The sign hanging on the Trocadero door Saturday night is a tad unusual for the gritty, mostly punk nightclub, but the large crowd waiting outside seems undaunted by the proclaimed restrictions. Matthew Star, an 18-year-old from Oakland, arrived at 3 in the afternoon to secure his No. 1 spot in line to see Crispin "Hellion" Glover.
"I'm kind of obsessed with Crispin," Star says, but, he assures me, "not in a scary way."
"I'm attracted to his strangeness. He's very disconnected -- kind of a dada actor. I like people in high places that break rules and push limits in an intelligent way. That stunt he pulled on Letterman," he continues in reference to Glover's infamous stint on Late Night in which the actor nearly kicked Dave in the head, "that sort of stuff needs to happen."
Inside, the Troc has been transformed, as per Glover's rigid instructions, from a beer-stained club into a makeshift theater with hundreds of folding chairs arranged in orderly rows across the dance floor. Adding to the ambience, all lights, excepting a small red spotlight meant for Glover and the smoky gleam of a projector, have been extinguished. The bartenders stand around idly as there is to be absolutely no alcohol served during Glover's performance.
As with most of the dates on Glover's 30-day tour, the house is reduced to standing room only, with over 300 people turned away at the door. Randy O'Grady, Glover's tour manager, explains that "Crispin could've made a lot of extra cash if we had allowed people to be crammed in, but it's more important to him that he and his merchandise be easily accessible after the show. As it is, he will be signing books for over two hours, guaranteed."
The audience, which is largely comprised of star-struck cult film fans and the usual fringe-dwellers, sits in rapt attention as the presentation begins. First up is a 40-minute short directed by Trent Harris titled The Orkley Kid, in which Glover plays a misguided drag performer who believes he is Olivia Newton-John. The film, which plays to huge guffaws from the crowd, was made over 13 years ago and will be released on video, O'Grady says, pending payment to Newton-John for the use of a song which Glover massacres during an audition sequence.
Then Glover enters, clad in an ill-fitting suit with his long hair tucked awkwardly behind his ears. Never straying from the stationary red light, he narrates from his oeuvre, including Rat Catching, Oak Mot, and Concrete Inspection. Dwarfed by the wall-size projections of the actual pages from his books, he indicates, with pointed pauses and a crooked finger, the more important aspects of each slide. The result is a humorous if somewhat skewed glimpse of the twisted Glover-psyche.
"I don't know -- I still wonder what his real personality is like," complains Waiyde Palmer, a Trocadero bartender and longtime fan. "Don't get me wrong, I thought the performance was hilarious -- I was in tears -- but it seemed like a conglomeration of all the strange roles he's ever played." Not everyone would agree.
"I don't think it's a put-on," says Felice, a 24-year-old who has been a fan since she saw River's Edge at the age of 15. "I definitely think he's a genuine freak. Someone told me that he has all sorts of body parts stored in bottles at his house. Even if it's not true, I think he's great!"
Although dismembered limbs are not in physical evidence tonight, Glover does manifest a few other minor eccentricities. Aside from requesting in his rider that the Trocadero supply him with three pairs of socks -- which had to be exchanged because of their purported inadequate length -- Glover apparently feels comfortable only in an atmosphere of murky gloom. Upon taking his seat at the meet-and-greet table, he quickly knocks out one of the spotlights arranged overhead, making press photos a near impossibility but tickling the fancy of adoring fans.
Further renovations are made when he requests that a large box be placed on the bench beside him to prohibit people from observing his reportedly hated left side. Instead, devotees happily kneel in front of the small table while Glover signs their books and ticket stubs and answers a barrage of questions with untiring commitment.
"When I saw that Crispin was going to be in town I freaked!" gushes Ryan, a 21-year-old San Franciscan who canceled vacation plans to be at the show. "My brother came up from Orange County. We had no idea what to expect, but it was really thrilling, a great theatrical experience."
Although boyhood friend Nicholas Cage is supposed to stop by for a quick hello and Bjsrk shows up after her Warfield performance to pay her respects, O'Grady insists that Glover is a man of the people. "He likes to meet anyone who is into what he does, and he will stay there as long as it takes," he warns. Which, indeed, Glover does until well past last call. For all those aggrieved fans who were turned away from last weekend's show, Glover and the Trocadero gang have scheduled a second coming this December.
By Silke Tudor