Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Dennis Hopper, Friend to Dinosaurs

Dennis Hopper received his Star on the Walk of Fame on Friday, and pictures from the event show him gaunt, in a wheelchair, and close to death from cancer. Such a sad end to a man who terrified the ever loving bejeezus out of me as a kid.

Dennis Hopper is, in a way, responsible for my idiotic affection for dinosaurs. Now granted, most 8 year olds know more about dinosaurs that I do; my knowledge is limited to that dinosaurs are cool. I’ve read Jurassic Park something like twenty million times. I probably don’t have to tell you why I watch the movie.

And whenever my BFF/writing partner Matthew and I go to a conference, we try to find someplace with dinosaurs we can look at. Wells Dinosaur Haven has been our favorite so far.

But back to Dennis Hopper. To me, Hopper will always be Koopa from Super Mario Bros. You’re laughing. Go ahead, laugh. But my reasoning is this—awful as it was, Super Mario Bros. was the first movie I was allowed to see by myself at the single-screen movie theater up the street from house. I was 8, and it has been imprinted on my mind ever since.

Hopper gnaws his way through scenery like a homeless Seth Rogan in a dipsty dumpster, spitting hunks of cardboard and plywood with every over-wrought line of dialogue. But right at the end, when Mario and Luigi think they’ve de-evolved him, he jumps OUT of this giant bucket to bite their faces off. I was sitting forward in my seat and I jumped back so hard that Trista, whose mother also let her go to the movies un-chaperoned, laughed out loud. It was the first real cinematic reaction I remember having, and the adrenaline rush was intoxicating. It was then that movies went from being something to watch to something to experience.

I’ve seen Easy Rider. I’ve seen Blue Velvet. They were great, but Super Mario Bros. directly impacted how I relate to the cinema experience; the thrill I get when the trailers begin, the way I chain-chomp a package of candy cigarettes, the exact way I sit forward in my seat at the tensest moment. My prayers go out to Dennis Hopper, as well as an all-too-belated thanks.


  1. This makes me so sad. I didn't know he was sick and I am pained to hear it. Whenever he goes, I am sure Bejesus will be waiting for him.

  2. In that last picture of Dennis...is he eating a Red Snapper?

  3. Nope, that's his lizard tongue . . . because dinosaurs are just big lizards . . . and bats are bugs.