Oh, the Shameman

Clam Lynch is wiping the drippings of a Reuben from his chin and jonesing for a cigarette. Seated in a booth at Canter’s Delicatessen, the 41-year-old former art director–children’s television personality and performance artist is attempting to explain how he recently found God and entered into the "self-help racket" after what has been a five-year period of unemployment.

"What got me to this place," the bespectacled Lynch begins, "was I laid out pictures of all these spiritual leaders like Gandhi, Tony Robbins, the pope . . . I looked at them and just asked, ‘What do they all have in common? What’s the common thread?’ And that’s when I realized they’re all rich. They all have a lot of money. I was like, ‘The pope doesn’t worry about getting five bucks together to buy a pack of cigarettes."

Lynch, who taught a couple of unsuccessful courses a few years back through the Learning Annex — one called "Cut the Crap" and another called "Rich People: Someone’s Gotta Marry Them," — will debut his complete spiritual program next Friday and Saturday in a seminar entitled "Cut the Crap 2 (Electric Boogaloo)" at Santa Monica’s Track 16 Gallery. If all goes well, he hopes to start a full-blown cult, because, quite simply, he needs the cash.

Like many prophets and crackpots before him, Lynch has lived a lot of lives. He worked at a dance hall in the Castro district of San Francisco and as a comedian at the Renaissance Pleasure Faire. His short-lived children’s television show, Johnny Pancakes Happy Camp, ended abruptly after, as he explains, he "hit the sauce."

He suffers from depression, smokes a pack a day, eats poorly, faces eviction from his one-bedroom apartment in Boyle Heights and recently dented a borrowed ’89 Buick station wagon in an accident that was his fault. He’s presently housesitting in the hills above the Chateau Marmont for a friend, whom he describes as "a successful Hollywood comedy producer."

He presents all this, and more, as a cautionary tale. He proposes that he is a "classic success story waiting to happen" and, among other things, promises, if nothing else, attendees at this week’s seminars will leave with a heightened sense of self-worth based on the simple fact that they are not him.

What are you teaching?

"When someone gives me, say, $500, they are going to get twice that back. At least a thousand."

From you?

"No."

Just from the universe?

"Listen, I don’t know! They just have to believe."

Is this a spiritual law?

"Law-like."

Lynch, who looks a bit like a cartoon character with his black pompadour, dark-rimmed glasses and plaid thrift-shop pea coat, says he recently had "an awakening" in which he is fairly sure he saw "the big man."

"Everytime I was getting a little bit ahead, something worse would happen — I was feeling like God’s whipping boy. Then I saw God and He said, ‘What are you doing?’ I said, ‘What am I doing? What are you doing?’ He said, ‘Nothing.’ And I realized I was the one with the whipping, and the hurting, and the pain. We laughed. We laughed real hard. And finally we both composed ourselves. He said, ‘You’re a pretty funny guy. How ’bout you come work for me?’ I said, ‘Where do I sign?’ I signed the paperwork and joined His little group."

He adds that God just wants us to "lighten up."

Was that the first time you saw God?

"I thought I had a bunch of times before, but when I saw Him this time, I realized I hadn’t seen Him before."

What did He look like?

"Like every person I ever met."

All in one?

"Yes."

Normal size?

"Normal sizes."

Lynch says that on the path to spiritual enlightenment, the extreme power of other people giving him money is rivaled only by unlocking the immense power of shame, namely his own.

Lynch, whose father made a habit of taking out his false teeth, putting on a Beatles wig and his wife’s nude pantyhose to dance around the house when the young Lynch would bring home girls, explains that he comes from a long line of shamemen and that his father filled him with an "above-average" dose of "the shame."

I thought the word was shaman.

"I think that is just the Asian pronunciation."

Initially, Lynch, who has been single for some six years ever since the collapse of his first marriage, says he is looking for $20,000 just to get back on his feet and, as he puts it, "out of this mess."

"I could get a car that runs, you know, a dependable, nice car," Lynch muses. "One that I would look good in pulling up to a seminar in."

Like a Town Car with a driver?

"No, I can drive . . . But, to be honest with you . . . I would rather spend even that time in a spiritual place."

What do you promise people who come to your seminar this week?

"I promise you’ll laugh. I promise you’ll feel joy. I promise you’ll feel confused, but not in a bad way. You’ll feel ashamed, for me. If you follow my program diligently, you’re bound to get yourself in countless situations with no answers. And that’s when you’ll get to ‘the shame,’ your own shame."

What is your vision?

"Look, I’m just shaking my moneymaker, tryin’ to get paid. That’s all I have. I dance. I help people."

What are you offering to the rich people who give you money?

"A sense of charity. A lot of rich people are unhappy. I want to lighten that burden. And I think I can with my God-given talents."

What if I am poor, can you help me?

"See, it’s kind of fucked right now on that level. I just can’t. But that is the whole reason for everything. I want to be able to do that."

So you need to be rich to help the poor?

"Duh . . . hello!!?? I am all about giving."


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