A writer's tortured 10-year relationship with the actor never produced the biography originally sought by Hopper, who feared opening a Pandora's box of the past. What was revealed was a serious careerist who tenaciously managed his sobriety
By Richard Stayton, Special to the Los Angeles Times
What went down behind those corrugated steel walls of Dennis Hopper's Venice fortress as he lay dying at age 74?
He was divorcing his fifth wife after 18 years together, obtaining an "emergency restraining order" to keep her at a 10-foot distance. They battled over his valuable artworks. She also filed complaints about him keeping marijuana joints throughout his compound, ready to provide quick relief from pain, and loaded guns in strategic locations, ready to provide quick resolutions.
If a person's manner of dying is a distillation of their life, then Hopper's death seemed a revisit of the same stories about a man once called the "patron saint of the deranged." Never an easy rider.
But the private Dennis I spent a decade alongside, working on his biography, had a different persona. The artist I came to know was a serious careerist calculating his return from illegality and literal madness, tenaciously managing his sobriety.