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The Bird needles Crispin Glover over his alleged meltdown at Chandler Cinemas

XTRA CRISPY

So the Bird was out for First Friday recently when it ran into Andrea Beesley-Brown, a.k.a. the Midnite Movie Mamacita, known for hosting splatter and grindhouse flicks at Chandler Cinemas, where she doubles as the operations manager. The perky New Zealander told this tweeter a wacky tale of Crispin Glover's visit to Sand Land to showcase his deeply weird art film What Is It?, which features actors afflicted with Down syndrome, naked chicks, swastikas, and a butt-load of dead snails.

Glover brought his surreal celluloid romp to Chandler for a three-day run at the beginning of May. And for fans of the quirky character actor, who's given memorable performances in movies ranging from Back to the Future and Charlie's Angels to Willard and River's Edge, to name a few, it must've been a Gloverama dream come true.

Before the flick's screening, Glover narrated a long slideshow drawn in part from self-published scrapbooks such as Rat Catching and Oak Mott. Afterward, Glover engaged the audience in a protracted Q & A and wound up signing autographs, taking pics, and chatting with long lines of slavish Glover-lovers.

"For $18, it's a very long night," Beesley-Brown admitted to this avian. "You get your money's worth of Crispin. You get to meet him and get your freaky photo with him. He'll sign stuff. It's a good value for the patron."

But for those promoting and hosting the event, not so much, according to Beesley-Brown. The lion's share of the take went to Glover — $14 out of the $18 ticket price, and Glover's food, in-town travel, and sundry expenses were covered by the event's promoters. Glover required a regular diet of sushi, and had the promoters man his merchandise booth and police the crowd for possible bootleggers filming his surreal, Luis Buñuel-esque film with smuggled-in camcorders. There is but one 35mm print of the film, as Glover has opted not to release it on DVD. So piracy issues are a constant concern to the bizarre star.

The turd in the proverbial punch bowl wasn't so much the financial arrangements, but having to deal with Glover's sometimes prickly, demanding persona. A couple of incidents in particular left a bitter aftertaste, insisted co-promoters Amy Young of Perihelion Arts gallery on Grand Avenue, Stephanie Carrico of the Phoenix performance-art venue Trunk Space, and Matt Yenkala, proprietor of Chandler Cinemas, a struggling indie multiplex offering $2 second-runs and revival fare such as Monty Python double features and screenings of bone-tinglers from Italian horror master Dario Argento.

In other words, Yenkala's Chandler Cinemas ain't making no big money, and neither are scrappy art-fart types like Young and Carrico. Perhaps that's why Glover's demand for his split in cash each night of the showing socked it to their collective pocketbook.

"We're a struggling business," Yenkala related to this yardbird. "We're doing our very best, but we weren't in a cash-ready position. So we had to scramble as bit."

Another problem was that many of the tickets had been sold online through a service that paid the promoters only after the fact. So when Glover demanded to be paid up-front for that first-night ticket sales — or he wouldn't go onstage — the promoters freaked out.

"I was furious!" recalled Beesley-Brown. "It's very difficult for us to come up with all that because we have to pull money from the safe, from the box office, from wherever we can. So finally Matt managed to get all that money and give it to Crispin."

Later, while the film was being shown, Glover was in the Chandler Cinema offices, meticulously counting his newly acquired wads of moolah, Beesley-Brown recalled.

"He wanted it in all the nice, new bills because he takes his money to the Czech Republic, where he has land or a castle or something," Beesley-Brown claimed he told her. "Apparently, he has to take all the nice bills over there because the Czechs won't take ripped bills."

Glover's personal take for the three nights was close to six grand, plus whatever he made off his merchandise, which seems like fairly measly pickings by Hollywood standards. True, Glover ain't no Brad Pitt, but he did appear in the recent box-office winner Beowulf as the monster Grendel, along with co-stars Angelina Jolie, Anthony Hopkins, and John Malkovich.

Glover also scored the promise of another $610 from Yenkala after an alleged meltdown in which Glover accused the theater's young projectionist of messing up a small portion of his film, reducing her to tears, according to Yenkala and others present.

"He built himself up into this very stressed state of mind, pacing and gradually raising his voice, not really letting anyone have a word in edgewise," stated Yenkala. "He made it clear that he felt we had damaged his film and wasn't going to be satisfied until we agreed that we were going to pay for the replacement."

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons