Onward, Crispin Soldiers

Six years ago, Ryan Page and Mike Pallagi were high school kids who idolized eccentric actor Crispin Glover. Now they're producing films with him.

If Page gave Pallagi popularity by association in high school, Glover has done much the same for Page in Hollywood. Glover took Page under his wing, letting him live in his deconstructed Silverlake mansion--a house once owned by Dorothy Lamour--and giving him instant cachet in Tinseltown. It is because of Glover that Page got David Lynch to sign on as executive producer of What Is It? It is because of Glover that Page has been able to discuss film projects with one of his heroes, David Byrne. And it is because of Glover that Page was able to draw the interest of indie icon Vincent Gallo for a film he contemplated making earlier this year.

"Trust me, I was an 18-year-old punk who had no business talking to anybody," the 24-year-old Page says of his fortuitous affiliation with Glover. "I was going somewhere, but I was not ready for that. I got thrown into it."

Everyone who encounters Ryan Page speaks about his odd personal magnetism, the unspoken sense he conveys of a confidence so great that he doesn't care what anyone thinks of him. In truth, he's a walking series of unresolved contradictions: a guy who has little respect for the phoniness of show biz, yet dated notorious Hollywood bad girl Shannen Doherty "for quite some time"; a guy who's unfailingly affable, yet is so attracted to the macabre that he photographed himself playing on a swing set in the backyard of JonBenet Ramsey's home shortly after the 1996 murder, with yellow police tape all around him; a guy who laments the conservative tastes of the masses, yet enjoyed playing high school football and being the toast of his school's most popular clique.

Page is suspicious of celebrity, but he's also fascinated by it, and it's that fascination that's resulted in American Royalty.

Page is talking about the project from the slick north Scottsdale apartment he shares with a friend. He kicks back on a plush sofa, his feet up on a glass coffee table. Aside from its elaborate audio and video systems, and an acoustic guitar that rests in the corner, the apartment is sparsely furnished. Page vaguely apologizes for the generic decor, saying nothing in the place belongs to him.

After four years in Hollywood, and a short stint in Denver, Page has moved back to Arizona, at least temporarily. He complains about the rudeness of people in L.A., but says, "Unfortunately, I'll have to go back soon, within the next year. If you're in my industry, you can't stay away for too long."

Technically, he splits his time between Tucson and Scottsdale, but he constantly seems to be flitting from one city to another. It's part of the Page mystique that no one seems quite sure how he affords all this travel.

"He's like the globetrotter kid," says Chris Pomerenke, drummer for local duo the Les Payne Product and a collaborator with Page on American Royalty. "He'll call and say, 'I'm in Puerto Vallarta,' or, 'I'm in Montreal, meet you in San Francisco.' Burn Hollywood burn, you know?"

Pomerenke and his musical cohort, guitarist James Karnes, semi-affectionately call Page "Hollywood scum," a label that would probably make him cringe. But if he's not from Hollywood, his vibe often suggests that he's of it. When he's not wearing shades indoors, he's usually got them planted on his head, in a manner that screams terminal postmodern hipness.

Pomerenke and Karnes like to mimic his phone messages, with the rhythmically perfect pauses and deep, ever-so-professional tone:

"Hello, gentlemen . . . this is Ryan Page . . . just touching base with you."

Page's wanderlust may be rooted in an early childhood as an Army brat. He was born in Germany, where his father was stationed. When Page was five, his father decided to leave the military and attend law school; the family moved to Sacramento, California. They settled in Scottsdale (where both of Page's parents were raised) in 1982, shortly before Page started second grade. Over the years, his father has emerged as a successful medical malpractice attorney, currently a partner with the Page & Hommel firm in Scottsdale. Ryan has three younger brothers, the youngest of whom is 12.

Page describes his parents as "very conservative" and says they don't necessarily understand his theories about art. His father fell asleep during a home screening of a rough version of What Is It?, and his mother once asked him, "Why can't you make films like Free Willy?"

But Page is unabashed in his love for his parents, and knows they're proud of what he's accomplished, even if they don't appreciate the work itself. He even credits his father's phone acumen as a model for his own.

"He's actually had a lot to do with why I'm a decent producer, because so much of it is just talking to people and getting what you want out of people," Page says. "My dad is just a master. I studied him from when he was young. He'll just get on the phone, talk to somebody, and he always gets what he wants."

Pallagi's upbringing was similarly short on drama. A Scottsdale native, Pallagi is the elder of two boys. Both his parents work in the Scottsdale Airpark. His dad does electronics work for Saunders and Associates, and his mom works in sales for Eltrax.

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