Montclair Man Makes Midlife Makeover

IF YOU LIKE ice cream, you’ve probably seen Clyde Bruff. His face is on the “wall of fame” at the Montclair Malt Shop. Of course, so is mine — yet I somehow manage to walk around each day in virtual anonymity.

Bruff, on the other hand, has one of those looks that just grabs you: big glasses, big smile and big personality. Which probably explains why, after 22 years, he gave up his job as an investment broker to become an actor.

Meeting Bruff at Colonial Donuts the other morning, he could barely contain his enthusiasm. Here was a guy in his mid-50s with the bubbly effervescence of a teenager going to his first prom. Thank goodness I’d ordered the BIG cup of coffee, jacked up with chocolate. Bruff was on a roll and his wit was as sharp as a samurai sword.

“My first film is being released next month,” he told me, revealing that the 61/2-minute performance he gave three years ago had been chopped down to 38 seconds.

Still, it stars Kirk Douglas — not a bad guy to work with when you’re just starting out.

And since then, the parts have been coming at a pretty good clip — some 30 of them in the short time he’s been doing this. One of his favorite films was shot right here in Oakland, creating quite a commotion in the neighborhood around 16th Street.

“‘In Sense of Need,’ I played a guy whose life was absolutely coming apart,” he recalls. “In fact, it was coming apart so deeply when we were filming it on the streets of Oakland, the police were called by the neighbors.”

Going bonkers must have been fun for Bruff, who even in the doughnut shop was slipping in and out of characters. One of them sounded like Mr. Magoo and when I pointed it out, Bruff hammed it up even more.

“This guy really is happy,” I thought to myself, “despite swapping a big money career for one that’s — well — not very reliable.”

But Bruff has never looked back.

“Eventually it comes down to the point where you just want to follow your dream. Of course, you have to have a sense that you can make that dream happen,” he says. For Bruff — I can see it in the cards.

HEAVENLY CALL: Father Larry D’Anjou is looking for a few good men. Not for the Marines but for priests. He’s the director of vocations for the Catholic Diocese of Oakland and says the number of candidates is actually on the upswing from a low point in the 1990s. Still, there are several parishes where churches are strapped for priests, especially in the East Bay’s Vietnamese, Filipino, African-American and Hispanic communities.

E-MAIL BAG: Many apologies for getting the name of the flower shop wrong in last week’s column about local drummer, Katja Cooper.

Reader Sherry Taddei writes: “You may have us mixed up with the Flower Outlet on La Salle.

“No problem, it happens all the time,” she writes, adding that Montclair Florist is the oldest florist in the village — celebrating its 45th anniversary this year. Thanks for the note, Sherry, but actually, Katja works for Casa Blanca Florist next to Italian Colors.

AFTER DARK: You don’t always see it when your eyes are on the road, but nighttime is the right time for an animal safari. Reader Debbie Timber says her favorite four-legged friends are two foxes who come out at night on Pinehurst Road through Canyon.

“One is white and the other is red,” she writes, adding they often come up to the road with their beautiful coats shining in the moonlight.


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