Roger L. Simon

Dennis Hopper: the hippest American bikes off

No, I never dropped acid with Dennis Hopper, but I did bump into him several times during the 1980s at parties Chez Timothy Leary when you couldn’t tell who had ingested what without hot-and-cold running petri dishes strapped to their arms like phylacteries.

Earlier than that (1970s), I used to hike the trail to Bronson Canyon where Hopper and the rest of the Roger Corman crew made biker and horror flicks on a shoe string, films that ultimately changed the face of the cinema. The ghost of Dennis was already there. He was the hippest of the hip, even before Easy Rider.

And he stayed hip — right up to his, these days, premature death at age 74 of prostate cancer. By staying hip, I mean he moved with the times, because some years ago Dennis Hopper came out as a Republican.

Say what, you might ask? Yes, you read me correctly. Unlike other Hollywood hot shots like Sean Penn, Oliver Stone, etc, who never once changed a single thought they ever had, whether on LSD or a glass of milk, Dennis Hopper was able to see that the very thing that allowed him to live the wild and crazy life he did was deeply obvious. Forget all the self-serving narcissistic left-wing baloney. It was good old fashioned American Freedom! Nowhere else could Dennis have been Dennis — and he knew it. He wanted that for everybody.

So when you think of Dennis on that iconic bike in Easy Rider, think of America at its best, out on the open road, optimistic and heading straight on with unflinching belief in liberty.

And to my Hollywood friends, let this be a reminder that traditionally an artist is not someone who goes with the crowd, especially when that crowd hasn’t revised an idea since the presidential campaign of George McGovern. Open your minds. What’s cool may not be so cool anymore. If Dennis can do it, so can you. He wasn’t afraid of losing his job.

Yes, I know, this is not exactly the perfect guy to pick as a role model — but in a way I do. In fact, in honor of Dennis I’m thinking of turning in my Prius for a Harley.