Dennis Hopper is dead.. and the world is not the same. No, he need not be idealized or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life: to be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw PBR and tried to drink it, saw anything that moved and tried to fuck it, saw gas and tried to huff it.
Here's a great interview with him from the Los Angeles Times
What went down behind those corrugated steel walls of Dennis Hopper's Venice fortress as he lay dying at age 74?
He was divorcing his fifth wife after 18 years together, obtaining an "emergency restraining order" to keep her at a 10-foot distance. They battled over his valuable artworks. She also filed complaints about him keeping marijuana joints throughout his compound, ready to provide quick relief from pain, and loaded guns in strategic locations, ready to provide quick resolutions.
If a person's manner of dying is a distillation of his life, then Hopper's death seemed a revisit of the same stories about a man once called the "patron saint of the deranged." Never an easy rider.
But the private Dennis I spent a decade alongside, working on his biography, had a different persona. The artist I came to know was a serious careerist calculating his return from illegality and literal madness, tenaciously managing his sobriety.
I wonder if Hopper saw his exit as a last movie? Or a final chance to play the lead in a Shakespeare tragedy? Or, perhaps, while dying he looked up at a teddy bear on a shelf — the one handmade by his mother. The mother he had violent sex fantasies about, "though I never acted on them," he told me back in 1985.
That was the year I began to notice a ghostly figure nervously hovering at Westside art openings. It was difficult to recognize the manic performer I'd admired in Francis Ford Coppola's "Apocalypse Now" and Wim Wenders' "The American Friend." That outrageous hipster of "Easy Rider"? Nowhere to be found in this anxious loser.
I soon discovered that the gallery crasher was Hopper, that he'd fled his Taos, N.M., home of more than a decade, attended a minimum of three Alcoholics Anonymous or Cocaine Anonymous meetings a day, and narrowly escaped being institutionalized while straitjacketed in a psychiatric ward. And he was broke — at that time, Hollywood considered him unemployable.
Seemed like a potential story for my then-employer, the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner daily newspaper.
Upon visiting Hopper for that story: "Uh, like, man, sorry, you gotta come in through the garage." His limp handshake trembled. His paranoid eyes avoided mine. A washer and dryer stood at the foot of the stairs to his Venice studio. Hopper stooped to ponder the dryer's crammed contents. "Know anything about these things?"
"Not much." I felt his laundry: wet. "Check the lint trap?"
"Lint trap? What's a lint trap?"
"It allows hot air to circulate." The lint trap wouldn't budge. I pried at its edge with my keys until the trap cracked loose. I scraped out the crusted lint.
"Wow, man," Hopper gasped. "Thanks so much, man."
I was actually glad to see his death got a bigger response from my facebook friends than Ronnie James Dio because Hopper has contributed way more culturally and politically to society than some heavy metal singer or some midget. But I have to ask, what the fuck was the deal with him being a Republican? I never got that. I mean, did you see Easy Rider or any of the other films he was in? I would not have expected him to be a republican and no matter if he voted for Obama, that shit is still very confusing.
Regardless of that oversight, Blue Velvet rules, David Lynch rules, Dennis Hopper ruled. I read an interview where Lynch was asked why he used "fuck" so many times and he said, "Well, for every 'fuck' I put in the script, Dennis added four or five."
Sure, there was the duds. But even those have some justification as Dennis Hopper was quoted saying
My son, who's now 18 years old, was 6 or 7 when I did that movie, and he came up to me after he saw it and he said, "Daddy, I think you're probably a really good actor, but why did you play King Koopa?" And I said, "Why?" And he said, "Well he's such a bad guy, why did you want to play him?" And I said, "Well, so you can have shoes." And he said, "I don't need shoes."
"My mother had an incredible body."
- Dennis Hopper
Rest in Peace, you beautiful bastard!