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Afternoons with Dennis Hopper

I had mixed feelings this week when I heard the news that Dennis Hopper had finally been given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. I was delighted on his behalf when they showed him on camera smiling at the cheering crowd as he accepted the accolades of so many fans, but was saddened at how frail he looked. He was putting on a brave face for the crowd, but the news that he had cancer of the prostate and looked so sickly was truly upsetting to me.

When I knew Dennis in Los Angeles, he was a regular at the West Beach Café in Venice Beach and used to spend the entire afternoon parked first at the bar with me and my crew and then withdrew with friends to a table to have dinner.

As I remember the table was “5A” and was always reserved for the elite stars who came to the restaurant.

I knew Dennis as one of the good guys because he treated me as an equal. It may have been because of his background, coming off a farm in Kansas to Hollywood.

I recently saw for the first time “Rebel Without A Cause,” where Hopper appeared with James Dean in the 1955 classic. And of the more than 100 films Dennis has been in, he may be best remembered for writing, directing and starring in the classic “Easy Rider” with Peter Fonda.

I am looking forward to seeing this classic film, and Herman can’t believe I never saw it, since I’ve been a student of film all these years.

Dennis used to really like my margaritas- so much so that I even shared my recipe with him. I went as far as to show him how to mix and serve the drink with the top-shelf ingredients I used. Where he and I parted company, was the he always liked the rim of his margarita glass salted and I don’t.

He was so down to earth and always curious about the world around him. Like John Goodman, Dennis warned me about the “sharks” in Hollywood.

The owners of the West Beach Café, Rebecca and Bruce Marder, took themselves way too seriously, and Dennis recognized this in them and was an open ear to my frustrations about them. He stood up for me more than once when I had a conflict with them.

As I just read in The Leader-Herald, Jack Nicholson, Viggo Mortensen, Dwight Yoakum and director David Lynch were on hand to help honor Dennis as he got his star. Dennis was valiantly looking beyond his current health problems when he received the honor, and this is something I can identify with in my own life.

Suffice it to say, Dennis Hopper is still one of the good guys in Hollywood. I am sorry he is facing what he is today, but I think his positive outlook will help him as my positive outlook helps me every day.

About Kathryn Spira

Kathryn Spira, a native of Cleveland, OH who pursued an acting career in NYC and Los Angeles, now pursues freelance writing from Caroga Lake in Fulton County, New York. Previous columns may be accessed at her web site