Monster legend Udo Kier thrifts at all four of DAP Health’s Revivals stores.
Words by Kay Kudukis • Photo by Kelly Puleio
Udo Kier has had a monster career in more ways than one. His acting credits span six decades working with venerated and provocative filmmakers like Andy Warhol and Lars Von Trier. You might recall him in Gus Van Sant’s “My Own Private Idaho” as Hans, the flamboyant lamp dancer, in a threesome with River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves. More recently, he’s got a six-episode arc on the Al Pacino led “Hunters” as Adolph Hitler, and a new movie, “My Neighbor, Adolph.”
“I’ve played Adolph Hitler five times,” Kier says wryly. “My [inner] direction was always comedy. I think about Charlie Chaplin in ‘The Dictator’ when he kicks the world.”
Kier is used to playing monsters. In fact, he’s a cult film monster staple. He played the doctor in Andy Warhol’s “Flesh for Frankenstein,” and the lead in “Blood for Dracula,” from frequent Warhol collaborator Paul Morrissey. He’s also portrayed Jack the Ripper and a slew of other unsavory characters.
When he’s not filming, there’s a fairly good chance you’ll run into Kier at one of the four Coachella Valley Revivals thrift stores. Unlike branded chain retailers, Revivals offers something entirely different at every outpost, whether it’s Palm Springs, Cathedral City, Palm Desert, or Indio.
It’s not clothes Kier is seeking — although he does have a thing for vintage ties. No, the man is into art. It doesn’t have to be a famous artist, but it must speak to him. He has been spoken to a lot over the years. Hence his four shipping containers full of thrifted treasures.
When asked why he thrifts, Kier’s answer is simple: “I love it.” But maybe that quartet of receptacles bursting with art and furniture finds have something to do with his past.
On October 14, 1944, Operation Hurricane launched a 24-hour bombing campaign on Cologne, Germany. Explosives pounded the city — including the hospital where Kier’s mom was in labor with him — relentlessly. They survived, but barely. When it was over, Cologne, the city that had been built in 50 A.D., was in ruins. Things were so bad, Cardinal Josef Frings told his people “Thou shalt not steal” was temporarily on hold, encouraging them to take whatever they needed to survive.
At 18, Kier moved to London to learn English. Now recovered from the Blitz — the eight-month, nonstop bombing by the Nazis — London was back to her jolly old self and swinging into the ’60s. Counterculture was so far out it was in.
One day, in a coffee shop, Kier was approached by a man who asked him if he’d like to be in a film. Kier said, “I don’t know how to act.” The director replied, “I don’t care.” One screen test later, he was cast as the gigolo in “Road to Santa Fe,” directed by Michael Sarne of “Myra Breckinridge” fame. Since then, Kier has appeared in more than 220 movies.
His love of art is not limited to paintings and sculptures, but includes glassware, pottery, and architectural furniture, mainly midcentury modern. When Kier purchased his first home in Los Angeles, needing to furnish it, he did it all by thrifting. His first piece was a George Nelson chair, one of Herman Miller’s designers.
On one thrilling thrifting adventure, Kier found a pair of chairs with metal slats for the back. Enter his prized vintage ties. He wove 11 of them into each chair as backing. If he gets bored with those, he swaps them out.
Unlike many thrifters, Kier isn’t in it for the resale value. He also doesn’t go thinking, “I need something for that wall.” No, he indulges strictly for the pleasure of finding something he would like to enjoy for longer than a glance. In fact, if a friend is over at his home (a repurposed 1965 Palm Springs library designed by John Porter Clark and starchitect Albert Frey) and admires one of his treasures, there’s a fairly good chance — if Kier’s done enjoying it — it’s going home with said friend.
In 2021, Kier played the lead in writer-director Todd Stephens’ film “Swan Song.” The movie is based on the real, outrageous, and famously controversial Sandusky, Ohio hairdresser Pat Pitsenbarger. In one scene, a thrift store owner tells Pat how much his life has impacted her own, and gifts him with a lime green leisure suit. Whether Stephens knew of Kier’s thrifting passion and generous nature is unknown. Either way, it’s a very nice little Easter egg for those on the hunt.