Friday, January 29, 2010

Drove to Taos, New Mexico to meet Dennis Hopper

  Dennis I miss you. I will always remember your kindness to me- My memories are here.

    I had too many businesses to handle alone, and was driving back and forth to Ohio. While I was working at the Satan Bookstore, I would often phone actor, Dennis Hopper, when he lived in Taos, New Mexico. We became phone pals. He had bought Mabel Dodge Luhan's ranch, (she was a member of the Dodge car family, who wanted to marry a man of every nationality and had married a native Indian there), and Dennis also owned a movie theater. He had been a close friend of Jimmy Dean and this is what we had in common, talking for hours about Jimmy. When he flew to New York to do the Dick Cavett show, he phoned me from there. And by coincidence, it was the anniversary of Jimmy's death.

One day I told my store manager, Maynard, that I was going to drive to Dayton, Ohio. Instead I headed for Taos to see Dennis. He was editing his film, "The Last Movie." Visiting him had been a spur of the moment thought and I hadn't taken any money with me. I phoned Maynard and asked him to wire some money to me. He asked me where I was and I said, "St. Louis, Missouri." He said, "Holy Christ, I thought you were going to Dayton." Then he asked me where he should wire the money? I said, "Taos, New Mexico." He asked, "Where?" So, I spelled it out. I was soon in Taos, waiting at the Western Union office for some money with only a quarter of a tank of gas left. After the money arrived, I inquired how to get to Dennis's home? I was told several different ways to get there and finally found a long, dirt road that led to his ranch. It was real bumpy and I lost a door handle on my new Pontiac as I drove through the gate. I had gotten too close to the gate door. I had stopped at a bar and had two or three drinks, not knowing the altitude would affect me. I was drunk for half a day. It didn't matter because Dennis was sleeping and his brother David was busy working, editing the film. Director, Nick Ray, ("Rebel Without A Cause"), was Dennis's house guest. So, I slept in the car until Dennis woke up. I also wanted to sober up. At the bar they asked me how long I had been there? I said I just arrived. They said, "Well, you can't drink alcohol that fast." I had three or four Bloody Marys. They were right. I was snockered. Dennis shook hands and showed me around. His home was filled with Andy Warhol art, paintings and sculptures. On the other side of the ranch was a vaste desert and there wasn't one inch of space that wasn't covered with broken beer bottle glass, and beer caps and cans. It was amazing, like there had been a continual party there for a hundred years and maybe there had been. When the sun was shining on it, it was beautiful with the colored bottle glass glistening in the sun.

I had sent Dennis a box of pornographic books that were being published. He enjoyed them, although he said some of his friends visiting him, stole all of them. Good friends he had.

When he OD'd Henry Jaglom, his friend and director, saved his life by getting him into a Los Angeles Hospital. I think this is why Dennis named his son Henry, for the person who once saved his life.

                                       Dennis and his son Henry

Dennis' home was a commune and several girls were there, cooking and cleaning his house. We had a spaghetti dinner. Nick Ray was wearing an eye patch and was walking around with a bottle of wine in his hand, smoking a joint and popping pills. We talked about ways to rip off 35m film equipment, but that never transpired.

That night we went to Dennis's theater to screen the nearly completed film, titled "THE LAST MOVIE." Dennis gave much of the theater profits to the Indians who lived there. Before the film started, joints were being passed around. I turned it down. When Dennis was told about it, he became paranoid. He even asked someone to check my I.D. I felt distanced. We had talked for months and he should have known who I was. I have never smoked cigarettes. Soon after, I left to return to Lima. He didn't have any hard feelings because he later made arrangements for me to play his film, at my theater in Lima. The movie flopped. It played in Boston, New York, Los Angeles...and Lima, Ohio. The studio took it upon themselves to re-edit it and it was nothing like I had seen, and liked, in Taos. This was his follow-up film to "Easy Rider," that was very successful.

NOTE:  Dennis had prostate cancer that had spread through his whole body. He was taking chemo treatments. I have his home phone number but I promised not to reveal it. He was taking treatments in his home. I'm glad he was laid to rest in Taos.  I believe that was his wish.  So nice there and peaceful and away from Hollywood.

Dennis is buried above ground with an Indian burial. The wood casket sits under the dirt and rocks as he wished.

I soon had to close the bookstores, because of more so called obscenity charges. We lost in court because the damned attorney wanted an additional five thousand dollars to file an appeal. I decided to pay the few hundred dollar fine and close down. He fought the case "his way" instead of basing it on the facts of the arrests. I had been in Michigan and Maynard phoned and said someone came around and was taking down the names of the employees. I told them not to give out any information. Then I phoned the police to see what the problem was? They took down my name and when I returned to Lima, they had a warrant for me, charging me with selling obscene literature. "I was in Michigan at the time and didn't even work in the store." But, the attorney wanted to fight on the Constitutional Rights issue. A police officer said he had purchased magazines from me. When asked if he was sure?, he said, "Well, it was pretty dark in the store......" but he was sure it was me that sold him the magazines. Have you ever been in a "dark" bookstore? But, the attorney wouldn't pursue this. I could have proven I was in Michigan. So, I ended up losing the case and closing down. One case cost me $22,000 in attorney fees in one month. That was in 1972. Today I would have sued the lying cop for perjury.

My theater, Cinema One, didn't do much business after the initial straight films. I had opened with "Viva Knieval," and then Woody Allen's, "Bananas," followed with "Giant," and Dennis's, "The Last Movie." I decided to play the Academy award winning film, "A Man for All Seasons." I had six customers all afternoon, three of which were Nuns. I immediately pulled (canceled) the film and put in Fellini's "Satyricon." The matinee was half filled without any advance advertising. The reason being, they thought it was a sex film. It was, in a way, but more gay than straight. My grosses for run of the mill films was one thousand a week. Then I played, "Sweet Sweetback's Bad Ass Song." It grossed over four thousand in one week. So, I decided to go the simulated sex route and booked films through Box-Office International, with titles like "Tobacco Roody," and "Midnight Plowboy." The theater sold out on Saturday nights. But, the Prosecutor got on my ass for these films. I had booked films that had already played the local Drive-In theater, two years before, and he busted me for those. Around seventeen films had been confiscated and tied up in legal court battles. My attorney got a thousand dollars a day and it went on for twenty-two days. So, I sold the theater to Harry Mohney, and he reopened the Playboy Magazine Shoppe, that I had moved to a larger location, with a 16mm theater in the back. And ran hardcore at Cinema One. The Ritz theater in Tiffin, Ohio, that was on a month to month rental, was bought up by a team of businessmen who thought they could run it better than me. I was running first run films and did a great business there. They never lasted a full year.

The last time I talked to Dennis was about five years ago. He was on his cell phone. He was pulling into a parking lot with his wife going to an awards show. It was a day before the Oscars. He said he would call me later but my business was robbed that afternoon and I had to close. I tried to reach him at his home when he was on his last legs. He was always sleeping and never phoned back. I have had his home phone number for many years. He trusted that I would keep it a secret. I was thinking about being buried next to him in Taos. Yes, I loved that place too. But, I don't want to be buried above ground, even though I am part Katabi Indian.

I had played a film titled, "A Man and A Woman," a softcore film, showing different sexual positions. The theatre was packed. But, one three second scene, actually showed penetration and I was busted. The theater was full and the cashier had to refund money, while I was hauled into jail. I phoned my attorney in Toledo, Ted Iorio (not the former attorney) and the next day I made headlines in the Tiffin paper that I was suing the city in Federal court. I didn't even know Ted was going to do this, and it made me happy. He said I could even run hardcore while the case was pending. After the businessmen bought the theater, I returned to Flint and opened Studio D In Fenton. It was once a fruit stand. Everyone said it was still a fruit stand after I opened it. The locals wanted to close me down and I got into another court battle. When we were to appear in court in Fenton, I had picked up Ted in Toledo and then we stopped by the Federal court there and got an Order to transfer the case from the local court to the Federal court. The Fenton Judge was relieved. I finally was paid money from the owners of the property, to close down and then I decided to move back to California, after a three month vacation around the world. Dennis and I continued our phone conversations. The last I talked with Ted, my attorney, he said he had heard me on the radio talking about my newspaper and James Dean.

The book Hollywood didn't want published
Now available from  Studio "D" Publishing Company

Discounts Available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and all other book sites on the Internet.
 Retailers can order through Ingram Book Distributors
 ISBN 978-0-615-37758-2 (use this number at any bookstore to purchase)

( LONDON Danny LaRue