I guess all humans go through these mental growth spurts but it is strange that what I once thought of as scary or edgy is just plain quaint or romantic to me now…
Hey, I'm human like the rest of you, you know…
In the 70s, my family had a beach resort and our manager/caretaker was a former biker (Yeah, I know, long and freaky story!). In his trailer at the end of our property, I used to see many a magazine called Easyriders. It was a man’s man biker mag that usually featured a pretty broad on the front cover.
One issue in particular stuck in my mind because this one had a topless biker chick holding on to a biker as they both road down the highway…(okay B3ers, calm down, this ain’t getting X-rated here!).
This one spoke to me Big Time because a) I never KNEW girls actually DID this! (Hey, give me a break, I was young, okay!); and b) This “lifestyle” awareness just confirmed how utterly afraid and how utterly attracted I was to alternative lifestyles…and that feeling never really left me, only my FEAR preventing me from ever becoming the NEXT bare-breasted chick on the cover of an Easyriders mag!
From thereon out, I made it a secret ambition to watch/read anything with an edge, so that even though I was too chicken to ever be the next Easyriders chick, I could at least live it vicariously through what I saw and felt. And what easier way for a country girl like me to do this than to watch Hollywood movies from the ‘60s and ‘70s, right?
Because of my age, what was considered a “re-run” in the early 70s was a first-time cultural experience for me…that most things that were of the 60s were experienced for me in the 70s, having by then a mature enough mind to absorb and remember what it was I was actually seeing…
And so, to that end, many of my first forays into the edgier side of Life came through the so-called “Hippie” movies of the 60s. They were a cinematic and cultural adventure for me.
And one remarkable enough to remain in my mind ‘til now, not for its cinematic excellence but for the message I knew it conveyed, was simply the one that so accurately depicted, to me, what I had seen play out as the real thing, in California, back in the day.
No introduction is needed if you’re a Baby-boomer…and if you aren’t, then STOP reading this post because it’ll be a waste of your time…
If there ever was a movie that epitomized everything I feared and fantasized about, this movie was it!
And even in my youth, it seemed all the more plausible a scenario because Hank Fonda’s little boy was in it, giving us “normal” kids hope that living on the edge could really become a reality…if we weren’t so damn chicken about it, that is…
This movie had it all…unwashed ruffians, bitchin’ bikes, California desert, smoked-filled conversations about Life and a breath-taking moment of death…yep, except for the missin’ bare-breasted broads, it had it ALL, Man!
And at the centre of all this debauchery was a little rather unknown man at the time, one Mr. Dennis Hopper.
If there ever was a man who epitomized everything good and decent people FEARED, it had to be Hopper! Let’s face it, as far as I was concerned, he could have been as “bad” as the law would NOT allow, just had not got CAUGHT for it yet!
Handle-bar moustache, tough-looking with a tougher attitude, a rep that said he had been there, done that, and SHOT the goddamned T-Shirt already!
Bone-chillingly scary…and DAMN attractive!
This dude did NOT wear a tie nor use Bryl-cream like my Dad, I’ll tell ya!
Nope, and on top of it all, even through the marijuana denizens of discussion had all throughout the movie, Dennis seemed to have had the answers to EVERYTHING back then…yeah, I know…I TOLD YA I was young!
But even if you go back today, with an adult’s ability to assess, was he ever that very far away from the truth?
And setting that aside, how in the Hell did Peter F. get to be such a bad-ass anyhoo???
No wonder Papa Fonda practically disowned the little dude there for a while…!
Nope, Easy Rider was, for me, the epitome of everything bad - and alluring - that I had seen for my very eyes in the late 60s in CA, despite knowledge to the contrary that going to the extremes in this realm could get you a ticket to Spahn Ranch and a date with Charles Manson!
And yet, despite what might have been arrogantly assumed otherwise, the years DID go by, and Dennis Hopper did one bad-ass movie after another, never quite achieving the same stellar performance as was his Zenith in Easy Rider. It’s not his fault really, what do you do for an encore AFTER you’ve scaled Mount Everest, right?
But we all knew he was still there, still being a bad-ass even in real life, and, of course, we secretly cheered him on for it, knowing full well that as we slept in our own middle-class, suburban beds, SOMEBODY was, at least, living Life on the edge, even if we didn’t have the guts to do it on our own.
Then, somehow, without really noticing, we ALL got older and moments melted into decades and some forty years were tallied up, like so much burnt cigarette paper off of an antique roach. And in amongst everything, Mr. Hopper grew old, and then frail, and then died, when as a kid, I was damn SURE that if anyone could beat mortality, it would be him…
Especially when he seemed to be such a darn GOOD bad-ass in the real world!
Married, divorced, married, divorced, married, divorced…are you gettin’ the gist ‘cause I’m gettin’ dizzy here…!
Got into and created fights were there weren't any before. Made enemies out of people who dearly wanted to be his friend. Held on and didn’t die so that he could piss off his latest gold-digger, I mean “wife” for that much longer!
He even managed to pull off an investment firm commercial some years back that told me if Dennis Hopper is talking about saving for retirement, boy, has the world ever gone to Hell in a hand-basket since ‘69!
This post isn’t an announcement of his death, or a real tribute to his life…it’s just me wondering where all those years went…and where the Hell one can purchase the latest copy of the Easyriders magazine…? Can you BE 46 and still go topless, I wonder?
Goodbye Mr. Hopper…and thank-you…