by Elizabeth Cunningham
This week marks the Third Annual Dennis Hopper Days in Taos. In 2010 former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson proclaimed May 17th Dennis Hopper Day. Four years later Robby Romero instituted this celebration. It is his way of honoring his life-long friend. Shortly after Dennis purchased the Mabel Dodge Luhan House in 1970, Robby and his mother paid him a visit. A few days stay turned into a residency for Robby, who lived at the “Mud Palace” with Dennis until the place sold in 1978.
Having Dennis as mentor—and exposure to his friends, a broad spectrum of “crazy artists”—inspired Robby. He is now lead musician of the rock band, Red Thunder, and co-owner of Eagle Thunder Presents. As a tribute to his mentor’s legacy, Robby launched the first annual Dennis Hopper Motorcycle Ride on May 17. 2014. A bevy of bikers rode to places where Easy Rider was filmed, including Taos Pueblo. The ride ended at Taos Plaza. After unveiling the Dennis Hopper road designation, bikers, locals and tourists danced to the music of the Damn Band. Robby joined band members on stage to sing “Born to Be Wild” from the Easy Rider soundtrack.
Besides this year’s Easy Rider Bike Rally, Robby also planned the 2016 Dennis Hopper Days to include a barbecue and concert with fellow musicians Robert Mirabal and Gary Farmer. Robby also added a new component: the Rebel Film Festival, showcasing four of Dennis’ films.
On the occasion of Hopper’s 80th birthday, the Taos Community Auditorium, in cooperation with Robby Romero’s Eagle Thunder Enterprises, will screen The American Dreamer. Written and directed by photojournalist Lawrence Schiller and screenwriter L. M. “Kit” Carson, this documentary was filmed at the time Hopper was working on The Last Movie.
The filmmakers’ intent was to show the actor as his authentic self. A snapshot in time, the movie captured the wild times and substance abuse during Hopper’s Taos period at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House in the 1970s. It starred Hopper playing himself at the time. Lois Rudnick, Mabel’s biographer and co-curator of the Mabel Dodge Luhan & Company exhibition, will be on hand with Robby Romero to talk about the Mabel-Hopper connection at the May 17th screening.
Looking at the blog piece I wrote on the Hopper era at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House, it will be interesting to see the films that Hopper worked on or starred in. Perhaps best remembered for his roles in Easy Rider and Blue Velvet, his legacy included the “Sister Arts” Mabel touted. In addition to his work in film, Hopper was a photographer and artist, an art collector and mentor. Perhaps Robby Romero said it best:
Dennis’ legacy continues. His body of work, his photography, his films—as an actor, director, writer, producer—lives on and continues to be celebrated all over the world. …He had a keen eye for art. He had a keen eye for artists, and he celebrated them and always lifted them up.*
What a tribute. Happy Birthday, Dennis!
* quote from “Rebel Rider: Third-annual Dennis Hopper Days celebrates a western icon” by John Miller. “Tempo Magazine,” The Taos News, May 12-18, 2016, page 4