The Pahrump Valley has been a draw for visitors since it was established as a town in the 1960s. Some have stayed. People come from all walks of life to settle down in wide-open spaces, experience the clean fresh desert air and the star-filled night skies. Seniors come to retire and others come to start a different life.
For Gail Clampit, it was the latter. Clampit was 46 when she left Las Vegas Metro Police Department with over two decades of service to Clark County. She finished her career prematurely as a sergeant due to an injury to her shoulder.
In her mid-forties, she was responding as a supervisor to a call where a suspect had shoplifted some alcohol in a convenience store and the employee tried to stop him. The shoplifter took a broken bottle and slashed at the employee cutting her face open. Metro arrived on scene and was in pursuit. Clampit was going down an alley when she spotted an officer in pursuit of the suspect.
“I am in my mid-40s and I am a sergeant and I am not as a young as I used to be. They scaled this 12-foot wall and on the other side I could see them fighting. I am looking at this iron gate and I told myself, ‘I can’t climb this,’” she said.
She found herself climbing the gate, but at the top her leg got tangled in the iron.
“I had two options. I could pull my leg and jump, or I could just dangle and hit my head,” she explained.
She landed hard on the ground with her shoulder taking the brunt of the impact. Once on the ground, the adrenalin kicked in and she put the cuffs on the suspect. After the adrenalin went down, she could see she sustained a lot of damage to the shoulder. Five surgeries later she still was not back to her old self.
“I lost a lot of muscle mass and range of motion in the arm, so I retired,” she said. “It was not my intention at first, but I figured if I could not protect a citizen or my fellow officers it was time. Sometimes a plan does not work out. I am blessed it worked out the way it did.”
Once retired, her life partner of six years, Crystal Austin and Clampit decided to move to the country in the Pahrump Valley.
Austin has six horses and Clampit has a goat and chickens. Las Vegas did not have enough open space for the two of them.
“My last name is Clampit so I am a hillbilly. I am a country girl from Alabama. The people are so nice here and I don’t have to be white-knuckle driving.”
In the past three years since coming here, Clampit has dedicated all her efforts to getting her new life started. She wanted to be an actress and be in movies and commercials.
It is not like she has no experience in the field. In her early 20s, her dream was to work in the entertainment field. She majored in communications at the University of Nevada Las Vegas and landed a job with Channel 10, the Public Broadcast System.
“I was a volunteer at Channel 10 at first. I then got a full-time job, so when they hired me full-time, I dropped out of college at UNLV. Working full time and trying to study — it just did not work out,” Clampit said.
At the station, she was exposed to all parts of the industry and on occasion she remembered doing the makeup of guest stars like Bill Cosby, Bob Newhart and Paul Anka. After about two years with the station, she was laid off and left looking for a job. This is how she got into law enforcement. She was accepted in corrections first and worked for the city jail for about five years before being hired by Metro.
In Pahrump, Clampit has been very busy. When asked what kind of acting experience does she have after being in law enforcement for so long? She replied, “I have to say this, when I was in the uniform I was always acting so many roles. I had to do so many roles from being a social worker, to being a friend talking people out of committing suicide. I started soul searching and thinking of my bucket list. Acting was on it.” In her mind, she said she never stopped acting.
Clampit has been in a number of productions as an extra since retiring. She was in the movie “Behind the Candelabra,” “Last Vegas,” “Hangover III,” “Love in the Big City,” “House of Lies,” “Vitamin Z,” and “Do Not Disturb.”
The new-found actress said her biggest speaking role is with her current film, “Finding the Truth,” where she plays the wife of Sheriff Bob (Collin Ward). The movie is a gore movie made in the tradition of Robert Rodriquez and his “Machete” films. Clampit knows she is far from being a movie star. She refers to a scale of 1-10, “I may not be a 10 on that scale, but at least I am on it.”
Most of her film work has been around home. She either drove to places around Pahrump or went into Las Vegas. She is her own agent and just works hard at finding audition oppportunities. At the moment though, she is not afraid to go after film projects that take her further away, as long as she can get someone to take care of the many animals.
Austin is very supportive of Clampit’s acting career.
“I am with her all the time,” she said. “We went to Amargosa for over a year and it was really hot at times. I stayed with her the whole time. I mostly hung out with the car, and if they needed food runs I would go. I have gone everywhere she has gone. It is neat to see how it is done.”
For now, this is the extent of the couple’s traveling. The two find semi-retirement for Clampit relaxing.
Many retired officers look for other thrill-seeking jobs to fill the void of the frequent adrenalin rushes provided by police work. Not Clampit, she doesn’t consider herself an adrenalin junkie. She says she gets enough adrenalin just from being an actor or riding horses with Austin.
“When they say action, I think about the scene and what I have to do in front of the camera and the lines I have to memorize,” she said. This is enough adrenalin for her. The acting makes her think on her feet like she did as a cop. The best thing about acting is the job does not leave her hanging from any gates, and she comes home safely each night.
“Life is an adventure and it’s short and you have to enjoy it. It may not be on the 10 scale, but get on that scale. After you see your 52 -year old brother pass, you start thinking … ‘Get out and do it,’” she concluded.