Crispin Glover, who has been acting oddly in movies all his life, would very much like to set the record straight. “I know that people think of me as this kind of crazy person, but that’s really just a perception and does not have a lot to do with my true personality,” he said the other day. “Some of the stuff is true. But recently there’s been an invention to it that goes beyond truth. I’m eccentric. I am not messed up.”
Inside his spooky-cavernous Moorish abode in Los Angeles — it’s dimly lighted by candles, smells of incense and gives the impression that it might be owned by someone with a fondness for volcanoes, given the several papier-mâché volcanoes on display and the paintings of volcanoes on the walls — Glover suddenly feels the need to prove how not messed up he is, by leaping from his seat and heading to an antechamber. There, behind a door, rests a cumbersome-looking metallic contraption. It is often said to be an early example of a gynecological chair, the point obviously being to suggest that Glover, in addition to his volcano obsession, also might have some other, less-savory interests. But the chair, it seems, is not what it is thought to be.
“It’s just not,” Glover says, sounding aggrieved. “It’s just an old medical chair I got for probably $100 at the Salvation Army in Santa Monica 19 years ago. That’s all it is. If it was a gynecological table, it would have stirrups on it.”
That noted, he returns to his living room, sits, crosses his long legs, takes a sip of green tea, licks his lips, sighs, giggles his oddly high-pitched, nearly effeminate-hayseed giggle and says, “I must say, I’m exhausted. I am truly exhausted.” He goes on to delineate a few of his labors, which have included starring in the rat movie Willard; returning to his hardly speaking kick-and-chop Thin Man role in Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle; working ceaselessly toward the completion of his own offbeat, years-in-the-making, tiny-budget film projects, with titles such as What Is It?, which features both snails and actors with Down syndrome; worrying about the cleaners who are supposed to be here cleaning his pad but aren’t; rehashing the ballyhooed Letterman Incident of 1987, in which he aimed a karate-type kick at the host’s head, thus cementing what the public generally thinks of him: fruitcake; occasionally going out on dates with his alluring, huskyvoiced, actress/Penthouse Pet girlfriend, Alexa Lauren, but most often staying home with her in bed, watching movies; importing absinthe into the country; dealing with the hassle of repairing his 1953 Bentley R-type convertible; and fending off inquiries into his childhood (“I didn’t have a lot of emotional problems or anything like that”; nor was he a bed-wetter; nor did he have eroticized feelings for his mother — that he can recall) that inevitably lead him to cast his eyes toward his fireplace and what hangs on the wall above it.
“Those!” he says, rattling a longish, bony finger at a case containing his infamous collection of wax eyeballs, made in the 1800s to instruct and edify physicians. “They are not diseased eyeballs. They are wax replications of diseased eyeballs.”
He shifts in his seat, letting the hair thus split drift to the floor.
“I can tell people really do wonder with me,” he goes on. “They really do wonder if something is wrong. Nobody ever says anything. But you can tell. I’m probably overthinking it. But it’s my nature to analyze and think about how things are. And there is this element of people thinking, ‘Wow, this guy is really psychotic.’ It’s like, you can’t have any fun, and if you do have fun, if you do your own thing, you’re considered crazy and should be in a mental institution. Now, that’s what I find creepy.”
In years past, Glover has appeared on film with cockroaches in his underpants (David Lynch’s Wild at Heart, 1990) and with a meat cleaver in his face (Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, 1984). He’s been a horny teenager (My Tutor, 1983, his first film role); a drug-frazzled, mullet-wearing murder witness (River’s Edge, 1986, his finest sustained performance); a spazoid dad to Michael J. Fox (Back to the Future, 1985, his most well-known part); and the greatest Andy Warhol of all time (The Doors, 1991). He’s been lots of things and owned almost all of them, with his Fagin nose and Alfalfa hair; with his twitchy starts and stilted postures. At first, River’s Edge writer Neal Jimenez thought Glover’s wackadoo performance ruined his movie and only recently admitted that, in fact, it made the movie. But somehow it’s like that with Glover: You appreciate him best in retrospect, looking back at whatever creature he has created.
Today, Glover, 39, is dressed in black lace-up boots, black dress socks, white briefs, black shirt and black Dickies trousers. He’s formal at the most casual of times. Up in his bedroom, he walks to a shelf and takes down a papier-mâché volcano with a music box inside and flips open the base to show a quite surreal inner diorama. “See,” he says, licking his lips, “there’s a woman in her volcanic garden, and you open it up to buffaloes looking over the scene. She’s been bowled over by the lava. This is her funeral. This is the lava flowing out.” He winds the box and eventually out comes the note of a song, and then a while later another note arrives, and so forth, glacially, with Glover singing along in similar slow-mo fashion: “I … want… to … hold … your… hand….
“That’s a good piece,” he says, happily. “I like that. That’s a good one.”
He’s eccentric, all right, and over time the eccentricities keep on piling up.
He has no TV anywhere in his house or, as he sometimes likes to put it atmospherically, “I receive no incoming television signals. He has self-published four books, surreal reassemblages of Victorian-era how-to texts, with titles such as Oak Mot and Rat Catching; his mother, Betty Glover, who helps him sell the books, reports that when schoolteachers tell her they use her son’s books in class, she always thinks, “Oh, my God.” He doesn’t tell jokes, because he doesn’t think jokes are funny. He cannot tolerate rock music in a restaurant setting. When he was five, he buried his massive collection of Hot Wheels and Matchbox die-cast cars and about that incident says, “It’s one of the few things I’ve done in my life that I’m genuinely perplexed by.” He frequently loses his wallet, but it is always returned, sometimes by a policeman named Web. He very rarely curses, not because he’s against cursing but because he tends to abhor slang. He has never smoked pot, because when he was four years old, he saw two kids “talking about marijuana, and they thought they were so cool, and I found it so annoying that I vowed I’d never smoke it.” Et cetera, ad infnitum.
“You can have an image of being normal or an image of being weird,” his girlfriend Alexa Lauren likes to say. “But what’s really normal and what’s really weird, you know?”
Glover’s mother was a classically trained dancer; his father, Bruce, is a working actor who teaches acting and has appeared in 68 films, including Chinatown. Crispin was born in Manhattan, but his folks soon moved with him to Mar Vista, California. He was an easy child but different. For one thing, he was extremely intelligent, so to help him manage his intelligence, his parents enrolled him in a school for the gifted, Mirman School. He excelled in English, history and creative writing, got along with everybody, and everybody got along with him. And this was true even when he left Mirman, after the ninth grade, for three years of public school. Glover’s more obsessed fans think that, like them, he must have had a dreadful childhood, filled with depressions, beatings, cruel hazings, alcohol-smelling kisses, zits, painful classroom erections, snobby girls, indifferent teachers and on and on. This was never the case — though Glover wasn’t too fond of the way his dramatic parents always argued. “When you’re an only child,” he says, softly, “you really feel the anxiety of a situation like that.”
The first movie he auditioned for was Walking Tall, at age eleven. He met with the casting director, who asked questions (“What’s your name?”) and received only mumbles and low talk in return (“…”). Afterward, the casting director told Bruce Glover that Crispin was too shy to be an actor; and Mr. Glover told Mrs. Glover that he would never ever take Crispin to an audition again. According to Crispin, however, the only problem was that he didn’t know you had to be outgoing in an audition. “It’s my nature to be more quiet, but I don’t have to be,” he says. Two years later, he won his first professional acting gig, in a stage production of The Sound of Music, starring Florence Henderson as Maria.
Glover didn’t start dating girls until he moved away from home, at the age of 18; a year later, he lost his virginity to a girl from his acting school, who committed suicide years later, “so that’s a little disturbing.” He has had his heart messed with in the past and in the present has said, grimly, that it will never happen again. He’s also firm about not wanting children and not going out with anyone who wants children. And he also has a pretty good idea of how any girl he dates should look: “Like they could fit into a period film, so to speak, from the Fifties or the 1920s.”
And so it is with his girl Alexa Lauren, who is dark-haired, hazel-eyed, sultry and claims to have no interest in bambinos (“I have this joke: I go to Kmart and my tubes tie themselves”). A former Penthouse Pet trying to make it as an actress, with a period-film va-va-voom body, she and Glover have, she reports, a fairly conventional sex life, because “when some things are good, you don’t have to try so hard.” She further reports that while Glover is “sexy cool,” she wouldn’t mind if he “loosened up a little bit.”
One evening, over dinner with Lauren at the ultra-expensive L’Orangerie restaurant, Glover does most of the talking, soliloquizing in his usual way. “On some level, I don’t like architecture having to do with minimalls,” he says. He also says, “I’ve always liked red and black and, since I’ve been gardening, I’ve been noticing that I’m liking green more”; “I don’t like valet parking, generally”; “I don’t really love the sun”; “I tend toward healthiness”; “I like elitism”; and “I feel like I’m interested in monarchies. Yes, I’ve been liking the idea of monarchy.”
Lauren joins in where possible and often cozies up to Glover. They order glasses of ice, which Glover fills with smuggled-in absinthe as discreetly as he can, given that the stuff is greener than AstroTurf. Fairly soon, Lauren tells the story of their courtship. They met about two years ago, at a Playboy Mansion Halloween party. She was dressed as a sexy FBI agent, he as Adolf Hitler, as Hitler would have dressed had he been going to a masquerade ball. Lauren says that she knew nothing of Glover other than what his outfit told her, and that she was smitten by his obvious “bad-boy appeal.” They talked a little that night, and later on Glover called her up to ask her out on a date — an actual date.
“Not many people do that these days,” she says, approvingly.
Glover puts down his glass of absinthe. “Really? What do they do?”
“Hang out,” Lauren says.
“But where do they hang out? And what do they do?
“You just sort of hang out. You don’t do anything.”
“But you’ve go to do something!”
“You go to a bar and get drunk and have sex and that’s it. Hanging out like that is the way that most people do it.”
Glover sips on his drink. Finally, he says, “I don’t like the idea of hanging out.”
“Anyway,” says Lauren, “that was a good date, probably the best one I’ve had.”
“But it sounds like you didn’t go out on dates before. You just hung out.”
“Well, I’m saying, if you could call them dates.”
Then they sit there in silence, in a warm absinthe glow. After a while, Lauren excuses herself to go smoke a Virginia Slim outside, leaving Glover at the table, alone. He doesn’t mind. He’s got lots to think about, and he will think about it a lot, as he always has.