Park Rapids alum part of popular reality TV 'Chainsaw Gang'
A Park Rapids Area High School alum is gaining fame - and chuckles - as a "beer drinking redneck," via Country Music Television's "Chainsaw Gang."
Matt Clementson, 48, is a cast member in the rowdy comedic reality show that debuted Nov. 10 on CMT, his childhood friends contacting him with congratulations.
Classmate Becky Rutherford Maninga didn't initially recognize her former high school buddy as part of the Deadwood Chainsaw Gang on the TV screen.
"I've gained a hundred pounds since I left Park Rapids," Clementson said.
But when Maninga "friended" him on Facebook to tell him of plans for the Class of 1983's reunion, she realized he was part of the show's cast that's been earning hearty guffaws from her family members.
In the show, Clementson is the business partner of chainsaw artist Stacy Poitras, who lives with Clint Eastwood's daughter, Alison Eastwood.
This mirrors reality.
Clementson's résumé, weaving through three decades, sent him to college for a couple of years, then out to Los Angeles in 1989. He worked as a sales rep for a brewery and mattress company and owned a boxing club - all while pursuing a career in show business.
He had small parts in soap operas, movies and commercials - "where I made the most money."
Four years ago, giving up on his acting career, he headed into the mountains, "depressed and trying to escape."
He met Poitras, "had a few beers, bought $5,000 in sculptures and began working as a sales rep for Deadwood Tree Sculptures.
"It was the perfect job. No dress codes, haircuts or shaving. It's all about being outdoors, getting tan and having a cold beer anytime of the day," he said of his "job description."
Alison Eastwood saw the possibilities in the wacky partnership.
"Now they are carving their own kind of crazy," to quote CMT. Television is imitating reality.
In the show, two chainsaw artists carve based on customer wishes, a bear and Michelangelo's David among the works evolving from 10-foot logs.
The show made a two-page spread in the National Enquirer, Clementson of its notorious antics. "We're not in denial; we admit we're alcoholics," he joked.
"My wife has to drive me home every day," Clementson said of drinking on the set, per script. He and Lana, a Russian immigrant, met 10 years ago. They married two months later and now have two young daughters.
Ten episodes of the Chainsaw Gang have been filmed, with a marathon airing of the shows scheduled for Sunday, Jan 20 on CMT. They can also be viewed on CMT's website.
The craziest episode, Clementson said, engaged his brother, Mark, who has Downs Syndrome. Mark's idol, John Schneider of Dukes of Hazzard, appeared with Mark, the two stealing the family car, doing donuts and other pranks. Mark was euphoric over the opportunity to be on stage with his hero, Clementson said.
He finds the happenstance role keenly ironic, given that he had made what he thought was the final curtain call.
Now, he's waiting to hear if there will be a second season.
"It went crazy when it hit the air," he said of viewers' reaction.