE ME TIME IN YOUR CALENDAR, AND WHAT DO YOU DO IN YOUR SPARE TIME TO RELAX?
As for me time, unfortunately, since I’m up there age-wise, most all of what I have IS me time. I relax in my comfort zone which is behind my desk, feet up on my desk and tackle the books I’ve downloaded on my Kindle. I read the papers, almost completely all the way through. I have certain streaming shows on Netflix, five other streaming apps I dig into, and movies on demand. I’m a great cook, having worked in my dad’s restaurant all through high school and college up until his death. Cooking relaxes me. Also, and I don’t know if this qualifies as me time, but I have a nice group of old friends from my past and show biz, as retired as me of course, where we meet several times out for dinner at one of the many great restaurants here in the city.
WHAT’S THE MOST MAGICAL PLACE YOU’VE DISCOVERED WHERE YOU CAN GO TO CHILL OUT?
As for a magical place where I go to chill out, I must fudge a bit and say the most magical place is this great city itself, almost anywhere I go. New York is magic no matter where you go. I’m also lucky because a very close friend of mine, a writer who I’ve known for 50 years, is also part of the Tony Awards Nominating Committee. He is compelled to see every Broadway play in order to vote. And always, usually at the last minute, he calls and asks if I’d like to accompany him to many shows, free of charge, and of course with great front orchestra aisle seats. The only time I don’t luck out is when his wife would like to see such and such a show, so I’m often relegated to “sloppy seconds” which still isn’t bad, since on Broadway, how bad can that be?
DOES PHILANTHROPY PLAY A ROLE IN YOUR LIFE, TO WHAT EXTENT AND HOW?
As for philanthropy, there’s not much. I contribute yearly to the APLA March that an old show biz pal asks for a contribution as he walks the annual walk. Also, I often contribute to a child’s malady whose grandfather I know and is also part of my folk art and antique toy hobby.
WHO IS ON THE GUEST LIST, PRESENT OR PASSED, FOR YOUR IDEAL DINNER PARTY?
My guest list for an ideal dinner party? Wow, I don’t know if we have room enough for me to list them. So many fall into so many different categories like artists, writers, actors, etc. But of the top of my head, Edward Hopper, who painted the two most iconic American paintings, Sunday Morning and Nighthawks; Humphrey Bogart; Of course, Shakespeare (I was an English major in college) and I would ask him about the confusion over whether he wrote those plays (or if not, who did?); Mae West, the funniest woman on the screen, ever (full disclosure: I did meet her when I lived in Hollywood); Groucho Marx; Franklin Roosevelt, a voice I remember listening to on the radio when I was still a child; and Picasso.
CAN YOU OFFER ANY WORDS OF WISDOM FOR OUR READERS?
Finally, words of wisdom to Throomers? First, I’m a few years older than a Throomer so I’m not sure what wisdom would help and without sounding like the author of a self-help book, I would say, just accept your flaws, you’re the only one you’ve got.