Shadix was born in Bessemer, Alabama in 1952. In a biography posted on his website, he says the very same week he was born his parents bought their first TV set. “From my earliest memory,” he wrote, “I decided I was somehow going to get inside that box and make my family laugh like they laughed at Lucy and cry like they did with Playhouse 90 dramas." Seeing a double bill of A Street Car Named Desire and Suddenly Last Summer at age 9 only intensified his desire to act. He started participating in church pageants, school plays and community theatre.
At age 17, when Shadix came out to his conservative Baptist family, his father subsequently enrolled him in an aversion therapy program that involved electroshock in order to “cure” him of his homosexuality. After the first day of the program, Shadix attempted suicide by overdosing on amphetamines and was in a coma for three days. When he was released from the hospital, Shadix’s father told him that he wanted him to live and to be whoever he wanted to be. It was a turning point in Shadix’s life.
Shadix moved to New York, where he immersed himself in the theatre world and became friends with Tennessee Williams, then in the twilight of his career. On the advice of an actor friend, Shadix relocated to Los Angeles, where he became involved with The Groundlings Improv Group. He also started working in film, landing a bit part in the movie The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981), starring Jessica Lange and Jack Nicholson. (Shadix had all of one line in the film.)
His big break came after ten years in Los Angeles, when Tim Burton attended a theatre production of “Doctor Faustus Lights the Lights” on the advice of screenwriter Michael McDowell. Shadix was playing Gertrude Stein (against the wishes of his agent, who thought the part too risky). Impressed, Burton cast Shadix as Otho, an interior decorator and expert on the paranormal, for his upcoming film Beetlejuice (1989).
The role led to further work in high profile projects like Heathers (1989), The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), Multiplicity (1996) and Planet of the Apes (2001). He also had a role in HBO’s short-lived series Carnivale and made numerous TV appearances.
After spending 30 years in LA, he took a self-imposed hiatus from film work and moved back to his birthplace of Bessemer, Alabama in 2007, where he spent time remodeling a Queen Anne Victorian house he’d bought there. When his home was destroyed in a fire, he moved to Birmingham. He continued to be active in the theatre scene, pursued his love of photography and contributed to various gay rights causes. He suffered mobility problems as his health declined, and it is believed his death yesterday was the result of blunt force trauma caused when he fell from his wheelchair.
You can leave your memories and condolences in Glenn Shadix’s Guest Book.