Clement Blake, an actor who made a career of playing the homeless and haggard in Judd Apatow and Larry David vehicles, died last week after an extended battle with disease, according to his family. He was 63. He was surely best known for his part in Superbad as the bum who calls McLovin “McMuffin!” But he also had memorable parts as the panhandler on Curb Your Enthusiasm who refuses a tuna sandwich, as one of the Central Park hole diggers on Seinfeld, and as an overage party guest on Freaks and Geeks who memorably shouts “come on boys, let’s go tear this mother down!” (Showing up years later to another Apatow set, with many of the same crew members, he was greeted with that line.) He was one of the industry’s go-to actors for “homeless guy,” playing that role or “bum” at least a dozen times on film and television, as well as parts like “garbage man” or “dirt person.” His final screen credit was as a “Beggar” in The Artist.
Blake was raised in Far Rockaway and served in Vietnam, for which he was awarded a Purple Heart. He moved to Los Angeles in the late 70s, where he did auto body work before getting into acting. I knew him first as a legend among my friends, Uncle Clem, the hip guy who wasn’t homeless at all, but had a house in Silverlake that several buddies had stayed at; I would eventually stay there, too, both times I visited LA—first, with his niece, whom I dated for many years, and later to visit his nephew, still among my closest friends. Clem was always gracious, generous, and kind—and funny, up until the end. I remember listening to him play drums along to jazz records in the shed behind his home, and I remember clearly the last time I saw him—several years ago in Brooklyn, on Seventh Avenue near McKinley Park, after a dinner at family favorite New Corner. He shook my hand and said goodbye. I’ll miss the guy, and mine will be the least of it.