Ode to a Prodigious Publishing.... Elf

 

by Clark Merritt - now unemployable windsurfing photo plebe

There was an event to honor Clay Feeter, publisher of Windtracks Magazine (AKA WT).  Of course I missed it but nevertheless felt overwhelmingly compelled to submit my thoughts  after careful introspection and psycho therapy.  After 15 years of indenture ship, I have come away with a healthy respect  for his wife & family but still find an open festering wound or two that may heal over time.  All in all our adventure in publishing was a rich and rewarding one- as soon as I get my $42.00...................................................  

  

I would like to start off with a simple apology.  I’m sorry I cannot be there tonight to share in the briny madrigalic salute  about to take place on our beloved sacrificial lamb- Mr. Clay Feeter.  I have no excuse except that I do still passionately harbor a long-standing grudge about the $42.00 he still hasn’t paid me for writing and co-illustrating the Windtracks Journal diatribe on San Carlos.  I heard Dubock made $50 and that really pisses me off!  As the old “50s” song suggests -Maybe Fred had fun sitting in the backseat but my strategic placement in the back of Claybob’s proverbial literary VW bus has been nothing short off a living hell and degrading embarrassment for me, my Mom, and scooting all the way back to my old scout troop back in Virginia. A man has to stand on his principles, which after my 15 some odd years as a conscriptual midwife to his publishing fantasy is like perching ones self on the sharp end of a pin.  OUCH!  It conjures up a historical perspective supported by the breath of life from a Dr. Seuss book…something like aaaaaa Feeter Hears a Who. But that’s just the beginning of why I’m not there tonight.  Le me esplain…………

I heard that the final tally for attendees was somewhere in the neighborhood about 50.  Ironic that that number is so similar to the number of abused staffers Clay has laid waste from his numerous feeble attempts to enlighten the common man to the virtues of windsurfing.  I have often wondered why the mag changed names so often…. ask anyone in the audience tonight, they’re those staffers I just mentioned.  And a word on that..

“Back off!  Nobody gets a dime until I get my $42.00.”

OK, Wait a minute I gotta calm down.  My Doctor warned me that my high blood pressure and Cholesterol was all due to my tumultuous relationship with Publisher Clay.  I brought the doc an issue of California Boardsailor a few years back and his only comment was that the ridiculously high bulk fiber content of the mag would probably aid me in reducing my LDLs and extruding my fluffies, that is,.. if I could only figure out how to consume it.

I told a preacher friend of mine about this tribute and when he heard your name he said “That’s curious, are his parents religious?  “I don’t know”  I replied, “why do you ask”?  “Because there is a well known phrase in the old testament referring to Feet of Clay.  You see Feet of Clay refer to the Idol and has been passed down to mean-

“A generally concealed or unobserved but well marked, weakness or frailty”.

“You mean like a chump?” I snapped back “Yep that’s our Claybob to a T.”

Clay used to call me the best friend he never met and for a while I was flattered.  Then I over heard him use that line on a cabbie in SFO, a fish taco vendor in San Quintin and worse- half the ex-staffers & waiters anchored here tonight. He’s one slick salesman that Claybob.

Actually Clay and I never met in person the first five years of our relationship.  Thinking back on it now, those were the best years of my indenture ship to his chameleonic masthead. 

In the beginning I first heard of Clay in the pages of the original Windsurf Magazine..a truly great mag.  When Clay went out on his own, two buddies of mine, Rich Myers & Terry Lucoff  told me to submit my photos to him because, as they put it… “he was famous for printing just about anything thrown at him”. How right they were about that.  Clay also heard about me described by the same two fiends as “a Hunter Thompson wannabe with a twist”.  Our fear & loathing partnership got off to an uneasy start when he published a bio/photo of me with a Pizza Chief hat, crafted by his own hand, for the reason, he later explained, “that it sold mags.”  I believed him until my mother in law pointed out that the mag was “Free as the Wind.”  Chalk one up for Mr.Feeter and my mother in law- all at my expense.

I should have known right then that he was capable of anything & everything because the next 5 years were littered with misquotes, misprints, typos, accusations and a maniacal devotion to Dubock especially anytime my work was up for consideration.  Dubock was Mozart in his eyes and I just the pathetic Salieri.

One such prefabricated misquote about San Carlos netted me phone threats of trumped up Mexican arrests warrants and guaranteed Mexican prison hard time, next time I set foot in San Carlos.  Remember that guy,  Clay?….Well he’ll never forget me thanks to you and your yellow pulp fiction, slanderous lies.

Once again I received audutorious praise for my dedication, and commitment AKA as submission.  And once again, in his own words to defend his heinous crime, he boasted, “Because Merritt, it sells mags.”  But I was ready this time. I countered with “ But the mag’s free, Clay.  He paused for a moment scratching his chin on the phone and replied, “Hmmm… maybe that’s why we’re not making any money?”and promptly hung up.  All true stuff this all happened before I ever met the man!

 Ohhh..... and now for the most blessed of events, that infamous night on the town at the San Francisco Windsurfing Trade Show of 1991.  Bob Bourget, Modaddy Runyon and I decided to venture northward with the prospects of fame and fortune in the Bay area.  We had never seen Clay so when we literally bumped into him in the aisle at the show the hiijinks dropped into high gear.  We thought we were looking face to face with LA’s syndicated TV and Radio personality Rick Dees to which we still view with contempt and distain.

Mo was the first to verbally assault him as Bob slid around the back on all fours, for the old grade school pushover.  I distracted him with several elbow jerky motions as Mo went in for the solorplexis.

Clay was quick to the defense sensing that we had miss took him for someone else.  He thrust out his hand and introduced himself as “Clay, Clay Feeter.”  I, taken aback, could only respond with a hand and a reply of  “ I’m Pizza, Pizza Chief.”  It took a few moments of silence and bewilderment before he spoke.

Now anyone who has ever met Clay knows what happens when he gets excited.  Ohhhh... the high-pitched screaming, the parading, and those hand gestures. 

Several hugs later he had us in a cab with the promise of a night on the town that we’d never forget ..and on his dime.  He began ranting & raving about an out of the way quaint little North Beach restaurant with exotic cuisine.  When we arrived it was just as he had described it,   EXCEPT it was now a gay bathhouse cabaret featuring female celebrity impersonators and as the doorman put it A Lorraine quiche to die for.”  Clay swore it had been years since he’d been there and obviously the management had changed hands and a few other body parts in the process, so what the hay, he loved quiche, so lets all go in. Mo paid for the cab as we polished off the last of a bottle of Centenario. This sparked courage and took the edge and anxiety off our roaming band of homophobes.. There wasn’t a cab in sight so we went in with the comfort of rationalizing the ole safety in numbers routine.  Mo dazzled the crowd with his hieroglyphic waltzes and antics while Bob and I sat huddled in the corner shadows, petrified at the goings-on.  Clay not to be outdone climaxed the evening with a stunning duet with a cross dressing, cross-eyed “Funny Girl” Barbara Streisand singing, “On a Clearing Wind You Can Sail Forever”.

 I saw a side of Feeter that night I hope I will never see again and that was before he slid into the hot tub. As Mo paid the bill Clay encouraged him to keep the receipt for his expense account.  I believe Mo still has it, after several rejections, something about not using the proper expense form. 

The headwaiter Felix was tipped handsomely to avoid legal action and after much persuasion Barbara agreed to let go of her prized catch, a much inebriated and horse Claybob.  A tradition was born that night out of drunken desperation. Clay on his way to the toidee.... fell into a waiter bringing out the house special dessert…flamboyantly christened  A Fluffy Queen Mary for 2 at High Tide.  The QM2 was a sweet confection of raspberry meringue and as Felix proudly described it “Oooodles of Savagely Whipped Cream and Brandied Fruit”. Clay wore it well as he was escorted off to the kitchen for a shampoo and rinse. He returned later in a tunic made of fine table linen and a wreath of bay leaves around his temples, shouting lines and scenes from the best of Shakespeare.  This morality play has been reenacted from time to time without most knowing the true meaning. It is only now that the truth be told so let the play begin…….

 (HIT CLAY WITH A CREAM PIE ---RIGHT NOW!) SPLATTT!

I have been asked by the immediate family to keep this PG-13.  In all fairness to everyone concerned I will remain tightlipped about the rest of that evening and only say that we found ourselves questioning the depths of our wickedness & debauchery but felt good about the fact that we were mere choirboys compared to Clay.  What can I say- the man knows how to party or is it Pa'te?

Don’t get me started about the BIC Techno incident…I still can’t maintain composure when I talk about it.

So I guess I need to move on to the hard part. 

Despite all the mistakes, the typos, the faux pas, the hijinks and the drama, I would not trade any or all of those moments for anything- especially working for any other publisher in or out of the windsurfing business.  

It is unfortunate that windsurfing has lost its greatest champion, Clay Feeter…at a time when it needs him most.

I would like to offer a special thanks to Laura Feeter, truly the best friend I’ve never met. Her support and understanding all these years living from issue to issue with a madman and not giving up in helping Clay pursue his dream. There is a great debt owed to you by all that enjoyed Clay’s masterpieces. 

Also a special thanks to Mr. and Mrs. Feeter for raising a son with such high ideals and integrity…that coupled. with a lot of pure stoke and human interest.

And for you Clay, you rat bastard or is it wankeroo… thanks for letting me be a part of one class act…from pulp to perfect bound.  In all the publications you produced one of the greatest  attributes was one of character and real depth so lacking in the mags that remain.

Thanks for putting up with my whining about always liking Dubock best, for totally disregarding your deadlines and letting me go off on tangents.  You have been kind to me Mr. Feeter and perhaps a little too kind to those who brought you down.

 

Through it all let us  remember that God made memories so we would have roses in January.

(I still don't know what that means but my Mom said it would impress the crowd) I think Mom had the last laugh.