My One Dennis Hopper Story

By 1987, I had lived and worked in Los Angeles for several years and so had become used to seeing the occasional Hollywood celebrity; but then I started dating a girl new to the area who was totally star-struck. Everywhere we went, she thought she saw somebody famous, to the point where I started having fun with it. We’d go to the grocery store, for example, and I’d point out a woman in the produce section and say “isn’t that Barbra Steisand feeling up those cantaloupes?”; or we’d go to the mall and I’d ask “isn’t that Tom Selleck trying on glasses at the Sunglass Hut?”. Try as she might, she could almost never resist looking.

One evening, we decided to venture out of town and ended up at a Bavarian restaurant miles away in North Hollywood. This was not a place where I expected to see anyone at all, but there was a rather raucous party going on in the back of the establishment. We sat near the front; I was facing the door, she was facing the rest of the restaurant. I saw that she kept glancing over my shoulder, and I recognized the look. As often as I had pointed out false celebrties, she was also always seeing famous people who weren’t really there. But she kept staring across the room, and finally asked me “isn’t that some actor?”

I turned around, and in the middle of the crowd of loud revelers was, of all people, Dennis Hopper!

“Oh my word,” I exclaimed. “You’re right, that’s Dennis Hopper!”

“Who?”, she asked.

Dennis Hopper. Easy Rider. Apocalypse Now. I ran through a summary of his career, but she just shrugged her shoulders.

I quietly turned to take another look at the party in the back of the room, and then I spotted Robert Duvall.

“Good gravy!” I burst out (or something like that), “it’s Robert Duvall!”

My date just stared blankly at me. “Oh come on! The Godfather! The Great Santini! Robert freakin’ Duvall!” A light did eventually go on, and though he wasn’t exactly Tom Selleck, at least she could tell her family back in Philadelphia that she’d seen a bonafide movie star. I’ll admit, I was pretty jazzed to be in the same room with these two luminaries.

Right about then, as my date started slipping a camera out of her purse, Sean Penn and Madonna walked in the door.

This was several months before the whole Sean-handcuffing-Madonna-to-the-bedpost-so-he-could-go-party-with-his-friends incident. In early 1987, Sean Penn and Madonna were THE Hollywood couple, and Sean himself had recently been in the news for punching out photographers taking pictures of his wife. So I said to my date, very quietly, “please put away your camera, and don’t turn around, but Sean Penn and Madonna are standing right behind you.”

I saw her flinch for just a second, then she gave me a long “how stupid do you think I am look?”, and said “Right, Sean Penn and Madonna are standing behind me.”

I shrugged my shoulders and said “you don’t have to believe me, but they’re coming this way.” I could tell by the disgusted look on her face that she absolutely did not believe me, but against her better judgment, she turned around and looked just as Sean Penn and Madonna started walking toward us. “ohmygod its seanpennandmadonna” she practically screamed as she dove back into her purse for her camera. I restrained my date with one hand, eyed Sean Penn warily, and caught Madonna glancing at me for just a nanosecond as they strolled past our table and toward the party in the back. Perhaps it was just my imagination, but I swore I could see her pupil dilate as she looked at me. Then again, perhaps she had caught a glimpse of the camera and just didn’t want another scene.

I figured out later that this was probably a wrap party for “Colors”, a film which came out later that summer starring Sean Penn and Robert Duvall, and directed by Dennis Hopper. All I knew then was that my date had finally had her real Hollywood celebrity story to tell, and I got to share a restaurant with the very cool Dennis Hopper.

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