Dennis Hopper (1936 – 2010)

So today, we have the sad news that one of the world’s most iconic actors, Denis Hopper, has died as a result of complications arising from prostate cancer. Most film-buffs will know him from two landmark films – Easy Rider, the counter-culture road road movie directed by and starring Hopper himself, and Apocalypse Now, Francis Ford Coppola‘s take on Conrad’s novella Heart of Darkness.

However, my particular favourite role of his is the one he played in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 as the chainsaw-wielding cop Lefty. I was always convinced that he was more deranged than Leatherface in that one. In fact, it would be true to say that he specialised in playing outsiders, those who, in one way or another, were beyond the pale, those who were looking in and laughing at those of us who willingly participate in the farce called society.

But that isn’t why I am writing this blog: the reason I am is the general perception that we are losing too many of the good this year. It’s true that so far we have said goodbye to Pete Steele (Type-O Negative), Paul Gray (Slipknot bassist), Ronnie James Dio (rock singer), Gary Coleman (actor – Diff’rent Strokes), Frank Frazetta (artist) to name but a few – but this is probably true of any year. Plus, I genuinely believe that the term ‘celebrity’ is slowly passing into disuse, or will be in about a decade  – celebrity has no currency or value in this age of instant stardom and TV shows for talentless no-hopers. Lena Horne’s death, in particular, speaks of the passing of the age of true glamour, where the actors and actresses of the “Golden Age” of Hollywood had more presence and style in their little fingers than any amount of wannabes of the present. In which case, we should not only mourn those who have passed, but that which they represented – ‘fame’ earned the hard way, through sheer hard work and determination, putting in long hours and bothering as many people as they could collar to get them to listen, and grabbing any and all chances when they were offered.

And so another one slips into the past tense, where the word ‘are’ is replaced with ‘were’ – but at least Mr Hopper deserved to be eulogised as the giant of his field that he was – how many of today’s ‘stars’ will be similarly, deservedly lionised.

So, Dennis, keep on riding into that golden sunset – RIP

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