Charlie Deal is getting another encore.
The Legend of Toilet-Seat Charlie, a 12-minute documentary by Mill Valley native Jeremy Kaller, celebrates the life of the local icon and inventor of the toilet-seat guitar. Deal, who died in October 2007 at the age of 72, was widely revered throughout town as a bridge to an era of eccentricity in Mill Valley.
“It’s nice to have some of this recaptured, especially on Charlie’s behalf, because he certainly was the icon of Mill Valley if not all of southern Marin,” said event producer Steve Bajor, a friend of Deal’s who is featured in the film. “The fact that a guy can go through his whole life and literally not make an enemy is almost unheard of. But he was able to simply with his enthusiasm and his friendly nature.”
Kaller, 38, gravitated to Deal’s story soon after the guitar maker passed away.
“My mom knew Charlie from the Sweetwater,” Kaller said. “He always remembered my brother and I when we’d see him. I didn’t know everything about him, but this process has helped me realize how much of a treasure he was in the community.”
Kaller connected with many of the locals at the heart of the music scene in the 60s and onward, including former Jefferson Starship keyboadist Pete Sears, Neil Young guitar tech Larry Cragg,
Tam Valley resident donated the last taped interview with Deal, donated a music video and musician Austin de Lone allowed Kaller to use his song, "The Legend of Charlie Deal," in the soundtrack.
“Charlie had a lot of friends in the community, and they were all excited to help out,” Kaller said.
Kaller remembers Deal from his childhood when he’d see him pedaling around town on his bicycle, often carrying a toilet seat that would serve as the body of inimitable guitars.
Deal’s toilet-seat guitars became famous beyond Marin in 1984, when one of them on the wall at the was featured in the cover image of Huey Lewis & the News’ album Sports.
When the album went platinum, Deal told the Mill Valley Record that he wouldn’t make any changes to his lifestyle even though more than a million homes contained a picture of one of his toilet-seat masterpieces.
“He was very much one of the great characters that Mill Valley has ever known,” Bajor said. “You had Bill Graham living up on top of the hill and on the other side of things, you had Charlie Deal riding his bicycle down Miller Avenue.”
Before he started making films, Kaller was a manager at a recycling company. His first film, The Recyclergy, takes a comedic look at some professional recyclers in the Bay Area. It was chosen to be part of KQED TV's "Truly California" series, which picked the Deal documentary as well, streaming it this month. The film is also available as a free download on iTunes.
“It’s a great opportunity for shorts,” Kaller said of the KQED series.
The short film shines brightest when Deal himself is at the forefront, often uttering on of his unforgettable lines, none moreso than his purported inspiration for the toilet-seat guitar: “I realized I was sitting on a great musical idea.”