People who know me know I love to read and during the holidays I look forward to the books I’m inevitably gifted almost as much as I look forward to the fun, food, family and friends. I’ve been plowing through some of the books St. Nick sent my way and am planning on mentioning some of them here as I finish them up.
The first book I’ve read in 2013 is a biography of writer/director/actor/painter/photographer and art collector Dennis Hopper. Hopper started acting as a teenager in movies like Rebel Without a Cause, and he became famous as the director and co-star of Easy Rider – the film that more or less marks the beginning of the New American Cinema that was to take over movie screens in the 1970’s. Of course, Hopper famously imploded into a spiral of drugs and drink before rebounding as an actor in movies like Blue Velvet and Speed, and as a director with flicks like the Los Angeles gang drama Colors.
I enjoyed Dennis Hopper: The Wild Ride of a Hollywood Rebel and I’d definitely recommend it for anyone who is curious about the man, his remarkable career and crazy personal life. That said, I’ve read a ton about Hopper and his films and I’ve watched every documentary about him and his work that I’ve been able to find. If you are a student of Hopperdom, you may find Peter L. Winkler’s prose a bit hacky. He lifts lots of quotes and interviews wholesale from various Hopper documentaries and television appearances and seems to race through his subject with little unique exploration or insight. The book’s cover brags about its being the first full accounting of Hopper and his work published since his death in 2010 and Wild Ride sometimes feels like a race to the store bookshelves instead of a journey through a remarkable life. That said, there’s plenty of information about the man and the movies here, and it looks to be the best place to start for folks interested in Hopper’s considerable contributions to acting, directing and photography. If you’re looking for the deeper exploration the subject deserves, it seems we’re still waiting for that book.
In 1983, following his lecture at Rice University in Houston, Texas, Hopper and busloads of audience members set off for a local speedway where he proceeded to strap himself into a special contraption rigged with dynamite. With luminaries like Terry Southern and Wim Wenders along for the ride, Hopper proceeded to set-off a pretty massive explosion before staggering out of the smoke and soon after checking into rehab.