Interview with Ben is Dead

Snails and Retards* and Crispin Glover

*please note, they are NOT retards, they have Down Syndrome!

From the now defunct Ben Is Dead, issue #30, 1999

By Lorraine Mahru

Transcribed by Clark A. Kent







The disillusionment that comes after being an adolescent rock-star groupie-wannabe will pretty much cure you of Celebrity Worship later in life. Not to say that I don't like spotting Sarah Michelle Gellar on Melrose as much as the next Buffy fan, but that's pretty much as far as it goes. The reality is that the personas these actors portray in our favorite movies/TV shows/videos/whatever are JUST AN ACT. Buffy cannot really slay a demon ten times her size with a pointed stick and a witty comeback. But then there's Crispin Glover. Let's put aside for a moment the fact that he's been number one on my Cute Boy List for about a decade and just state what an amazing actor the man is. The way he pulls off all those wacked-out crazy deviant maladjusted misunderstood outcast roles with genuine angst. Now there's a man who I could really sink my teeth into stalking, but wait, WAIT, he's just an ACTOR, that's not the real him. Or is it? Living in Los Angeles, the smack-dab aorta of the celebrity machine pedestal manufacturing plant, one hears rumors, as we apparently have nothing better to talk about over overpriced tofu entrees. I started to hear (OK, I'd ask anyone who might have encountered his neighbor's cousin's redheaded stepchild's dog who knew someone who knew someone's boyfriend who worked for a day on a movie set with him) tales that with Crispin, IT WASN'T JUST AN ACT! Then a couple of years ago, Darby dragged me to some health food grocery store with a snack bar inside for an overpriced dinner. I was huffily dawdling, looking for something that didn't have tofu in it (being a confection-addled anti-health food sugar junky, this wouldn't have been my restaurant of choice). So we're trudging back to the car, and there's this guy walking towards the entrance. I'm thinking, "He's cute." As he gets closer it was, "Wow, he's really cute, kinda looks like Crispin Glover." As he passes us, I frantically start elbowing Darby in the ribs while sputtering, "Omygod! It's him! It's Crispin Glover! That was HIM!" "Well, go get him girl," says Darby calmly. I grab some back issues outta her trunk and race back inside while she sits in the car munching her seaweed salad. I try not to run up and down the aisles, then finally spot him. With a visibly trembling hand, I hand him the magazines while blurting out, "Can I interview you?" When the Celebrity Issue was still in the planning stages, I'd told Darby he was the only one I' wanted to interview (and why work at a magazine if you can't use it to your advantage?). He was very nice about it, said he already had one of the issues at home, and he would be interested in doing something as it would time with the release of the movie that he wrote and directed, What Is It? So a few months later after the Comix Issue was done, I sent a big package to him with more back issues, a t-shirt, some photos I'd taken, and a letter asking if he really wanted to be interviewed, or was heonly being nice to assuage the insane supermarket fangirl with a crazed look in her eyebecause he feared impending physical harm? So months of e-mailing ensued. As ecstatic as I was to be actually corresponding with Crispin Glover - a few phone calls even - things weren't going well. He had all these demands, like only doing it if he could be on the cover (Vincent Gallo anyone?) and others that I would be have been happy to acquiesce to, but it's Darby's magazine, and even I in my love-addled state could see how she might not want to take orders from Mr. Who-does-he-think-he-is anyway. He seemed so nervous all the time, as he'd been jacked by the press in the past, he was understandably leery, to the point of guarding every word out of his mouth. I realized I was getting nowhere, and suggested doing an email interview. Darby wasn't thrilled with the idea as she likes it when people are on the spot, but Crispin obviously wasn;t gonna play, and it would've only resulted in a guarded interview that just wouldn't be any good. He brightened at this plan considerably and even stopped stuttering in phone conversations from then on. When we went to his ivy-covered mansion to view a test-edit of his movie, he was so charming that even Darby was won over.

Let's start off with Mr. Density... what were your reactions upon learning that there was a fanzine dedicated to you and your characters?

I was glad.

Chalk it up to good acting, but people really think that you are Reuben Farr or Jingle Dell or Howdy Cleveland; is it correct to assume that these roles provide insight into your character, or should they be taken merely as face-value interpretations?

I have interpreted these roles, but hopefully there is a reflection of my own self within what I have put forth in media.

What's the best thing about being a celebrity?

It makes it easier to meet females. Sometimes people give you special treatment in a good way.

What made you want to be an actor in the first place?

I started wanting to be an actor when I was about eleven. I knew it was something I would be able to do. I suppose I also knew it would be good to help meet females at some point.

So I've heard that you've actually turned down movie roles because the characters were too wack-o, because you don't want to be pigeonholed as the type of character actor who can only play eccentrics; why don't you want that image? You don't think it's already too late for that; especially once your movie's released?

No. I do not know where you got that idea. I would never turn down a character because it was too "wack-o" I would only turn a character down if it was not interesting. I do not concern myself with range so much in terms of worrying that people would think I could only play eccentrics. In fact what people call "stereotyping" or "pigeonholing" are the bad words for something that an actor should strive for to a certain extent. At a certain point in an actor's career it is good to say to oneself "What am I?" and then figure something out. This entity should probably be simple. You could call this entity an archetype as opposed to a stereotype. I mean all this in terms of an entity that an actor can communicate, and is absolutely true to one's psyche. I believe this conclusion of self is a good thing to stick with, and explore the entire universe from this point of view. This does not limit one, but expand. It is only good if one can get some kind of truth from within this point of view. If it is a false ideal, then it will become a "stereotype" as opposed to an archetype. It also is not good if the bribery of the business starts to take one away from this individual point of view in order to help corporate entities or corporate lackeys do things that go against what genuinely interests one simply so one can accumulate more money. I do believe though at the beginning of an actor's career they should do whatever is necessary to get started. I also believe that thisearly sense of self ideal can change and become more complex or simpler, but that it's best if it comes from within as opposed to, like I said, bribery. As far as the movie being released and affecting what people will perceive of me, certainly What Is It? goes further into my psyche than any film I have ever done. And what people will perceive of me from the film... well that will be fine.

You also have issues with the film industry in general... what were you saying that time about corporate filmmaking and no counter-cultural films today as opposed to the '60s; and how taking small roles in big budget has more integrity...

I can bring up issues with the idea of culture in general, but I should stick more to film. The film industry, or more specifically the media industry, is our culture to a large extent now. It is said that media reflects the culture, but really the culture reflects what is put forth in the media. I am extremely interested in the Hero's Journey story structure as related by Joseph Campbell in Hero With a Thousand Faces. I think it is self evident that story structure/religion was invented to convince the masses of morals. These morals passed down in stories through the ages are generally the culture's - or the heads of the culture's - idea of what is "good" for that culture. "Good" is of course a subjective word. The archetype patterns of the Hero's Journey story structure help to prove what the author's point of view of, or on, "good" or "bad" is. Viewing current films has become less of an entertainment, and more a pastiche of what is gleaned that the various corporations behind the films seem to want to make the culture think is "good" or "bad." For the most part, I do not agree with the corporate ideals of what I or anyone should think on any level. I see a lot of films. Most of the time now I see old films, generally the older the better. Sixty-seventy-eighty- or ninety-year-old films are often best. Why? Because at least when I am seeing a film close to one hundred years old I am viewing a point of view or a moral from a dead culture. "Dead culture" means the value system behind the film is no longer necessarily in effect. If I like the moral of the old film, I can enjoy it immensely, but if I do not like the moral, afterwards I can say "Well, I see how that was accepted at that time." That does not bother me like a moral I do not agree with of a current movie. When I see a moral I do not like in a contemporary film and no one seems to notice how awful the moral is, I feel like I am walking amongst zombies believing what is placed before them on their "media plate" is "good." Also, sometimes in very old films the moral values are quite different from this culture's current moral values, and I can enjoy those as a breath of fresh air.

As far as current films/media reflecting the ideals of "counter-culture" from a very young age I have liked art: painting, writing, photography, music, film and all arts throughout all history or prehistory. I have noticed that often times, art that was attractive to me when I was young and still is the most attractive and most often has been that which at one time or another, could be catagorized as "counter-cultural art." I believe this term may bring to mind hippies from the '60s and '70s. But that is not necessarily what I mean. When one defines "counter-cultural Art" first one must define "cultural art." What is the art of the culture? Who is in control of the culture? What do those in control of the culture want to have come across as the "good moral" for the culture at large? The answers to these questions vary according to the culture. For example, the first homo sapiens' hunter/gathering shaman/story tellers would have different wants than perhaps Aztec warrior shaman/story tellers, and perhaps different wants than the heads of the German Third Reich art ministries, and perhaps different wants than the heads of media in our current culture. Who are the heads of media in our culture? Our culture is not a hunter-gatherer culture avatared by a shaman. Our culture is not a dictatorship headed by a monarch. Our culture is a capitalist culture. In our capitalist culture, where the most money is dictates who will be able to spread the word to the largest group. Where is most of the money in our culture? Money is in corporations. From a corporation's point of view things that make people feel good about the culture - and themselves - will make more people feel good about buying the corporation's products; specifically, films that possess morals which do not cause friction against the corporate ideals help these corporations sell their various products. Also the corporations that endorse the film/television/media can benefit either from the product that is made or the sponsorship it may provide in order to sell other products, or from all the above. This type of commerce mixed with art works well for maintaining "cultural art." Generally "cultural art" does not interest me. Sometimes it does. I tend toward liking art that fits more with the definition of "counter-cultural art." Right now, if something is truly "counter-cultural" it probably will not be backed by a corporation. This is because if any audience gets upset about something that was put forth in a piece of art that was backed by the corporation, the corporation will get in trouble by not being able to market to the audience that became upset any longer. At least the heads of the corporations feel this to be so. Therefore, without "censoring" art, people are merely hired by the corporations who will knowingly reflect that corporation's "culturally correct" attitude. If anyone should stray from this correct attitude they will simply be fired. This is how corporations get around censorship. There is no need for censorship when everyone is convinced that following the "good" moral is the best thing to do, because in that case, they will be hired, and not fired. In the corporate business of film and media everyone involved tends to have an attitude of how great everything is. It is an important attitude to have when working in film, because if you do not have this attitude, you will simply be replaced. This is called being a "player." It becomes known quickly who is a "player" and who is not. Those who are not "players" are generally shunned and not hired. There is not a conspiracy or a list or anything like that; it just becomes a feeling, and an attitude that becomes the general cultural attitude. The best thing that can happen from all this is when someone notices and makes their own movies. The problem with this system arises when an expensive medium like film needs sponsorship in order to promote a "counter-cultural" aesthetic. In the state of things right now there is basically no corporate support for "counter-cultural" art. The last time there was a "counter-cultural" film movement sponsored by corporation was in the late '60s and early '70s when the hippie movement was a relevant "counter-cultural" movement. The lies of that movement have unfortunately become part of the "truths" of our current corporate cultural ideal of art, and we are in even more dire need of "counter-cultural art" than ever before.

A disappointing element I have noticed are the people who have made their own movies as simple advertisement that they are "players" instead of going to the areas that no one who is corporately backed can go. This means that they do not go toward counter-cultural elements.

The most interesting part is that every culture possesses propaganda, including our own. Propaganda works. The morals of every culture, including our own, can be easily based on truths twisted in such a way that they become lies. And people start to believe that the lies are not lies, but they are "good" truths. Therefore if a "counter-cultural artist" reacts against the propaganda of the culture, and the culture believes the propaganda to be "good," a lot of the culture will feel that this "counter-cultural artist" is doing something "bad" or "evil" or "wrong." A movement interested in this very idea was the surrealist movement. Some of the terms, such as "propaganda," may not have been around at the dawn of the surrealist movement, but they were interested in some of the same concepts that are being discussed here. That was an interesting group. I usually do not like groups.

What Is It? has taken three years to complete; are you this much of a perfectionist/control freak in all aspects of life, or have you drawn it out so long just because you enjoy editing so much?

I have enjoyed the editing process enormously. Without a doubt my favorite thing about making the film has been editing. I enjoy the problem-solving elements involved in it. I also enjoy writing immensely and the concepts that develop. The time the film has taken has not to do with the above query, it has to do with how the film came into being. Normally someone writes a feature script and then film is shot to represent the ideals that came forth in the screenplay. What Is It? was originally a shorter film. The initial short film was edited to resemble the screenplay and it turned out to be a feature-length film. But is still had the depth of a shorter film, and I felt it did not yet have a complete psychology. The next couple of years of working on the film involved adding subplots, filming and editing them in such a way that the new film made a complete psychology. It finally fells like that. Sometimes it takes people three years to write a screenplay. A lot of the process of editing this film also involved working the story into it. This was the most time-consuming part, and the most enjoyable part.

What were your reasons for casting people with Down's Syndrome in most of the roles?

This film originally was a prequel to another film. In that script I had written most of the roles for people with Down's Syndrome. I wanted to prove to monetary investors that casting a majority of actors with Down's Syndrome could be a viable thing to do. There are many reasons, but one of the main reasons was that I knew these people would not have a self-consciousness in front of the camera that most actors possess.

How are you cashing in on your celebrity status in getting this film released? (Go into your distribution plans here...)

I will play What Is It? in art-house theaters.

You said that you're going the art-house route instead of cineplexes because there are a few scenes that prevent it from getting past the censors. Why are scenes like the gorilla-masked naked women masturbating the Oyster Shell God so important to include?

Getting past the censors is not quite the correct way of phrasing it. There are no such things as censors, really, in this country. There is such a thing as pornography, which legally is deemed anything that the community at large considers offensive. It would be interesting if the community at large found Schindler's List offensive. And then under the laws of the land no one under eighteen would be allowed to purchase a ticket to that film. What Is It? is a film where no one under eighteen will be admitted. It will not be rated. Cineplexes will not show films that you cannot admit people under eighteen to, and this is true of most chain theaters as well. This is why NC-17 is a dreaded rating for corporately backed films. For me the film was made inexpensively enough that an art-house run will do the film well. Art-houses are generally owned by individuals, so there is not this need for audiences under the age of eighteen for all films. Anyhow, that is where What Is It? will show. The monkey-masked women (they are chimpanzee monkey masks) and the masturbation are a prelude to something that occurs in part three of the trilogy which is written by Steve Stuart, the fellow with cerebral palsy in the oyster shell who's masturbated. I would like to state that some people think Steve Stewart is mentally retarded when they view the film. But Steve Stewart is not mentally retarded at all. Steve Stewart is a highly intelligent man, and the graphic sexuality is inspired by and foreshadows what is to come in his script. Part one is What Is It? Part two is It Is Mine. Part three is Sexcapades.

When Adam Parfrey was interviewing you for Interview magazine, they cut out the section on masturbation - as BID has no problem with such amusement, please feel free to share:

Yes, Interview cut a few things and rewrote things as well. The part that was more aggravating was a different thing. The real issue of concern for the article was Adam asking me waht I thought about Adolph Hitler. I gave an involved answer to the question and the fellow at Interview decided that the magazine should not be seen as leading a question about Adolph Hitler. So he cut the question down to read "Hitler?" - as though this was something I spoke about every day, and at anyone's suggestion of Hitler's name I would go into a long and involved speech about what I thought of him. It was absurd, and I asked in the end that it be removed, if they insisted on maligning the context of the interview. They removed that section of the interview. When the interview was being set up the person at Interview magazine (I won't name him since I believe he still works there) asked me if there was anyone I would like to interview me. I suggested Adam Parfrey. So they received some of Adam's books from Feral House. This fellow at Interview approved Adam interviewing me and set it up. They supposedly were well aware of Adam's work so it was irritating when they reacted to anything that could be deemed as controversial as a bad thing. They did not simply edit the piece, but truthfully, they rewrote it. Rewriting means they would take a sentence I said and cut it in the middle and then add an end from another sentence. It is kind of like what I have done in some of my books. I consider that writing. I do not merely edit my books. I write them. This type of "editing" of people's dialogue is common enough practice amongst many major magazines. Interview magazine was hardly a terrible thing, I would do an interview with it again, but since you asked specifically I have told you. I have had other magazines write things I supposedly said absolutely opposing waht I actually stated. You hear people talking about this happening all the time. It is not that interesting of a subject other than it is true, and it teaches you that you should never believe anything you read. Now I try to not actually read any articles involving myself. I try to make sure the pictures are good, and ask other people if the general idea of what I wanted to promote comes across. This way I try not to concern myself with incorrect details as it is ultimately fairly useless to do so. Inaccuracies are nonetheless frustrating to say the least.

You've traveled about the country doing performances/readings from your books along with test-edit excerpts of the movie; now that the movie's finished, will the Big Slide Shows discontinue?

I plan to continue performing The Big Slide Show. I hope to use it to be able to test other films with early audiences before I Formally release whatever that film may be. I like performing The Big Slide Show and wish to do so for many years to come. I hope to perform The Big Slide Show enough times so that repeat audience members are able to understand that the books in the slide show are simple narratives and not absolutely abstract entities.

Your books really force people to read slowly to absorb the text and imagery, similarly your movie sinks in better after pondering for a few days; what's your dissertation with time?

I am glad to hear this. My favorite pieces of art are ones that will strike me and perhaps confuse me, and I will have to view the piece again and again to get what I feel was coming from the painting/filmaking or whatever the medium is. I feel like often times this type of aesthetic is the one that has the most depth, although I can think of many pieces with depth that are clear immediately.

Do you think anyone would buy your books if they weren't written by Crispin Glover?

If they weren't written by Crispin Glover they would not be my books. In any case, I always use Crispin Hellion Glover, my full name, as my writing name.

In the movie, the retarded kids yell at the minstrel who claims to be Michael Jackson: "You're not Michael Jackson! You're not a celebrity! You're not special!" Do you equate specialness with fame?

In What Is It? the actor who has Down's Syndrome that questions The Minstrel is an adult. None of the actors in the film are kids. Most of the actors are in their mid-twenties. People with Down's Syndrome often have a young feel and look to them, but all of the people in What Is It? are adults. Anyhow, the word "Special" is a term that is also used for people who are retarded as in The "Special" Olympics. This line can be thought of as a play on that particular usage of the word. But I feel wrong to even suggest an explanation of almost any type about the film. I have extremely specific meanings for all the poetic uses of the cinematic spectrum in this film, yet it is better if people use their own minds to come up with what these things mean to them.

You said that you thought the name Ben Is Dead came from your favorite Michael Jackson song...

I believe the title is "Ben." Michael Jackson sang this title song for the film Ben when he was a child. I believe Ben was a rat that dies in the movie. I am not certain about this. I do not know if I ever saw the film. I thought the name of the magazine Ben Is Dead referred to this song.

What's the best thing about flying on an airplane?

Being able to look out the window at the landscape below. I particularly enjoy flying over the deserts of Utah, Arizona, Nevada, and California. These are also areas I like to drive.

Do you ever dream that you can fly?

I have.

Can you do a cartwheel?


Tap dance?

I took a few tap classes when I was 14 or 15.

Tap dance as good as Shirley Temple?


What's your favorite thing about staying in a hotel?

When everything is paid for.

Have you put money in the magic fingers?

I have never been in a hotel that had what you asked about.

Do you snack from the honor bar?

I do not know the term "honor" bar. I suppose it is the food you have to pay for in the room or refrigerator. It depends on what is in the room or refrigerator, and how hungry I am. Usually I do not like the food they have available.

What do you impulse-buy at convenience stores?

If something is well-displayed I will look at it more. And if I need it somehow, it is more likely that I will buy that well displayed item.

What's your favorite flavor ice cream?

I have not eaten ice cream for many years. But I used to quite like Mint and Chip.

In your experience, how has sugar proven itself to be the root of all evil?

I do not know about it being the root of all evil, but the only thing I have ever been addicted to was sugar. This started when I was a child, but especially in my late teens. I would eat an Abba Zabba bar, then a Three Musketeers bar, then have some Now and Laters and wash it down with a Coca-Cola. I started to get headaches. They would go away when I would drink Coca-Cola. I wanted to lose weight for a film when I was 19 and then another film right after that. At that point I stopped eating refined sugar. It has taken many years to get sugar out of my system.

What color is your toothbrush?

I have several right now in different colors.

What's your favorite eye disease?

I think my favorite disease in general is syphillis. The third stage of syphillis can affect the eyes. But that disease has so many interesting things about it. In the first stage there is just a sore, and that goes away quickly. The second stage of the disease may never ever show up, and it may not continue or it may. If the second stage occurs there are skin eruptions all over the body. The third stage also may never show up, then again it may. If the third stage shows up it is the best. The third stage can affect anywhere inside or outside the body. It can eat away the brain or any part of the skin or organs. Some people get something from the third stage of syphillis called "Cupid's disease." This is where the syphillis spirochetes eat away a part of the brain that makes people feel like they are in love. So many famous people in history have died of syphillis. There are also many terrific photos and illustrations of this disease in pathology books throughout the ages. So that is my favorite disease even though it is not eye specific.

Are you a Freemason?

No. I would like to know more about Freemasons though.

Do you advocate Negative Population Growth or do you plan to someday breed?

I do advocate Negative Population Growth. I am surprised that pro-negative population growth is not a bigger issue on the media. It seems like so many problems would be solved with this simple solution. I hope I would not have more than one child if I ever did. One child per two people is still negative population growth.

What's your favorite ride at Disneyland?

It is gone now. I went there with a girl a few years ago. I do not remember the name of the ride, but you were shot inside of a human body through a hypodermic needle (a microscope - ed). The carriages were shaped like the ones in the Haunted Mansion. An you could see small carriages with small people going into the ride through the needle. The idea of the ride was that you kept getting smaller and smaller till you were small enough to be inside the atom. I cannot remember what happened after that. But it is gone now. The thing that I like the next best would be the Abraham Lincoln human sized animatronic human figure. It is interesting to look at this mechanical figure moving about as a recording makes speeches which emanate from the figure. The voice is inaccurate though. Everyone always gives Lincoln a low baritone voice, but it is documented that he spoke with a high-pitched voice. It is written there was concern about the effectiveness of his speaking voice. I always though that was a very interesting character trait of Abraham Lincoln. I have never understood why I have never seen that made into an issue in any media involving his character. I am certain that would affect a public speaker like him greatly in life. Actually I hope I never go to Disneyland again. The hordes of people in T shirts with messages advertising things is truly awful. Diane Arbus took a nice photo there though.

Kids are cruel. What nicknames did they derive from "Crispin"?

As a kid and at Mirman School I was never teased. I never ever recall anyone that knew my name calling me anything other than my name as I was growing up. If anyone ever shortened it I would correct them. But I had no "Nicknames."

How did attending a school for "gifted" youngsters shape your formative years?

I feel as though I am a product of going to this small private school called Mirman. This was a very unique way of growing up. I went to this school from first to ninth grade, which is when it ended. For all of those grades there were only about 300 children that went there. So we had small classes, usually fewer than than twenty. I grew up with a few people who also stayed at the school for that length of time. I have talked to other people that went to different "gifted" schools and I think their experience was different. I won't say that it was better or worse, but looking back it was an odd school in a way, although I am extremely glad I went there. First off an IQ test is given to the child when they are very young. I believe I was five. The children were told the school was for "gifted" children. That is, children who score high on IQ tests. So the children are in this school, and everyone knows why everyone else is there. Therefore the idea of being intelligent is not considered a bad thing, but a good thing. This to me is what was best about that school. Being smart was never ridiculed, but revered. There was a dress code at the school when I went which was that you could wear anything you wanted except for tennis shoes, T-shirts, or blue jeans. After I graduated they started wearing uniforms. I know this dress code affected me in some way. But the most peculiar element of the school was the awareness of being looked at. There would be visitors that would come in sometimes and observe the class. Dr. Mirman (the founder and principal) usually accompanied them. And all the pupils knew the visitors were observing your class because this was a class filled with intelligent children. And the pupils kind of knew they were supposed to act intelligently. Sometime television crews would come. This was weirdest of all. I know I was on a news show similar to 60 Minutes. I wish I had a copy of it. I asked a question in science class that was used. I would love to see that. Anyhow I am certain that growing up in this atmosphere affected me greatly. But I have always considered it a good thing.

Which tastes better, play-dough or library paste?

I have not tasted the latter. Play-Dough is water, salt, flour, and food coloring. I remember making some with no coloring when I was a kid. I actually do remember tasting it. It tasted OK but I did not want to eat any of it. I think I cooked some to see what would happen, and as I recall it turned a dark brown and got pretty solid, but was easily breakable. I just remembered that. I have not thought about that since I did it when I was about nine or ten. But I remember I had made figures, and baked them.

When you were little did you play Barbies with the girl down the street, with a cousin... did you have to sneak or were you encouraged to play with dolls?

I never played with Barbie. I think when I was three I had a Humpty Dumpty doll that had an O shape for a mouth my father painted. One day when I was about nine or ten the next-door neighbor threw away a lot of plastic dolls. My father took them and painted them silver. The best one had a pull string that in a soft quiet voice said "I want to hold your hand." I still have one that was a mold for a doll head. That was already silver. My father teaches acting and he had them in an acting studio for a long time. I have a photo of him with them somewhere. It is a double exposure that my uncle took and looks rather ghostly. I like that photo.

What else were you encouraged to do?

I was encourages to behave in class. I had an interest naturally in writing and drawing and I was encouraged to do them both.

What do your parents think of your movie?

It seems to have grown on my father as it has changed and come into completion. He likes it now. There are certain things he thinks are funny and those moments make him laugh. They are not necessarily the things I think are funny. He thinks it will find its audience. When I first showed it to my mother she became very angry. She said something to the effect of, "You've taken all this time away from acting to do this"? She was extremely angry when she said that, about as angry as she is capable of getting. I recall it well. This was an early cut of the film. I think she will come around to liking it more as time passes.

Do you talk so peculiarly (I don't mean this in a bad way - I sometimes even found myself phasing out on what you were saying and just concentrating on the timbre of your voice while watching your hands fly about gesturing - it's actually quite hypnotic) because you used to have a stutter?

Well, I never have had a formal stutter. I probably stutter now as much as I ever have. And I do not want to misdirect anyone who would read this that I am what would be classified as a stutterer, because there are people that have that, and I do not. People who have seen me in various films have probably seen the extent of my stuttering, which is not so much. I remember when we moved from New York to Los Angeles when I was four, that I did not like the accent people spoke with here. I always tried to enunciate my words well, as I did not want to have a Los Angeles accent.

Do you have any particular fascination with Beatles songs (as you've constructed one box-piece that plays "Let It Be" and one with "I Want to Hold Your Hand" - are there more)?

I purchased the music box pieces at Pic 'n' Save about ten years ago. I made my own music boxes out of them. There is one that has the melody for "Love Me Tender." That piece I quite like. Just so people know there are music boxes and various scenarios that I have reconstructed.

What do the voices in your head instruct you to do?

I only have one voice in my head, which is me, and I instruct myself to do what I think is necessary at the time.

Are you a cat person or a dog person... or a rat person?

I suppose I enjoy the company of cats most.

As a child did you pour salt on snails, or you've just picked up this habit recently?

There was a time when I was probably four or five or six that I learned what happened when one pours salt on snails. I did this with fascination for a short time then realized it must be very painful for the snails and started to feel bad about it. So I stopped. I wrote the snail salting in the script for the movie, and I still did not feel great about it, but I knew it would work well in to the emotional consciousness of the characters in the film and consequently it would be a viscerally affecting experience for the audience.

Approximately how many snails were mutilated in the making of this movie?

I do not know. I like to tell people it was computer generated.

How else have you lived up to your middle name?

I think being given a name does affect how you are, and who you are.

What's the scariest thing?

Stupidity and conformity is the scariest thing. The lack of knowledge people possess making them not understand how they are conforming always makes me the most uncomfortable.

How often do you succumb to temptation?

It depends on what I am being tempted with.

Are you on any medication? Have you ever been?

I am not on any medication. The only things I have ever been prescribed are percadan (Is that how it is spelled?) for when I had my wisdom teeth removed, codeine for various coughs, and antibiotics.

What's your philosophy on illegal drugs?

That they are illegal.

What's your philosophy in general?

I hope to write a book on this subject. But I have no idea when that will be available as I have too many projects right now that I need to finish and get out.

What is the fatal flaw of the human condition?

That there is a human condition.

Which parts in What Is It? attempt to reflect this?

It is self evident.

Why do you feel the world would be a better place if more people committed suicide?

I think it is interesting that certain cultures believe suicide is a "good" thing as opposed to a "bad" thing.

How many words is a picture really worth?

It depends on the picture.

Which is better: when the phone rings or when the doorbell rings?

The phone is better to have ring unless I am expecting someone I want to see, then hearing a door bell ring would be better, although I have no doorbell.

A couple years ago, upon hearing that you were my favorite celebrity, this girl that I don't even know who happened to be next to me at a show informed me that you were gay, and she then proceeded to qualify with "my friend's friend's friend knows his neighbor" and that type of "evidence." How do you feel about random strangers who have no business doing so, speculating (incorrectly or otherwise) on your personal life?

People communicating untrue things about people they do not know happens inevitably. I do not concern myself one way or another about that, since I am not there when that happens. But if I am communicating with someone directly who believes something false is true about me because of something they have heard from someone else, I find that annoying.

So you seem to be or at least one time to have been a Guy About Town as most everybody has a Crispin Glover Story where they or someone they know has seen you at a restaurant, an art opening, riding your bike, flirting with little gothic girls at dance clubs, dining with Pee-Wee Herman and Elvira at the Magic Castle, museums, on the street... as the years progress, do you find yourself not going out as much because you don't want to have to deal with people confronting you more often?

I have certainly been about the town, although concerning your above list I know I have never dined with Pee-Wee Herman or Elvira. Those of course are names of characters people have played. I have met Paul Rubens and (Is it Cassandra Peterson?) but to my recollection I have never dined with either of them. No, I find myself going out less because I have been working on my film for three years. I am hoping when I am all done with the film to get out a bit more.

I've also been relayed various accounts of how you react to chance encounters, from sarcasm, to refusing to shake hands, to being genial and friendly... You were nice to me considering I accosted you in the supermarket. What makes you decide how to respond, is it purely subjective or does good publicity have anything to do with it?

I always try my best to be cordial. I do not believe sarcasm is my forte, or think of myself as a sarcastic person. In general I do not like sarcasm. I do not believe I have ever been in the situation where someone has asked "Can I shake your hand?" and I have responded with a "No."

My friends Epcott & Shirley saw you at LACMA where you specifically declined his request for a handshake, and then scurried away.

It is possible that I have been in the middle of something, or on my way somewhere and someone will call my name and I will wave hello as opposed to shaking their hand. I try always to be polite. At my book signings after my slide show I definitely put my best self forward. If I am on the street in the middle of something I try to be as polite as the situation will allow. If someone is being discourteous I will try to end the encounter as soon as possible. This is rare. Certainly I do not want people going around saying they met me and I was a jerk. That is not a good thing. I always advocate being polite in person. I believe in doing whatever is necessary for art and to do whatever is necessary for accomplishing whatever effect is needed. But this is different than real-life situations, in which I believe politeness counts.

After all these years are you still flattered by recognition?

I am flattered by compliments. Being recognized is not flattering. It just means someone recognizes you. If recognition is accompanied by a compliment that is flattering. You are not flattered by someone recognizing you, are you? For example if say, a relative recognized you at Thanksgiving, are you flattered by this recognition? Probably not. Now let's say a relative recognized you, and then stated "You are marvelous." At that point you would be flattered. I guess this is all semantics, but I believe it answers what you asked.

What are some drawbacks your status has provided you besides fanatical stalkers?

I do not think there are a lot of drawbacks.

What's the most obsessive thing one of your fans has ever done?

I lived at the top of a fourteen-story building for seven years. It was located off of Hollywood Boulevard. Outside one of my windows there was a very thin ledge that led from the fire escape into my bedroom. I am not afraid of heights. But crawling across this thin ledge was literally death-defying. A girl did this to get into my apartment. I was not home when she did this. I came back one evening and she was outside my door with a girlfriend of hers. She told me what she had done and I thought it was funny. I invited her, and her friend in to tell me about this. She had taken a leather jacket, a photograph, a Xeroxed page of Rat Catching, and some underwear. I told her I wanted the leather jacket, photograph, Xeroxed page from Rat Catching back, but that she could keep the underwear. I was in good spirits and so was her friend but she kept getting angry about nothing at all really. I tried to change the subjects but she kept getting angry. And her friend started to get embarassed. I knew at this point something was genuinely wrong with this girl. I did get the items I wanted back from her. But I avoided her. She did have some problems I could not help her with.

What's the second most?

More recently at one of my slide shows, a girl called me at my hotel who had been to my show the night before. She said she wanted to come over and visit me. One of the people at the venue must have told her where I was staying as I had not given the number to anyone. I asked who she was, because I recall there was a girl I met that I had quite liked, but I surmised it was not that girl. I said I was tired and did not want any visitors. She said she just wanted me to see her and if I did not like her that she would leave. I said "I really am tired. I will take your telephone number and call you if I want to do something later." She said that meant I would not call, and then she hesitantly gave me a number, which I wrote down not intending to call. I got off the phone and went back to sleep. About fifteen minutes later she called me on the house phone from the hotel lobby and said she was from Entertainment Tonight. I laughed and said "Do you really think I think you are from Entertainment Tonight?" She again insisted on coming upstairs and after just me seeing her she would leave. I refused. She kept calling back. I called down to the operator and requested my calls blocked until I called back down. Then there was a knock on the door, more knocks. I heard this girl saying things to me outside the door. I could not understand how she got my room number. I should have called downstairs at that point I guess because this meant a hotel person had to tell her my room number, which I think is illegal. In retrospect that still bothers me. Anyhow I looked through the peephole to see what she looked like. She was one of the first people in line from the night before. She was not bad-looking I guess. But I certainly was not in the mood to meet anyone. I just went back to my bed. She started saying she wanted to come in and speak poetry to me. So she started speaking her poetry outside my door. Then it sounded like she was in the room. I looked around the corner, and I guess the door had not been completely shut, but the latch was keeping it from opening all the way. Her arm was inside trying to undo the latch (which was impossible for her to do) as she was talking and sometimes saying poetry. She did this for a while. I became kind of intrigued with this. I realized I could go near the door and look at her face as she was trying to open the latch. So I did that for a bit. It was an interesting perspective. Someone walked by in the hall and she quickly moved back to the ice machine closet so they would not see her doing this. I shut the door completely so she could not get her arm inside anymore. She came back and tried to open the door, and kept talking. I was getting uninterested in the spectacle and genuinely wanted to rest. She said she was going to sit there until I came out. It looked like she sat down by the door out of my eyesight. I went back to bed, then I got up, took a shower and wanted to get something to eat. I did not want to deal with this person when I went outside so I did call security before I left. I was not frightened, I just did not want to deal with it. But she had apparently left. Later someone at the hotel said there were two people here and described her and some guy that she was with in the lobby as being quite belligerent. I told them someone in the hotel must have given her my room number, but they said that was not possible. Anyhow the best thing about this was the fisheye/peephole arm through the door perspective.

Who's your favorite lunatic?

Lunatic? I guess you mean someone who is psychotic? I like Caligula, because people were in trouble if they did not do what he commanded them to do, and he made them do funny things.

Who's your favorite serial killer?

I am not certain.

Which superhero do you most relate to?


What was the last item that you shoplifted; when?

I am not a shoplifter.

What's the best birthday present you've ever received?

I like it best when I spend my birthday alone with a girl I like.

If someone was trying to bribe you, what could accomplish that task?

A lot of money. But it depends on what they were trying to bribe me to do. There are a lot of things I probably wouldn't do.

How protective are you of your material possessions?

I am very protective of my material possessions. I asked the painter Joe Coleman what he would do if someone took one of his paintings and smashed it. He said, "I would be worried for them." I thought that was a good answer.

Describe your favorite knick-knack.

You must mean a favorite displayed possession. I have many I like. I would not like to have to choose. But I do like the nineteenth-century case of wax deceased-eye replications I purchased in England.

Approximately how many hours of TV do you watch per week/what're your favorite shows?

I do not receive any incoming television signal. But when I have been filming on location I most recently enjoyed the daytime talk shows and Discovery channel documentaries.

What's the most desperate thing you've ever done for money?

"Desperate" implies a short term need for money, and I have not been in that situation. I try to plan about monetary situations as far in advance as possible.

If you had to go on a game show, which one would it be?

I was invited to be on the Hollywood Squares about twelve years ago. I did not go. I still would not like to be on any.

Clowns - good or evil? Why?

I had a song on The Big Problem Does Not Equal The Solution The Solution Equals Let It Be about a clown. The song was titled "Clowny Clown Clown." I made a video for it also. I have not thought much about clowns for a long time. I have never been terribly fond of clowns. I tend to not like slapstick humor. Although I do like violent humor.

Computers - good or evil? Why?

I like computers. I edited my film on my computer.

The Internet is: __________(fill in blank)


Why do you wear so much black clothing?

In my mid-to-late teens and early twenties I would wear only old clothing. Old clothing falls apart rapidly though. I still own a lot of old long coats which are my favorite articles of clothing. More recently I decided it is easier to wear a lot of black. You can buy things that will easily match what you have already, and you do not have to think about what you will wear so much. I have liked to stay in concentration while editing the film. Even not thinking about clothes has been helpful.

Why don't you wear glasses?

I try to always wear sunglasses when I go out during the day. I do not need prescription glasses.

Do you have any scars? (How'd you get them?)

I have a small scar on my eyelid from six stitches needed for a skiing accident. I have a scar on the upper part of my wrist when my second girlfriend and I had a small disagreement, and she dug her nail into my hand. Since this is the "celebrity" issue I will mention that this was as we were leaving Madonna and Sean Penn's wedding where I met Andy Warhol. The disagreement was a small thing, but the clawing did leave a scar. I remember her commenting later that she had made a good scar.

What did you give Sean Penn and Madonna for their wedding gift?

I made it. It was inside an antique wood and glass case. There was a small baby figure hanging from the top, but instead of a body it only had an arm coming from its head. It was all silver. Underneath was a milk carton. It was covered entirely in black India ink, which was somewhat shiny and chalky at the same time. An inscription was scratched into it so the inscription was white on black. The inscription read: "Here for you Madonna and Sean on your wedding day is a milk carton, a milk carton to milk Sean's penis." It was actually a very nicely made piece. Madonna wrote me a thank you note for it, but I do not know where that has gone now. Apparently the piece was placed on their fireplace mantle in their home in Malibu. People have told me they saw it there. A fire burned down the house a while back and that piece burned with it.

At any point in this interview have you lied? Which question(s)?

No, I have not lied.

Will you marry me?

You never know. Thank you for the good questions.

Which at one point in my life is all I would have needed to hear in order to start planning the wedding. So am I happier now than before I chased him down the soybean aisle? I've had dozens of phone calls, emails, hung out with him for awhile at a party in Venice where I traded him a serial killer autograph for a Magic Tricks comic book, he personally gave me copies of his books, and I got to not only watch his movie at his house, but spend an additional five hours alone with him snapping photos (and I swear he was flirting, but probably just wanted me to be happy with him so I'd take good pictures). But that's pretty much it. The rumors are true, he's definitely on the eccentric side, but I can no longer drive past his house in the middle of the night for fear of being recognized, and am sadly no longer positive that we were meant for each other. Oh well, there's always Jesse Kamp.

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