Cremaster 2 Characters

Gary Gilmore
Matthew Barney

The real-life Gary Gilmore was executed for murdering two Utah gas station attendants. This was the first instance of capitol punishment in the US in a decade and Gilmore became the subject of Norman Mailer’s novel The Executioner’s Song.

In Cremaster 2, we first see Gilmore trapped in linked 1966 Ford Mustangs. After clawing at the car interiors, Gilmore emerges and shoots Max Jensen while commiting a robbing his gas station. Gilmore's subsequent execution (and redemption) is staged in a prison rodeo in the Bonneville Salt Flats.

Harry Houdini
Norman Mailer
The real Harry Houdini was, of course, a famous escape artist and magician. In the Cremaster Cycle, he is a symbol of transformation and metamorphosis. Houdini is first introduced as a character in Cremaster 2, but his influence extends through the character of the Queen’s Magician in Cremaster 5.

Part of Cremaster 2 is set at the World's Columbian Exposition (a "World's Fair" held in Chicago in 1893 where Houdini was a featured attraction). As he is cleaning up after his performance, Baby Fay La Foe attempts to seduce him so she can control his power.

Baby Fay La Foe

Baby Fay La Foe is a psychic who was the mother of Frank Gilmore and grandmother of Gary Gilmore. In The Executioner's Song Norman Mailer deduces that Frank was the product of an affair Baby Fay had with Houdini.

In Cremaster 2, Baby Fay represents the Queen Bee, leader and progenator of the hive. She apperars as the medium in the seance held with Frank and Bessie Gilmore to summon the spirit of Houdini and precipitates Gary Gilmore's conception.

Bessie Gilmore
Lauren Pine

Bessie Gilmore is Frank Gilmore’s wife and Gary Gilmore’s mother. In Cremaster 2, she, Frank, and Baby Fay La Foe engage in a seance to raise the spirit of Harry Houdini which culmunates in the conception of Gary Gilmore.

Frank Gilmore
Scott Ewalt

Frank Gilmore is Baby Fay La Foe's son and Gary Gilmore's father. During the seance, he rubs pollen on Bessie's thigh. At the moment of climax, a bee emerges from his hive-like penis, symbolizing Frank's death and Gary Gilmore's conception. Frank symbolizes the drone bee.

Max Jensen
Michael Thomson

Max Jensen is the Mormon gas station attendant who is murdered by Gary Gilmore. Before his slaying, he is shown servicing the twin 1966 Ford Mustangs that hold Gary Gilmore.

Nicole Baker
Patty Griffin

Nicole Baker was Gary Gilmore’s girlfriend. In The Executioner’s Song Norman Mailer theorizes that Gilmore committed his murder out of a perverted longing for Nicole.

In Cremaster 2, Nicole Baker appears onscreen only for a moment in Gary Gilmore’s thoughts. However, Patty Griffin sings many of the lyrics to the music in Cremaster 2, which are based on letters written between her and Gary while he was awaiting execution.

The Man in Black

The Man in Black / Johnny Cash (the two names are used interchangably) is a thrash metal band featuring Dave Lombardo of Slayer and Steve Tucker from Morbied Angel. They appear in the film after Gary Gilmore shoots Max Jensen. As bees swarm around the band, Tucker growls into a telephone. This references the fact that country music star Johnny Cash supposedly called Gary Gilmore on the eve of his execution. The band appears just before Gary Gilmore is shown for the first time, and their dark tone foretells the evil that is about to unfold.