Carl Crew
Carl Crew in the CIA box office.
Carl Albert Crew

(1961-08-02) August 2, 1961 (age 59)
OccupationActor, screenwriter, author

Carl Albert Crew (born August 2, 1961) is an American actor, screenwriter, author, artist and co-proprietor of the North Hollywood nightclub California Institute of Abnormalarts.



Raised in a repertory theatre troupe, Crew spent much of his young life acting and traveling the country in numerous stage productions until the age of 18, when he became an apprentice embalmer for a Marin County mortuary, an occupation he held for four years before deciding to further pursue a career in acting.[1][2] Crew landed his first major role in the 1987 cult horror comedy Blood Diner, where Crew played the co-leading role of homicidal chef and wrestling enthusiast George Tutman, for which he was allegedly only paid $250.[1] In 1990, Crew wrote and starred in a low-budget gross out comedy aptly titled Gross Out, a Pink Flamingos-esque shock film following a group of siblings attempting to make the most disgusting movie possible to win an inheritance. Despite its excess of scatological humor, The Los Angeles Times offered a positive review of Gross Out, describing it as "funny in a scabrous, admittedly juvenile way" and "thunderingly, gleefully tasteless...a natural for midnight venues".[3]

In 1992, Crew wrote the screenplay and starred as the title subject in Jeffrey Dahmer: The Secret Life, a biopic based on serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer. Shot a mere year after Dahmer's arrest, the film received intensely negative press from both the media and the families of Dahmer's victims, who staged open protests against the film. Crew and director David Bowen appeared on several talk shows including The Maury Povich Show and WISN-TV's Milwaukee's Talking with family members of the victims, defending the movie against their claims of glorifying and exploiting Dahmer's actions.[4][5] Although The Secret Life was dismally received upon release, it has more recently been positively re-appraised by cult and horror publications; similarly, the Los Angeles Times, in reviewing 2002's Dahmer, compared it unfavorably to The Secret Life, praising the latter's depiction of and Crew's performance of Jeffrey Dahmer, while CraveOnline called the film "fascinating" and "truly compelling".[6][7]

Crew wrote, produced and starred in multiple roles in the 1994 horror anthology film Urban Legends, directed by Bill Osco, which would ultimately be his last major film contribution.[8] Since then, Crew's acting work has been sporadic, almost exclusively appearing in films by prolific underground filmmaker Chris J. Miller including 2008's Polyphony 2011's Ironhorse 2013's 2035: Forbidden Dimensions and 2016's Mortuary Massacre.[9]

Other endeavors
Crew giving a guided tour of the California Institute of Abnormalarts.
Crew giving a guided tour of the California Institute of Abnormalarts.

During his time as an embalmer, Crew met Robert Ferguson, a fellow mortician who shared his passion for collecting vintage sideshow and carnival memorabilia. In 1994, the two opened a clandestine underground nightclub for unusual bands and performance artists in the North Hollywood district until the venue was inevitably raided and shut down by police. In 2001, Crew and Ferguson re-opened the club as the California Institute of Abnormalarts, a dual nightclub and sideshow museum which hosts weird bands, performers, burlesque acts, freak shows and film screenings and displays a wide array of sideshow memorabilia ranging from Fiji mermaids and pickled punks to the preserved corpse of a late 19th century circus clown.[2][10][11] On February 9, 2013, Crew and the CIA were featured on the Discovery Channel reality series Oddities, where Crew gave a tour of the building and its oddities.[12] In 2014 and 2015, the CIA appeared on Halloween-themed episodes of the local interest shows 1st Look (KNBC) and Eye on LA (KABC-TV), both of which featured interviews with Crew.[13][14]

As the theatrical and colorfully-dressed spokesperson and operator of the CIA, Crew himself has become almost as notable as the venue, with the LA Weekly newspaper once dubbing him "the Barnum of Burbank Boulevard", writing "this cracked cat is a towering local cultural institution unto himself", while the book L.A. Bizarro, a chronicle of "the obscure, the absurd and the perverse of Los Angeles", wrote of him as a "natural-born huckster who would have made a great snake oil salesman back in Deadwood".[15][16]

In September 2012, Crew and Ferguson authored and published a book through the publishing company Mikazuki Publishing House entitled Freakshow Los Angeles, a historical chronicle of Los Angeles' underground sideshow and circus entertainment.[17]

Crew is the great nephew of Gerald "Jerry" Crew, a prominent figure in Sasquatch mythology as the man who allegedly discovered and made plaster casts of large, unusual footprints in the Del Norte County, California area in 1958, the media coverage surrounding it which led to the coining of the word "Bigfoot".[18]


Year Film Role Other credit(s)
1987 Blood Diner George Tutman
The Underachievers Thug 2
1988 Terminal Entry Prop assistant
1990 Gross Out Screenwriter
1993 Jeffrey Dahmer: The Secret Life Jeffrey Dahmer Screenwriter, producer
1995 Art of Nude Bowling Screenwriter (co-written with Bill Osco), associate producer
1998 Urban Legends Buzz Fetish / Derek / Judith Kuntz / Susie's Mom / Dr. Hillzbilll Screenwriter, producer, editor, special effects makeup, art director, set dresser
2004 Shaye & Kiki Producer
2006 Life on Mars Carl / Luther Schloss
2007 Carrion Narrator
2008 Polyphony Zoltar
2010 Ironhorse Nana Sasquatch / Lester Morton
2012 Keeping the Freakshow Alive Himself
2013 2035: The Forbidden Dimensions Pastor John
2016 Mortuary Massacre Mortimer King


  1. ^ a b "Wonder if Jeffrey Dahmer ever ate at Blood Diner? Exclusive Interview with Actor, Writer, Producer, and Entertainer Extraordinaire, Carl Crew". November 18, 2012. Archived from the original on April 26, 2014. Retrieved April 26, 2014.
  2. ^ a b Wagman, Diana (October 5, 2006). "Best Place to Find a Dead Clown". LA Weekly.
  3. ^ Thomas, Kevin (April 6, 1990). "Film Review: 'Gross Out': Not for the Faint-Hearted". Los Angeles Times.
  4. ^ "Dahmer movie is protested". Sun Journal (Lewiston). September 15, 1992.
  5. ^ "Povich Talk Show on Dahmer Film a Shouting Match". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. September 29, 1992. Archived from the original on April 26, 2014. Retrieved April 26, 2014.
  6. ^ Thomas, Kevin (June 21, 2002). "'Dahmer' Falls Short of the Horrible Truth". Los Angeles Times.
  7. ^ Bibbiani, William (July 12, 2011). "DVD Review: 'Things' and 'The Secret Life: Jeffrey Dahmer'". CraveOnline.
  8. ^ "The Unknown Comedy Special". DVD Beaver. Archived from the original on 2014-04-26.
  9. ^ "Carl Crew - IMDb". Internet Movie DataBase.
  10. ^ Lemons, Stephen (March 25, 2002). "Through Clowning". Salon.
  11. ^ "California Institute of Abnormal Arts ~ 999 Eyes of Endless Dream Sideshow ~ North Hollywood". LA Taco. November 20, 2006.
  12. ^ "Oddities Season 4 Episode 3: Return to Holly-Odd".
  13. ^ Hermann, Andy (September 9, 2014). "It Doesn't Get Any Weirder Than This North Hollywood Spot". LA Weekly.
  14. ^ Malave, Tina (October 17, 2015). "Eye on L.A. gets spooky with the best Halloween-themed spots in the city". KABC-TV.
  15. ^ Whiteside, Johnny (August 30, 2012). "What the Hell's Been Going On in North Hollywood?". LA Weekly.
  16. ^ "Clowning Around at the California Institute of Abnormalarts". LA Bizarro. August 5, 2010. Archived from the original on February 1, 2014. Retrieved April 26, 2014.
  17. ^ "Freakshow Los Angeles by Carl Crew". Mikazuki Publishing House.
  18. ^ "CarlCrewCIA Twitter status". Twitter. July 12, 2013.