Saturday, 29 May 2010

Dennis Hopper 1936-2010

Adios then, Dennis. Back when I heard the sad news of his terminal illness I had already written what was, I suppose, a sort of obituary. Tonight, learning he was gone, just a couple of other things occurred to me. One is a funny opinion given me once by Los Angeles policeman Dennis Fanning, who was technical advisor to Hopper on his LA gang movie Colors:
"I didn’t think I was going to get along with Hopper. I figured Hop’s a drunk, a druggie, a sixties radical – all that shit... Well, I got along ****ing famously with Dennis. Because we had the same stories, we just came from different sides of the fence. But we played in the same ballpark - dopers, cops, crooks - we play the same game. It’s the ****ing civilians who are outside the arena..."
Quite. And then Hopper in his own words, after I asked him once about whether he felt an artist was in some sense obliged to spend time on the dark side of life, or of their own self. His reply:
"Well, I think anybody who looks at our society and decides they want to be an artist, they have to go down that path - I think. I don’t see another path. I’m sure there are others. But if you start with Edgar Allan Poe and go to Norman Mailer, or you start with Vincent Van Gogh and you go through Jackson Pollock, or you start with Dylan Thomas and you end up with Bob Dylan – it seems that the dark journey is for the young, and in some way they feel they have to purge themselves, like the artists of the generations before purged themselves. Looking for that perfect yellow… I always thought Van Gogh was too drunk to find the yellow. Couldn’t even find the tube, man. [Whereupon Hopper laughed his famous laugh.] Maybe he was mixing the yellow with absinthe..."
In short, life was too short to be a civilian... Hopper wound up wearing v-necks and playing a fair bit of golf, sure, but his 'dark journey' was longer and stranger and more venturesome than most would dare undertake, and so it was a good thing he came back. He walks on somewhere still, I hope...
The photo above is, of course, by Warhol.


dennis said...

Nice memory..I forgot you were taping that night a Tanna's...It was a good steak dinner and Irish to drink as I recall..I was lucky enough to say good-bye to the "HOP" before his latest journey..He was an original..Hope your well.

Richard T Kelly said...

Hey Dennis! Yeah, I'm always taping, but I only print what's allowed to pass... I have great, great memories of that night you kindly showed me around the town and told me your stories; and I hope this finds you very well too. Me, I'm getting by... I'm glad too that you got to pay your respects to the great man from Dodge City... R.