Official Massive Posse: Crispin Hellion Glover
A few issues back, within a review for yet another of his releases, we declared Superstar DJ Keoki an official member of the Massive Posse for the day. While the mix CD reviewed wasn’t anything spectacular, it offered broad evidence that this was one guy who just doesn’t give a damn what people think of him. We can respect that. What we also respect, from our fellow Posse, our friends, and from those who entertain us daily, is the kind of personality that repels people while simultaneously drawing them in… be it because they’re eccentric, misanthropic, or just plain crazy.
When Playboy Magazine asks, “What Sort of Man Reads Playboy?” it’s usually the superhuman dork who knows how to cook or spends two hours deciding what to wear to his miserable job every day. When we ask, “What Makes You Official Massive Posse?” our standards aren’t quite as high in terms of whether or not you’ve read Ulysses or wear deodorant. In fact, it’s quite the opposite; the average Massive freak would skip over the friggin’ Playboy and go straight to High Society, Barely Legal, or the latest Mapplethorpe picture book. But that’s just us. Let’s concentrate on the famous, the people working their asses off in a paranoid mental haze or within their Country music fixation. The people who, when you see or hear about them, you constantly wonder what the hell is going on inside their blown brains and what freak accident happened to them as a child to make them that way. These are the truly inspirational, the truly thought-provoking, the Official Massive Posse.
We offer our first “Key To The City” to Crispin Hellion Glover.
Just who the hell is Crispin Hellion Glover? It’s a tough question. The immediate (and obvious) answer is that he’s George McFly from the “Back to The Future” films, but it goes much deeper than that. Most people remember the character, but how many people are aware of the fact that he sued when another actor took his place in the second and third installments of the series? Glover’s case was that the actor hadn’t been hired to play the role of George McFly, but rather, to emulate his own performance as McFly in the first film. After serving up evidence that the actor impersonated his voice and was made up to look like him the studio backed down and awarded Glover a settlement. It’s an interesting side note to his most prominent role, but that’s just the starting point for our descent into his odd world. Not only has Glover had a pretty interesting film career since (and before) then, he’s also authored several books (including Oak Mot, Concrete Inspection, and What It Is And How It Is Done) and been the source of one of the most genuinely weird albums of all time (“The Big Problem Does Not Equal The Solution – The Solution Equals Let It Be”).
I first became aware of Mr. Glover when I was giving a long ago girlfriend a ride home. She mentioned getting a copy of his album and asked if I’d heard it. I hadn’t. A conversation began and a couple of weeks later we broke up at a screening of River’s Edge. It’s strange the way memories stick with you when a girl breaks your heart. Years later, while watching his portrayal of Andy Warhol in The Doors I thought, “I know that voice…” and when I attached it to him I began to track down as many of his films as I could. As I did so I became aware of what a curious path his career has assumed.
His list of film credits is an interesting mix of lead characters in oddball cult films (Layne in River’s Edge, Rubin Farr in Rubin & Ed) mixed in with smaller parts in larger productions that resemble cameos more than anything else (as Andy Warhol in The Doors and as Dell in Wild At Heart). More recently he’s appeared as a Hustler staff member in The People Vs. Larry Flynt and an ominous messenger in Jim Jarmusch’s surreal western Dead Man (also featuring an Official Massive Posse runner-up, Johnny Depp…and no, we’re not joking). His most recent work is a film he wrote and directed called What Is It? The film’s cast is made up almost entirely of people with Down’s Syndrome, and they spend a lot of time smashing snails and getting naked.
If all this hasn’t led you to conclude the obvious let me come right out and let you in on a secret: Crispin Hellion Glover is fuckin’ weird. Not weird in the “keep him the hell away from my teenage daughter” way (well, maybe in Wild At Heart), but weird in the quirky, unique, and thought-provoking sense of the word. Well, maybe thought-provoking isn’t always the right word, I mean, he did do Friday The 13th IV – The Final Chapter, but even then he managed to put his own little twist on it. Rent the movie and witness the people’s exhibit A: The Dance. As the traditional crew of unsuspecting teenagers get set to enjoy their weekend of sin and dismemberment at the cottage someone cranks up some bad, mid-80s tunes and Glover lets loose. You’re probably saying, “yeah… what else is new… EVERYbody who had a role in any Friday The 13th film made an ass of themselves…” but trust me, Crispin Hellion Glover is different. Very different (On a side note, Johnny Depp was in Nightmare on Elm Street).
The year after his appearance in Friday The 13th IV he made a short film called The Orkly Kid. In the film he plays Larry, a boy who is obsessed with Olivia Newton-John. Late at night he sneaks out into the barren rocks outside of town, puts on a wig and sings along to his favorite song, “Xanadu.” How I became acquainted with this brief gem is a story itself. A couple of months after my interest in Glover’s work was revived by catching his spot in The Doors, I wrote a short feature on him for a film column I was doing in the local university paper. A few weeks later my editor calls me up and tells me that Crispin Hellion Glover was scheduled to do a spoken word show in the city, and that, having written about him before, they’d hooked me up with an interview. In preparation I tracked down a handful of films that I still hadn’t seen, borrowed a copy of his album from a friend (ironically enough, it was the same copy that had been loaned to my girlfriend of long ago) and read a couple of interviews with him. I was ready, I was psyched…I was let down. I phoned him up, only to find out that he’d already done all his scheduled interviews and that there must have been some miscommunication. With space to fill and little to say I wrote an article that tried to convey my curiosity about what his show would be like… knowing only that it would be comprised of a slide show and a screening of The Orkly Kid.
The article I wrote expressed disappointment at the way I’d been snubbed and suggested that Glover might just be too busy or too tired to talk to a member of the media who happened to be a fan, but after The Big Slide Show I found out that I couldn’t have been more wrong. After a performance that is best described as a surreal reading of surreal books, the crowd, turning to leave, was greeted by Glover, sitting at a desk, pen in hand, ready to talk with members of the audience and sign CDs, books or whatever was brought along.
When my turn came and I told him about the article I wrote, he apologized for the interview confusion and then signed a copy of his book Oak Mot for me, as well as writing, “thanks for the two-minute interview” on a copy of the article I’d written about him.
That, in a nutshell, is Crispin Hellion Glover: Friendly, humble and a little eccentric. Well, maybe a LOT eccentric. Some of his roles tend to take over the top to new levels. In River’s Edge, for example, Glover’s character Layne is a speed freak waiting to crash. While everyone else in the flick is smoking copious amounts of pot supplied by Dennis Hopper’s Feck, Layne is popping pills like sleep is toxic. Anyone who walks into a movie and upstages Dennis Hopper has got to be a little bit off-balance, especially when you consider that Feck’s significant other is an inflatable doll. For the record, Feck’s boastful comment “I ate so much pussy that my chin looked like a glazed donut” is the best line in the film, but Layne’s nervous, tweaking demeanor as a pill hungry, hesh as fuck teenager earned him a Scout Badge in Freakish.
Roles like Layne and Larry (The Orkly Kid) were merely the last in a long line of pre-cursors to the really weird shit. The role that took Glover past Scout badges and transported him to the kingdom of the truly weird was Rubin Farr from Rubin And Ed. The film features Glover and Howard “Dr. Johnny Fever” Hessemen as a mismatched pair of losers stranded in the desert on a mission to bury Rubin’s increasingly dead cat. The film is populated with heat stroke-induced hallucinations, loud clothes, flying footwear and the nastiest feline corpse outside of Jorg Buttgereit’s Nekromantik.
However, the onscreen character isn’t the strangest part, because Rubin began to manifest himself off screen. In his infamous David Letterman appearance Crispin came out on stage in the guise of Rubin and, after a brief interview -which included an arm wrestling invitation- he proceeded to try and kick Letterman in the head. This isn’t the only manifestation of Rubin Farr outside of that film. There are plenty of references to Rubin on The Big Problem and Mr. Farr has occasionally been mentioned in interviews as a jealous, evil twin trying to sabotage Glover’s life (or so Crispin says). Add that to his portrayal of Dell, a character who sticks cockroaches in his underwear, in David Lynch’s Wild at Heart and you’ll see that he’s taken the freak crown and ran with it.
You might still be able to track down a copy of The Big Problem, and it’s worth the search. It includes a warped cover of the Nancy Sinatra classic “These Boots Were Made For Walking,” alongside tracks like “Automanipulator” (an ode to masturbation) and spoken excerpts from the book Oak Mot. A sampling of his music can also be heard in the film Twister, which, mind you, isn’t the recent star vehicle with Van Halen on the soundtrack, but rather an off beat story about the dissolution of the nuclear family. It was released the same year as Where The Heart Is and while neither performance does much to further his odd image, they’re both worth watching. In particular, Where The Heart Is gets points for featuring Glover as an effeminate fashion designer with a big secret, not to mention that the John Boorman film also includes a young Uma Thurman, a character named Shitty, and some of the trippiest body painting you’ll ever see.
Of course, this is only a brief sampling of his film work and doesn’t really let you know what to expect from his books, but there are some things that are more rewarding to find on your own, little things that turn up in strange places. For instance, while doing some last minute research for this piece I found out that Crispin and I have the same birthday–something that surprised me and put a smile on my face. That’s why I’d hate to reveal all the surprises. I’m really just here to pique your interest and spread the word…like a virus.
Welcome to the Posse, Crispin!
Crispin Hellion Glover Filmography
(from the Internet Movie Database: www.imdb.com)
What Is It? (1998)
The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996) as Arlo
Dead Man (1995) as Train Fireman**
Chasers (1994) as Howard Finster
What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993) as Bobby McBurney**
“Hotel Room” (1993) TV Series as Danny
Even Cowgirls Get the Blues (1993) as Howard Barth
Ferdydurke [aka 30 Door Key] (1992)
The Doors (1991) as Andy Warhol
Little Noises (1991) as Joey
Rubin and Ed (1991) as Rubin Farr
Wild at Heart (1990) as Dell
Where the Heart Is (1990) as Lionel
Schuld und S|hne [aka Crime and Punishment] (1988)
Twister (1988) as Howdy
At Close Range (1986) as Lucas
River’s Edge (1986) as Layne
Back to the Future (1985) as George McFly
Orkly Kid, The (1985) as Larry
Racing with the Moon (1984) as Gatsby Boy
Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984) as Jimmy
Teachers (1984) as Danny
High School U.S.A. (1983) (TV) as Archie Feld
The Kid with the 200 IQ (1983) (TV)
My Tutor (1983) as Jack
** also starring Johnny Depp!!