“If there is still one hellish, truly accursed thing in our time, it is our artistic dallying with forms, instead of being like victims burnt at the stake, signaling through the flames.” —Antonin Artaud
“A geek by definition is somebody who eats live animals. I’ve never eaten live animals.” —Crispin Glover, Details magazine interview, June 1992
How come Hollywood waits until the last possible moment to honor its screen legends? For example, Frank Sinatra himself was knockin’ on heaven’s door when Tinsel Town decided to finally pay him tribute in the form of a full-blown gala. “Old Blue Eyes” was looking more like “Old Red Eyes” by this time. “The Chairman of the Board” was acting more like a “Condo Commando” on the board of one of the luxurious high-rises that jut out over Miami Beach. People were actually shelling out $175 a seat to watch this fossil stumble out on stage and hopefully manage to belt out a few lines from “My Way” before passing out into the orchestra pit (like he actually did during a gig in Richmond, Virginia – look it up for yourself). I mean, come on, this was the same actor who took home an Oscar for his portrayal of Maggio in From Here to Eternity? The same tough guy who hung out with legendary mobsters like Carlos Marcello, Johnny Rosselli and Santo Trafficante? The chain-smoking boozer who led the Rat Pack and helped JFK get into Marilyn Monroe’s panties? The family man who boasted after marrying Mia Farrow that he had finally found “a broad” who he could “cheat on”? Let’s face the facts, toward the end of his life Sinatra was indistinguishable from the faceless mob of old farts who line up at 4:30 PM to get their early-bird specials and suck jello through straws in mall cafeterias.
That said, I would like to take the opportunity to acknowledge the greatness of one of America’s most unappreciated and original actors before the men in white suits round him up, take him off the streets and deliver him to a padded cell somewhere. Yes, folks, I’m referring to none other than Crispin Glover, an actor who has been variously described over the years as eccentric and iconoclastic, a loner and madman with an absurdist streak and a willingness to take on challenging acting roles. Glover acts like a refugee from the Dadaist or Surrealist movements of the early twentieth century, the only actor weird enough to fill the void left by Andy Kaufman’s untimely departure.
Crispin Hellion Glover was born in New York City on September 20, 1964 into an acting family that included his father, Bruce, who had roles in Chinatown and Diamonds are Forever (remember the geeky villians who bury Bond in the desert?). The young Glover’s acting career began inauspiciously to say the least. He appeared on a 1974 episode of Happy Days as “Roach” and on a 1982 episode of Family Ties as “Friend of Alex.” [Speaking of Family Ties, Marc Jones (the actor who played Skippy) was recently spotted judging the Pillsbury Doughboy “Giggle-Off.” What’s up next Skippy? Line judge at the Transgender Olympics?] Glover even starred in a crappy TV movie called The Kid With the 200 IQ . In a short experimental film titled The Orkly Kid (which he claims was his favorite role), Glover dresses up like Olivia Newton-John. After minor roles in My Tutor and Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, Glover broke out with a sterling performance in the dismal 1984 film Teachers. Some of his fans insist that he launched the grunge look – replete with long stringy hair, a hunting jacket and black knit cap.
Glover shocked the masses on July 28, 1987, during an appearance on the David Letterman Show. He made his entrance dressed like a lunatic, complete with a wig and platform shoes. As Dave tried to engage Glover in some small talk about his acting career, Glover decided to spout some gibberish about people who were out to get him and then he tried to kick the befuddled host in the head – a narrow miss that wiped the smug grin off of Dave’s face. The stressed-out producers quickly went to a commercial and escorted Glover out of the studio.
Glover’s life off the screen is even more bizarre than his fictional characters. At one time, his living room was decorated with a gynecologist’s table, replete with stirrups. The decor included a pair of dentures in a vice, mouse embryos in a wine bottle and a collection of doll’s eyeballs. His bookshelves are filled with tomes on medical abnormalities and other strange entries, including books on mummification. He has admitted that his favorite possession is an “optometrist’s wax replication of 12 eye disorders.”
In addition to his acting, Glover has authored some collage-type, cut-up style books (in the tradition of William S. Burroughs) through his own publishing company, Volcanic Eruptions Press. The titles include Rat Catching and Billow in the Rock. He has also released an album titled (believe it or not) “The Big Problem [does not equal] the solution: The Solution=LET IT BE.” This seminal work contains Glover’s renditions of “The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze,” “Fish Heads” and Nancy Sinatra’s hit from the ’60s, “These Boots Are Made for Walkin.’” The album also includes a song called “Never Say ‘Never’ to Always,” which sports lyrics by Charles Manson, and an ode to self destruction called “Auto-Manipulation,” which includes the following refrain: “Women are sweet and girls are honey/But beat your meat and save your money.” Glover has also moved into the role of auteur—writing, directing and starring in a warped masterpiece called What Is It? The film boasts a cast of actors who have Down syndrome and contains a scene where a snail is cut in half.
My Tutor  – Glover steals the show in this “horny teen” flick as a total geek whose brother has to drive him to Tijuana so he can get laid. This kid returns across the border swigging from a bottle of tequila, donning an immense sombrero and sporting a grin as wide as the Rio Grande.
Teachers  – Although the film is an aimless mess, Glover stands out as Danny, a rebellious high school student who foreshadows the “grunge” movement. Police accidentally shoots this dumb punk while frazzled teacher Nick Nolte looks on helplessly.
Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter  – Jason, the indestructible hockey-masked psycho, drives a corkscrew through the hand of Glover, who is cast as “Jimmy.” Former heroin addict Corey Feldman costars. The film’s title was changed to “Part IV” after the filmmakers figured they’d try to squeeze the unsuspecting moviegoing public for more scatch by keeping Jason alive for five more abysmal sequels.
Racing With the Moon  – Glover has a small role as “Gatsby Boy” in this painfully average slab of nostalgia that also stars Sean Penn as Henry “Hopper” Nash, Elizabeth McGovern as Caddie Winger and Nicholas Cage as “Nicky.” Directed by Richard Benjamin, this boring mood piece is simply a retread of The Great Gatsby for the stupid set.|
Back to the Future  – In this immensely popular sci-fi comedy, Glover costars as Michael J. Fox’s nerdy, spastic dad George McFly, a total loser who keeps getting the shit beat out of him by a perennial bully named Biff. Christopher Lloyd appears as the dimwitted professor. Ironically, it was third-rate actor Fox who went on to superstardom while Glover continued to plod along in his own garden trip.|
At Close Range  – Glover stars as “Lucas,” a punk who helps Sean Penn and Christopher Penn steal John Deere tractors in rural Pennsylvania. This realistic crime film, which also stars Christopher Walken, was based on a true story.
River’s Edge  – In perhaps his finest moment on film, Glover stars as “Layne,” a speed freak who leads a gang of potheads in this nihilistic, post-punk view of American teenagers who live out the Sex Pistols’ creed – “No future, no future for you.” One critic likened Glover’s portrayal to that of an “extraterrestrial transvestite.” The stellar cast includes Keanu Reeves, Dennis Hopper as “Feck” (a burned out Vietnam veteran), Ione Skye Leitch (daughter of ’60s folk relic Donovan) and an inflatable doll named Ellie.
Twister  – Alongside Eraserhead, I nominate Twister as one of the weirdest American films ever made. (By the way, this isn’t the plotless 1995 blockbuster of the same name starring Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton.) Glover stars as “Howdy,” a member of the Cleveland family, a group of lunatics who live in a mansion somewhere in Kansas. Howdy wears a purple suit and boasts a page-boy haircut that makes him look like a cross between Prince Valiant and Emo Phillips. Harry Dean Stanton costars as the patriarch. Also look for a cameo by the “Godfather of Punk,” William S. Burroughs, who can be seen taking target practice in a barn.
Wild at Heart  – Glover stars as “Cousin Dell,” a freak who enjoys placing cockroaches in his underwear in David Lynch’s last truly interesting film. Once again, Harry Dean Stanton costars, as well as the late Jack “Eraserhead” Nance.
The Doors  – As pop artist Andy Warhol, Glover shines in a brief cameo. Film also stars Val Kilmer as Jim Morrison and Kyle Machachlan as Ray Manzarek.
Rubin & Ed  – Glover plays an agoraphobic weirdo named Rubin who sports a page-boy haircut, thick glasses, bell-bottom pants and high platform shoes. He kidnaps Ed (played by Howard “Dr. Johnny Fever” Hesseman), who wears a bad toupee and a leisure suit, and the two head out to Death Valley to bury a frozen cat (who is actually seen waterskiing during a dream sequence).
What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?  – The film has something to do with Johnny Depp taking care of his retarded brother, Leonardo DiCaprio, who is addicted to climbing water towers and waving at the citizenry of the small Iowa town. Meanwhile, Depp’s mother, played by 500-lb. actress Darlene Cates, a woman so grotesquely obese that she is starting to become one with the couch. Where does Glover fit into this engrossing story? He plays Depp’s dweeb sidekick, “Bobby McBurney.”
Dead Man  – Glover is billed as a “Train Fireman” in this existential Western directed by Jim Jarmusch. The film stars Johnny Depp as “William Blake” (get it?), Gary Farmer as “Nobody” and Iggy Pop as Salvatore “Sally” Jenko. If you have any clue as to what this film is about, please let me know.
The People vs. Larry Flynt  – Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt’s apprentice, Arlo, is played by none other than Glover. Who else?
Willard  – Thirty-year-old Willard Stiles (Glover) is a sad, lonely, pathetic loser who lives in a dilapidated old mansion with his demanding and decrepit old mother and works a dead-end job. So he befriends some rats that have overrun his basement and then unleashes them on his enemies and reaps his revenge!