Crispin Glover and Nicolas Cage react to the news that their failed television series from 1981, ‘The Best of Times’ is still kicking around out there on the Internet.
In 1981 both Nicolas Cage (who at the time was going by his real name “Nicholas Coppola”) and a baby-faced Crispin Glover both made their television acting debuts. However, the pilot, The Best of Times, only aired once before getting the boot from ABC.
I don’t want to ruin any of this for you, but if you haven’t seen The Best of Times—which was part musical, part teen drama, and part comedy—then clear your calendar for the next hour because you simply haven’t lived until you’ve seen an eighteen-year-old Nicolas Cage participating in a bizarre car wash sequence while his pals kick out a vanilla version of Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5.” In a pair of overalls with no shirt.
Your life is also a lie if you’ve never experienced the crazy that is Crispin Glover (who was also eighteen) having a spastic meltdown about the latest Talking Heads cassette tape. Adding to the weirdness, most of the actors on the show went by their own names and there’s something very strange about hearing Glover’s real mother Betty yelling at her boy Crispin throughout the episode. But that’s ALL I’m going to say because this totally golden television oddity that really must be seen to be believed.
PS: You’re welcome.
An image of Cage with another star of ‘The Best of Times’ actress and future scream queen, Jill Schoelen.
If you recall when Crispin Glover appeared on Late Night with David Letterman wearing a wig, glasses, and loud dollar-bin clothes—you know, that time he nearly kicked in the host’s face with one of his platform shoes—he was attired as Rubin Farr, his character from Rubin & Ed. In fact, Glover turned up in character twice before the movie’s straight-to-video release in ‘91: first on Letterman, and then in the music video for his own song “Clowny Clown Clown,” right at the moment the lyrics mention “Mr. Farr.”
“How’d you like a kick right in the taco, buster?”
Directed by Trent Harris (of Beaver Trilogy fame), Rubin & Ed has given me countless hours of pleasure over the past quarter-century. Perhaps only Repo Man is as quotable and as inexhaustibly funny. Hesseman is Ed Tuttle, a middle-aged loser with an outrageous rug, anger management issues and a heartless ex-wife (Karen Black). Ed’s trying to claw his way back to the zero level of dignity with the help of a motivational seminar/get-rich-quick scam called “Power Through Positive Real Estate,” for which he needs recruits. Glover is the socially challenged cat-lover Rubin Farr, whose mother won’t let him move back in with her until he makes a single human friend. And so begins one of cinema’s great romances.
(Incidentally, though these Yelp reviews are pretty old, it looks like the Angelenos among you can still study acting with Crispin’s father, Bruce Glover. He’s still giving out his phone number on his Facebook page.)
In 1989—not so long after he starred in River’s Edge, tried to kick David Letterman in the face and published his first book Rat Catching—Crispin Glover released an album. More than a mere new wave or spoken word record, The Big Problem ≠ The Solution. The Solution = Let It Be presented itself as a riddle. On the back cover, above a collage of nine items including photos of Hitler, Charles Manson, unidentified clowns, and Glover as Jesus crucified, these lines of text dared listeners to reach out and touch someone:
“All words and lyrics point toward THE BIG PROBLEM. The solution lay within the title: LET IT BE. Crispin Hellion Glover wants to know what you think these nine things all have in common. Call (213) 464-5053.”
(It was rumored that Glover sometimes picked up, but every time I dialed this number I got the answering machine of his press, Volcanic Eruptions.)
Recorded with Barnes & Barnes of “Fish Heads” fame, the album included readings from Glover’s books Rat Catching and Oak Mot; indelible interpretations of “The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze,” Lee Hazlewood’s “These Boots Are Made for Walking” and Charles Manson’s “I’ll Never Say Never to Always”; and originals that ranged from a ballad about hygiene (“The New Clean Song”) to a rap about masturbation (“Auto-Manipulator”). Promotion (*cough*) seems to have been limited to a video for “Clowny Clown Clown,” whose lyrics referred obliquely to Glover’s character, Rubin Farr, in the excellent cult comedy Rubin and Ed. At the time, the reference was all the more oblique because the straight-to-video movie did not come out until 1991, two years after the release of The Big Problem. In the video, Glover appears dressed as “Mr. Farr” at the appropriate moment in the song.
The entire album is now up at UbuWeb. Wikipedia and UbuWeb both report that the phone number printed on the sleeve has been disconnected. However, they fail to mention that Glover’s—or that of Volcanic Eruptions—current number, (310) 391-4154 is posted on his website. Why don’t you give him a call? The nine items on the back cover of The Big Problem are:
I. The killing and maiming of defenseless animals?
III. Indignant, righteous, self manipulation, with discrimination against others?
V. Getting out of bed?
VII. The daring young man on the flying trapeze, who might just as easily be called a gloating woman seducer?
VIII. Charles Manson never saying “Never” to always?
IX. Oak Mot?
A. Adry Long circa 1868?
B. Adolf Hitler circa 1932?
C. Adry/Hitler in the minds of history forevermore?
What do these things have in common? If you find out, let us know.
Maverick Salt Lake City-based indie filmmaker Trent Harris (who made the quirky cult favorite Reuben & Ed with Crispin Glover and Howard Hesseman) was working as a cameraman at a local TV station in 1979 when he met Richard LaVon Griffiths, AKA “Groovin’ Gary” (Griffiths’ CB radio handle). Harris was in the parking lot testing out a new video camera that the station had just bought and “Groovin’ Gary” was taking pictures of the station’s news helicopter. Their meeting, caught on videotape, would prove to be a fateful encounter for both men.
As he is initially revealed in the film, “Groovin’ Gary” seems to be a Jeff Spicoli-esque, late 70s stoner-type. He’s even got blond “feathered” hair. Gary is a bit of a ham-bone and describes himself as Beaver, Utah’s answer to Rich Little. He (somewhat inexplicably) seems to see his impromptu time on camera as an unexpected showbiz “break.” After doing some terrible impressions of John Wayne and other celebrities, he takes Harris over to his car and shows him his AM/FM stereo 8-track tape player—of which he’s very proud—and the engravings of Farrah Fawcett and Olivia Newton-John he’s had put on the windows. It’s banal, yet weirdly compelling.
“Groovin’ Gary” then invites Harris (via letter) to a talent show he’s producing at a high school in Beaver. A pageant that Gary himself will perform in. In drag. As his alter-ego “Olivia Newton-Dong.” He suggests in a letter that Harris might want to get to the local mortuary (?) at 8A.M. to shoot his hair and make-uo session.
During the make-up application (done by the mortician), he discusses his profound love of Olivia Newton-John. Even in full drag, he somehow does not come across as gay, more like someone who thought that they were about to do something just totally hilarious.
We see the talent show itself, with some truly soggy “talents” on display. Then “Olivia” is onstage and it’s weird, ending with a strange-looking masked man picking up Gary and carrying him offstage. To say that it’s a riveting performance is an understatement. Keep in mind as you watch this, that he orchestrated the entire talent show just so he could do this!
Afterwards “Groovin’ Gary’ happily recaps the event with Harris in his car. Harris drives off. Then the film cuts back to Gary, out of drag, doing a shitty Barry Manilow impression from earlier in the talent show. That’s how it ends.
The video below is out of sync, but it didn’t bother me that much.
Two years later, in 1981, Trent Harris directed a “dramatic” remake of the first video with a young Sean Penn playing the goofy kid from Beaver, Utah. There is an ending now, in the scripted version—based on what really happened or not, I have no idea—of “Groovin Gary” coming to the suicidal realization that perhaps his drag performance getting on TV would not be the best thing for his life in a small Mormon town and he tries to talk the Harris character out of showing it. The second film was made, apparently, for $100, and often recreated the scenes from the original video (Harris does not play himself here).
It’s not like this is the greatest thing you’ll ever see, but it is fascinating to see a pre-fame Sean Penn performing in drag (the short was made the same year Penn appeared in Taps). It seems clear that Penn picked up some tricks for his actor’s repertoire here that went right into his infamous character from Fast Times at Ridgemont High the following year. In many ways, this short was just a dry run for “Jeff Spicoli” and the next film in The Beaver Trilogy starring Crispin Glover.
After the jump, the final installment of The Beaver Trilogy starring Crispin Glover…
In a scene from Twister, a 1989 cult comedy film starring Crispin Glover, writer William S. Burroughs appears in a cameo role as the weird old guy shooting guns, a part that must have been written specifically for him…
If you want to watch the entire film online, you may do so here.