St. Louis Superman: Superhero persona started in high school

By Doug Moore

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Published: Saturday, Oct. 9 2010 1:18 p.m. MDT

Street performer Charlee Chartrand, 23, uses a variety of hair care products on his hair to achieve the "Superman" look and curl into the shape of an "S."

J.b. Forbes, Mct

ST. LOUIS — The slender young man with the good head of hair and pale skin doesn't seem like a superhero.

Sipping on a peanut butter and banana shake at a Central West End St. Louis coffee house, Charlee Chartrand points out that he is more Clark Kent than Superman on this particular day. He's dressed in a T-shirt, jeans and high-top Converse.

This is Chartrand when he is not fighting for truth, justice and the American way as a street performer.

As the Man of Steel, he has become a fixture at Busch Stadium for nearly every home game.

He makes regular appearances in the Delmar Loop and here, near the coffee shop not far from Barnes-Jewish Hospital.

Chartrand, 23, has put everything into the costume of blue tights and red cape, leaving behind a string of part-time jobs and opting to skip college.

This is how he has chosen to chase his dream of moving to Los Angeles and become famous as a street performer, model, actor.

He says this route best suits him, and he is doing better than some of his friends with degrees who are finding it hard to land a job and strike out on their own.

"I want the world to know who I am," Chartrand said.

And while his dream has not yet panned out entirely, his family backs what some might consider far-reaching aspirations.

"His father and I marched to a different drummer also," said Chartrand's mother, Margie Soffer-Wood, of St. Louis. "We never stressed that he conform."

Chartrand's father, Rennie, said his son loved the cape that came with his Superman pajamas as a young boy.

Chartrand recalls watching a Superman movie starring Christopher Reeve when in elementary school. The bespectacled Clark Kent turning into a superhero appealed to the skinny boy. He found himself dressing a bit differently, uncomfortable in conformity.

"He's basically comfortable in his own skin," said his father, of Jerseyville.

The road to becoming Superman began in earnest when Chartrand was a senior at Jersey Community High School. He dressed as the superhero for Halloween. At graduation, Chartrand unzipped his gown, ripped open his dress shirt and revealed a Superman T-shirt underneath.

"High school was great. It's where I started to evolve," Chartrand said. "Jerseyville was a very good Smallville for me."

He honed his superhero skills at Six Flags St. Louis in 2006, when he worked as The Flash, and occasionally Robin or The Green Lantern.

Last year, he won a Superman look-alike contest in Metropolis, Ill., home of the superhero. And last month, he attended his five-year high school reunion as the Man of Steel, at the encouragement of those who planned the get-together.

A formal education beyond high school was never a serious consideration.

"I wanted to prove to the world I could make it on my own without college," he said. "There is no college for superheroes."

His father said a university degree is designed to show you can fit in some place. "I don't think that's Charlee."

Even so, Chartrand had planned to make it to Los Angeles by now. But the fledgling superhero encountered one of the biggest villains in the world: a broken heart.

He thought he had found love last year, moving in with a girlfriend. Money planned for a move to California was spent in St. Louis making a house a home.

"Let's just say it ended badly," Chartrand says. He has sworn off dating until he is sure he has found his Lois Lane.

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