Meet the 'Real' Crispin Glover

The actor who isn't returning as Michael J. Fox's dad in Back to the Future II is turning over a new leaf (again).

Two hours before my scheduled interview with Crispin Glover, he calls me. He sounds unsettled. 'I...I...I... just want to be sure you're not coming over here with, uh, with any expectations, because I had a bad experience yesterday."

"What happened yesterday?" I say.

"Well, uh, the person certain things about me and had heard I used to have a steel examining table in may living room..." (I had heard that, too. It was reported to have been a gynecologist's table replete with stirrups.) "...and I just want you to know that that was a phase..." (the phase included the apparent psychotic break on the David Letterman show) "...and it's over. That's not who I am anymore," says the chameleonic actor whose resume includes Back to the Future and River's Edge. "The album I've just made is a remnant of that period, but personally, I'm not...I just don't want you to be looking for any kind of ... you know..."

"I understand," I say.

Crispin's Hollywood neighborhood is one of graffiti and swagger and chili dogs. There's broken glass in the street, and, on the sidewalk, a man without a shirt yells up to a woman on a third floor balcony, "Come down and open the door. The buzzer's broken." A few blocks south is Frederick's. A few blocks east, Nathanael West, living on borrowed money, wrote The Day of the Locust.

The name Glover is on the building directory. I call his apartment. He tells me he's just gotten out of the shower, and there might be a slight delay in starting the interview. At this point a "slight delay" doesn't bother me. This interview has been scheduled and cancelled three times already. "He's just very shy," said his publicity person at Restless Records. "But he definitely wants to do the interview. He's excited about this record."

I've listened to the record a few times. It's a strange brew. There are prose snippets written and read by Crispin. There are Crispinized versions of such songs as "These Boots Are Made For Walking," "The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze," and "Never say 'Never' to Always," which sports lyrics by Charles Manson. There's a rap number about masturbation and a poem which hints of a love affair between Crispin and his rhyming dictionary. The record is called "The Big Problem = The Solution. The Solution = Let It Be," and I expected it to be funnier or at least more pointed, but it's neither comedy nor satire. I'm not sure what it is. I'm eager to hear what Crispin has to say about it.

I ride the creaky elevator to the 14th floor penthouse. On Crispin's door there are three locks. I knock. The locks click. The door swings open.

"Hi, hi. Come in, come in." His voice is loud. His face is still wet. His hair is cut short. He's wearing a grey suit and a tie, and he looks very Dan Quayle.

"Are those watermelon wedges on your tie?" I say. He looks down.

"No, these are moons."

"Oh, yes. Now I see. Gibbous moons."

"Right. Ha ha. I picked up this tie in Toronto. I was there making a movie with John Boorman. It's called Where the Heart Is, and I saw it the other night. It's wonderful. I'm feeling very happy about it. Ha ha. " Crispin is obviously tense, and he will punctuate many of his sentences with this nervous laugh.

He leads me down a hallway and into the living room. The examining table may be gone, but the décor is still Transylvanian Contempo. The floor is painted black. So are the walls. Some cabalistic insignia are scrawled, in red, on the kitchen door. Black curtains billow in front of open windows. The furniture is from the Bram Stoker Collection...a cranberry divan, a stiff, high-backed chair. I notice a pair of dentures in a vice and a collection of doll's eyeballs. There appears to be a dead bird or part of a dead bird under glass. Crispin tells me this is actually a ladies' hat. The book shelves are filled with tomes on art, geology and medical abnormalities. There's an early 18th century painting of a bare-breasted woman, and next to that is a little box decorated with glass baubles. Inside the box is a kind of three-dimensional triptych of a rat's death, funeral, and burial. "That's a gift from a fan," says Crispin.

He offers me a glass of carrot juice. I sit down in the high-backed chair. The arm rests are at chin level. Next to me is a lamp shade made out of volcanic rock. Crispin sits on the divan. Then we hear a strange noise. A sandpapery swoosh. Crispin is startled.

"What was that?" he says.

"I think the glass door on your bookshelf closed."

"Oh." He looks around, not entirely convinced by this explanation.

"I understand you turned down the chance to reprise your role of Michael J. Fox's father in the sequel of Back to the Future."

"Yes, I wanted to be in the film, but the money they wasn't a huge offer, and since the original made so much, I expected more. At the same time I got an offer to do the Boorman film, and the money was comparable. I'm proud of Back to the Future, I'm glad I was in it, but rather than repeat myself, I thought I'd try something else. And after the Booman film, I did the new David Lynch film, Wild at Heart. It's a road picture with Nicolas Cage and Laura Dern. I show up at various points along the way. David is the closest thing I've ever had to an idol. When I was 16, I went to see Eraserhead over and over."

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