BEVERLY HILLS—As each busy week passes by in the world of publishing, many books come across my desk, and I have to choose one to offer my full attention to for one or two nights of reading and then I sometimes wonder what was the purpose of a book, especially one about a late Hollywood icon really is all about. Especially a book about someone who was considered to be one of the industry’s most talented and yet most troubled leading men in entertainment history. This week I read “Dennis Hopper: The Wild Life of a Hollywood Rebel,” and instantly fell in love with the story. Author Peter L. Winkler got it! He figured out why Hopper was worthy of his first real, extensive and authentic biography, and Winkler also figured out how to make the book so engrossing, so sensational that anyone could pick it up, read it and ultimately realize why so many millions of people around the world consider Dennis Hopper a genuine American icon.
Dennis Hopper, The Legend Immortalized By Winkler
Sure, icon is a word that many publicists and managers affix to a client’s name to generate buzz. However, Hopper didn’t need buzz. His life, his career and his entire being wreaked of interesting details, bigger than life affairs with bigger than life actresses and a body of work so authentic, that like his former co-star, James Dean, Hopper will forever be considered a real dynamic force on the big screen. Much like Marlon Brando, who Hopper also knew, the reader gets the picture of a man who lived so recklessly at times that only fate itself must have felt as if he should exist on the planet. Any lesser man’s star appeal would have burned out long before Dennis’s ever will.
What Winkler is able to do, is masterfully weave all of the truth about Hopper into some of what we never knew about him, and it incorporates his body of work and his own charisma as a star into a newfound respect the reader gains for the late actor. Not only does the author exhaustively research and unearth many new details about Hopper, that even a seasoned historian of the cinema would find intriguing, but he also manages to bring forth the truth about a man, who in his last days on earth fought for his freedom from a woman, he’d once married but ultimately wanted nothing to do with anymore. The many tragedies throughout his life only strengthened his abilities as an actor, but you feel as though each negative force took a toll and perhaps another day or week off of his fabled and tragic life on earth.
Peter L. Winkler also manages to write a book that is not cheap, tawdry or even depressing. A less talented writer would have overpowered the reader in so much minutia of Hopper’s many failings, that the reader would never have been able to finish this great book. However, I finished it in two nights. Yes, I am an avid reader, but anyone who has ever heard of Dennis Hopper will find something in this book worthy of its reasonable price and the time it takes you to read almost 400 pages filled with the most incredible storytelling of the ages in celebrity biographies. Then again, you can’t put a price on quality, and “The Wild Life of a Hollywood Rebel” is definite quality in today’s literary world.
From the fact that Hopper hated his own parents so much that he pushed himself to become loved by millions of strangers, to his first sexual encounter with a young and very experienced 16-year-old starlet Natalie Wood, to his admissions of using rough force during sexual encounters with women, including icon Michelle Phillips, you feel like you are actually living in the mind and soul of Hopper, who was destined to die when he did.
Who knew that the man who became world famous for the ‘60s hit film “Easy Rider” really hated motorcycles? I didn’t. Even though I knew about his almost deadly motorcycle crash on Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood, I had no clue how he detested the thought of riding for years after that physically and emotionally traumatic accident. I also learned a lot more about his often secret life in Taos, New Mexico, a home away from his Hollywood home for much of his latter years. Winkler also explained in detail about Hopper’s true state of being sober, and a lot more.
This book is filled with some never-before known facts about a man who burst into our lives on the big screen, and a man whose face is as familiar to millions of people as many of our former presidents are.
“Dennis Hopper: The Wild Life of a Hollywood Rebel” is now available around the country and on Amazon. It’s the one book you need to pick up and read at some point in your life.
Book cover Courtesy: Barricade Books