Sunday, May 30, 2010
Facebook | A. RAZOR: ...Dennis Hopper 1936-2010...
Dennis Hopper 1936-2010
It was way back in the 80's. I had been working for Toni Basil on several music videos, running playback, helping with rehearsal choreography, 1st AD on set and even learning post supervision. I also worked as a PA occasionally, or background or worked on music with different people. Always hoping for a break that might get me off the grind of the streets of LA. I was out in the clubs or at shows at night, occasionally running my own after hours clubs and selling whatever contraband I could to whoever wanted it to keep my life moving and trying to stay out of the way of the cops. I spent all my down time in Venice, surfing and sleeping to get my strength back to attack the world again and again. Then, one day, I was invited to a dinner party at Dennis Hopper's pad thrown by his daughter. I showed early because I had brought a few party favors that I didn't want anyone to get the jump on me in the sales department over if I showed up late and the knock was already served. That's how it was in those days, people would ask for something and if you got there in time you made the sale, if somebody showed up before you, well with certain products that people have a hard time waiting for especially, you would have to sell it to someone else and that might mean roaming around to find a person in need, which is how people got caught transporting. I was already an abscondee from parole, and wanted by the police for questioning in some unsavory situations involving people that they had heard I was in contact with. I needed to watch my fucking back while I did everything. It was an 80's double life and many people crashed and burned back then running similar hustles. I brought a few things with me and headed out earlier than I usually would, a bit nervous, a bit anxious.
Plus, it was Dennis Hopper's pad, so I am sure I used that as motivation to be early rather than prompt, even. I didn't often get invited to such places. It paid off nicely, too. He was there, I was introduced by one of his daughter's friends, we struck up a conversation that he seemed interested in maintaining with me. I chatted with him about working with Toni Basil and Karen Black, who he had worked with in Easy Rider in an acid and booze fueled shoot on location in New Orleans. We talked of that, of Apocalypse Now, Walter Murch, insanity, John Ford, graffiti art, James Dean and Sal Mineo, photography, my personal knowledge of prison and gangs, his new movie that was almost done, my recent experience running second unit shoot for Cannon Pictures' Angel III, and how they had sent more film and other scripts and actors at me for 6 days straight and I shot so much extra footage, inadvertently, for several other Golan/Globus projects with little sleep and not much pay. Crew members kept switching out while I furiously made schedules by hand and called the day while deciding on the next shot list. I told him the upside for me was I moving speed and coke to the crew and above the line, which made up for the lack of a proper rate, and I felt the experience had really proven I was ready to direct something. He agreed with me when I expressed how I felt there was lot of bullshit people in Hollywood and they were just in the way. He told me about being in the western bad guy pool with guys like Bruce Dern and the struggle to get in where he could direct and finally produce on his own terms, and how drugs and booze and insanity had cost him ground many times. I remember I almost blew it by mentioning that his place will look killer when it is finished, because the walls were not all there and bare wires were everywhere and he gave me a puzzled look and said, simply, "It is finished." Which I just laughed off, realizing what a fucking faux paux I had made.
I remember he put his hand on my shoulder and said, "I have a feeling you are the next Orson Welles in the making. You just can't let them discourage you. Keep fighting for your vision."
People started showing up and he excused himself to go work on finishing touches for his new film, "Colors". He left us and I never saw him again where we spoke so candidly. I felt pretty damn good and I was out on the town all night and a few days later I told some people to fuck off because I felt I was pretty validated by the experience. Dennis Fucking Hopper had proclaimed my genius, compared me to one of the greats, and I was selling blow to one of Altman's guys who was blowing smoke at me about backing for a thing I had written. I usually was pretty bullshit proof, but the idea of being the next Orson Welles and my immediate experience misled me pretty well. I never made that script, it was "lost" and years later a suspiciously similar film was made at a boutique studio with some familiar folks involved. I was on the run again by then, watching the film in a theater somewhere in the mid-west or back east. Thinking about Dennis Hopper and Orson Welles and Robert Altman and Walter Murch and John Ford and Robert Evans, coke deals gone bad in after hours clubs and my feelings regarding being a sicilian and an apache. I was not gonna make a film anytime soon, that was apparent. But, I still held out hope, even til today, that I might make it back into film making someday. I have tried very earnestly the last few years, in a seemingly futile way. Fighting, fucking up, fighting some more. Over and over again. I might never make it out of that conundrum. I don't know how much Hopper was just bullshitting with me, he knew what I was and how I really made my money, it was not a well kept secret or anything, but, over the years, I have reflected on that 15 minute conversation many times and felt like the thing that stood out and can't be taken from me ever, is that Dennis Hopper really told me to keep fighting no matter what, to not give up. I will always be grateful for that.
I am still fighting, Dennis, I have not given up. Good night, Mr. Hopper...much love and condolences to your family and friends...