R.I.P. Dennis Hopper (1936-2010)

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Regardless of whether you spent Memorial Day weekend a) visiting with family b) hanging out with friends who may actually be more fun than family or c) participating in the time-honored “staycation” that involves sleep, cable, and perhaps a little more sleep, here’s hoping it was a good one. They say Memorial Day is significant because it’s “the official kickoff of summer” which equals a bonanza for kids. When I was a kid, I was almost entirely unaware of the concept. Didn’t have a clue about Labor Day, either. But: if you happened to be a kid dreaming of running a big Hollywood movie studio someday, you knew even then that the point of Memorial Day is to pull out your big guns and give the world your best (or at least funniest, bloodiest, CGI-iest) movie. And then you have to call every other hardworking, geeky kid you grew up with in the hopes that they’re now running advertising for McDonald’s or Burger King or 7-Eleven and see if they’d like to put pictures of your movie on their Slushee cups and french fry holders. Then you sit back and watch the fireworks. Now, if you made Shrek, you had a very nice weekend because it triumphed at the box office. If you made Sex and the City 2, you didn’t make as much money as you did 2 years ago, but you’re still okay with the $37 million bucks burning a hole in your pocket. But you can’t really think about all that cash, because you’re already worried about whether the Edible-Superhero-BobbleHead-Dolls idea you came up with for your July 4th movie is going to work. Speaking of filmmakers, we lost a really great one this past weekend. Actor, writer, and director Dennis Hopper passed away Saturday after battling cancer, and he leaves behind quite a cinematic legacy indeed. He starred alongside James Dean in both Rebel Without a Cause and Giant, and he also wrote, directed and starred in Easy Rider. Hopper was an actor’s actor, frequently playing bad guys – or guys who did things that might creep the rest of us out. I grew up in a pretty old-fashioned family that had little use for (and probably just feared) the counterculture of the 1960’s. So when I got the chance to meet him, which I did  twice, I was nervous and all I could think of was that he’d been quite a dangerous hippie. Turns out? Both times he wore a tweed blazer and grey flannels; he had short hair, he smelled really good and could not have been warmer or more charming. The kind of guy who held your hand while he talked to you, and that which stuck out in my mind was just how adamant he was about properly introducing me to his daughter Galen, who couldn’t have been more than four. The second time we met was for a radio interview; here too, he was incredibly gracious and soft-spoken and couldn’t have been more interesting. And even though he’d probably told the stories a zillion times, he always looked you right in the eye and made sure to interject your name frequently in the conversation. This was a genuinely elegant  — and wildly talented —  man,  and he will be sorely missed. So voice your choice in today’s featured poll and tell us which Dennis Hopper movie is your favorite:

1)    Hoosiers

2)    Blue Velvet

3)    Easy Rider

4)    Speed

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