To understand this story, you must first watch this video [windows media player].
That’s Crispin Glover on Late Night With David Letterman. If you can’t see the clip, or you just want to immerse yourself in the sheer lunacy of the appearance, check out the transcript of the “interview” over at Waxy.org.
Anyhow, I saw this episode when it first aired in 1987, and, at the time, it was pretty much my only exposure to Crispin Glover (aside from his role as the father in Back To The Future, obviously). My best friend, on the other hand, was a big Glover fan: he would tape all of Glover’s television appearances (which is how I saw this Letterman bit); he would see any film that had Glover in any role, no matter how minor; and he would occasionally subject me to portions of Glover’s record, including the nightmare-inspiring Clowny Clown Clown.
So fast-forward a few years to 1991 and the long-delayed release of Crispin Glover’s film Rubin & Ed. My buddy is psyched because not only is Rubin & Ed premiering at Seattle’s own Grand Illusion Cinema, but Crispin Glover himself will be on-hand to answer questions after the movie. Sensing that I will become infinitesimally hipper by attending this event, I agree to go along.
But I still don’t really know anything about Glover, aside from his freak-out on Letterman. So I prepare by reading up on Glover, hoping to learn enough to ask an in-the-know-sounding question during the Q &A. And one of the things I discover in my research is that Glover has offered an explanation for his bizarre behavior on the Late Show. According to an interview he gave later, he was “in character” throughout his appearance on Letterman, behaving not as himself, but as Rubin, the titular character from Rubin & Ed.
Armed with this one fact, I go to the premiere of Rubin & Ed feeling like a true fan — after all, while thousands of people saw the Letterman interview, I am one of the few people that knows The Secret True Story behind the event: that Crispin was having one over on those gullible American to unhip to know the truth. And Rubin & Ed totally validates this theory: the Rubin character wears the same clothes that Glover wore on Late Night, he exhibits the same mannerisms, and acts every bit as deranged as he did on the talk show.
The movie ends and out comes Crispin Glover. The crowd becomes all humble and respectful, and I quickly realize that I am the only phony in a room full of True Believers. Most of the questions are phrased not so much to elicit a response from Glover, but to showcase the knowledge of the asker; e.g., “I noticed that the sound engineer on your album Big Problem Does Not Equal the Solution. The Solution = Let It Be also served as the gaffer in your movie Twister, so I was wondering blah blah blah.” That kind of thing.
As the Q&A session is drawing to a close, I am amazed that no one has yet asked Glover about Letterman. Maybe, think I, maybe I am the only one in the room who knows The Secret, that it was not a disaster but, in fact, a brilliant piece of performance art. So I raise my hand and resolve to prove myself equal to the other Crispinphiles in the room. Glover calls on me almost immediately.
I stand, and say “Is it true that, when you appeared on the Letterman show a few years ago, you were simply practicing the Rubin character we saw here tonight?” Of course I already know the answer — of course it’s true, I read it! — but I just want to show off the one bit of knowledge I know.
Glover suddenly looks profoundly sad. There’s a long, expectant pause, and he says “I — I don’t, don’t like to talk about that show ….”
Every person in the room turns to me and scowls. You made Crispin sad! You asked about the Letterman show, the very show that he doesn’t like to talk about! What the hell kind of Crispin Glover fan are you?!
I sit down in my seat and sink as low as I possibly can.