When Dennis Hopper passed away just a couple of weeks after his 74th birthday in May 2010, American Pop Culture lost one of its greatest iconoclastic figureheads.
A great filmmaker, actor, photographer and visual artist, Hopper’s career as a thespian began in his childhood. He first appeared on the big screen alongside James Dean in Rebel Without A Cause (1955) and Giant (1956) after having attended the Actors Studio and initially appearing on TV.
Easy Rider, the film he co-wrote with Peter Fonda and directed in 1969, became the de facto cinematic emblem for the Counterculture; impacting as many as did the music that was the soundtrack of our lives during those turbulent times.
Hopper’s character in the movie, Billy, exemplified the anti-establishment idealism and rebellion of the 1960’s.
During the 70’s Hopper made his home here in Taos, buying the Big House that Tony Lujan had built for Mabel Dodge and filling it with family and friends for a constant party that went on for the entire decade. Unable to equal the success of Easy Rider for many years, Hopper’s escapades in Taos are legendary and in retrospect, typical of a great artist denied the acclaim and support he deserved. Much has been written about Hopper’s wasted years here and I see no need to rehash them. By the 90’s Dennis had transformed himself into a consummate gentleman who aged gracefully, with dignity and was creatively prolific to the end of his eventful life.
In my opinion Hopper was one of the bravest, most courageous artists America has ever produced; unafraid to revisit places inside of himself that had caused him incredible distress – in order to bring authenticity and grit to (his roles as an actor ) his art. Dennis Hopper was buried in Ranchos de Taos where he kept a home even after selling the Big House or Mud Palace as it came to be known during his years there.
He loved Taos and many of his family members still live here, brought here originally by Hopper when he needed people he trusted to have his back. They still do and so does our Sacred Mountain, which Dennis has a view of from his gravesite. Every year, thanks to his daughter Marin and friend Robby Romero, Taos celebrates Dennis Hopper Day(s) with an Easy Rider Ride, music, movies and memories.
For more information about this annual celebration please visit the official website linked below this post.
They say a picture speaks a thousand words and with that in mind, I’ve collected a few images that capture Hopper’s singular presence and style, including one with his life-long friend (long-time Taos resident) and fellow actor Dean Stockwell at the Cannes Film Festival.
The portrait at the top of the page is by Paul O’Connor, from his award-winning book Taos Portraits.