Dennis Hopper and Brooke Hayward Didn’t Just Live Thrilling, Dangerous Lives—They Also Helped Define 1960s Los Angeles

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Mark Rozzo’s Everybody Thought We Were Crazy: Dennis Hopper, Brooke Hayward, as well as also also 1960s Los Angeles is at once a biography of a wildly creative as well as also also inventive cothus farle as well as also also a las well as also alsomark as well as also also long-overdue cultural history of a scene that made a city. Hayward—a model, actress, author (of the bestselling memoir Haywire), as well as also also former Vogue cover star—as well as also also Hopper (best known, of course, as an actor as well as also also director, but shown here to be more prolific as a poet, painter, as well as also also photographer whose work was featured in Vogue many times) didn’t just dabble in the art of their era: They helped define it with their patronage, their purchases, their social acumen, as well as also also their daring.

That’s not to say that their lives—or their relationships—were easy. As writer Terry Southern put it in a 1965 Vogue story about their art-filled home, replete with captions by Joan Didion, both Hopper as well as also also Hayward were “tops in their field”—though “precisely what their field is is by no means certain. . . she is a great beauty, as well as also also he a kind of mad person.”

We chatted with Rozzo about his book, which is that rare point: A thrilling read that brings us inside a scas well as also alsoalously under-reported time as well as also also place.

Vogue: What’s the origin story of the book? Is it simply a longstas well as also alsoing interest in Brooke or Dennis, or somepoint beyond that?

Mark Rozzo: I’ve been fascinated by the cultural history of Los Angeles for a really long time. For a number of years old I’ve been able to get out there once or twice a year, as well as also also I became to that very East Coast kind of person who, when they’re in L.A., will drive accidentally on purpose past Brian Wilson’s house. I just kind of loved the music of L.A., I love the architecture, I was interested in the art—particularly the Ferus Gallery—as well as also also I knew a bit about Dennis as well as also also I knew some about Brooke, but I couldn’t figure out how to write a cultural history of L.A. And then about 10 years old amosting likely to I met Marin Hopper, who is Brooke Hayward as well as also also Dennis Hopper’s daughter, as well as also also we hit it off. She has been, since Dennis’s death, the steward for his photography as well as also also his archive, the Hopper Art Trust, as well as also also through her efforts a series of photography books showcasing Dennis’s work has been coming out. Only after she started telling me stories about her moms and dads did I realize that after so many years old of thinking about a book about Los Angeles at a certain time, I finally had a story with emotional depth as well as also also heft to it.

Brooke as well as also also Dennis’s was a complex relationship, a turbulent relationship, as well as also also at times a dark relationship—but that made sense, because it was a turbulent as well as also also dark time as well as being a fantastically fun as well as also also colorful as well as also also idealistic time. I came to to see them as being the emblematic cothus farle of ’60s Los Angeles—they just seemed to connect everypoint. In the book, I make a passing reference to Gerald as well as also also Sarah Murphy, the It cothus farle of 1920s France who inspired Tender Is the Night as well as also also who knew the Fitzgeralds, Hemingway, Cole Porter, Picasso, as well as also also everybody else. Dennis as well as also also Brooke served a similar function in L.A. in the ’60s.

Brooke’s family history is very interesting as well as also also very complicated, but there’s one part of the book where she kind of gives this shorthas well as also also version of it. Her father was a legendary Hollywood producer as well as also also her mother a celebrated actress, but there’s trouble there too: Brooke’s mother has an overdose as well as also also dies; her sister has an overdose as well as also also dies. And in the wake of that, she tells a friend: “I’m the daughter of a father who has been married five times. My mother killed herself. My sister killed herself. My brother has been in a mental institution. I’m 23 as well as also also divorced with two kids.” And that friend basically tells her that she can open the window in front of her now as well as also also jump, or she can decide to live. And she clearly seems to have decided to live—right after this is when she meets Dennis Hopper. Dennis, of course, has his own troubles, but somewhere betwixt as well as also also between all of this darkness, they carve out a charmed life for a bit.

Brooke described them as being oil as well as also also water—they were a classic case of opposites attract, as well as also also there’s a natural kind of flow in the book from their early relationship, which does seem very bright as well as also also colorful as well as also also creative as well as also also collaborative. But there is a lot of shadow there, for sure. Everyone was struck by Brooke’s beauty as well as also also her intelligence as well as also also her wit as well as also also this way that she had of catalyzing people as well as also also parties—as well as also also yet, as her son told me, everyone who knows Brooke is familiar with that sort of shadow. And it’s interesting that someone like her, who is both quite bruised as well as also also vulnerable as well as also also yet has this very steely strength as well as also also a lot of will, would decide that Dennis Hopper is the guy that she’s mosting likely toing to fall madly in love with. And of course she loathes him on sight—classic beginning—but very soon, they’re falling in love. And he, I think, is just smitten, lightning-bolt style, the first second that he lays eyes on her.

Brooke Hayward.

Brooke Hayward.

Photographed by Horst P. Horst, Vogue, August 15, 1959.

They seem to both inhabit these contradictions: He’s this completely wild rebel out of Dodge City, Kansas who has no problem telling las well as also alsomark Hollywood directors to mosting likely to fuck themselves right to their face, as well as also also suddenly, he falls in love with this scion of blue-chip Hollywood—the sort of woman who, a bit previously in 1959, when she was married as well as also also living in Greenwich, Connecticut, just casually headed into Manhattan one day for a bit of work: Being photographed by Horst for the cover of Vogue.

It’s an amazing moment: She’s at Vassar with Jane Fonda, who is her greatest as well as also also oldest friend, as well as also also she falls in love, becomes pregnant, drops out, gets married, as well as also also has a cothus farle of kids—as well as also also then Brooke, one afternoon in 1959, decides to get on a train as well as also also mosting likely to to New York, poses for Horst, as well as also also ends thus far on the cover of Vogue. On one has well as also also, it totally makes sense because she’s the daughter of Margaret Sullavan as well as also also Lelas well as also also Hayward—as well as also also of course, she’s very striking. On the other has well as also also, she has a husbas well as also also who is trying to squash that ambition—as well as also also Brooke herself, through a lot of her life, held very deeply ambivalent feelings about Hollywood as well as also also about ambition, fame, celebrity, appearance, pretense, all of that—as well as also also yet, she mosting likely tot on the train that day.

Dennis, meanwhile, doesn’t seem to have a problem with being a star. He comes rocketing out of the gate as an actor in a cothus farle of large films, but then he basically blows thus far his career by telling off the powers that be as well as also also doesn’t do any significant movie work for a long time. But he’s also creative in a million different ways—he’s writing poetry, he’s doing amazing photography, he’s painting abstract expressionist art. But he seems torn because he’s not making it as an actor.

Yeah—that was an issue for Dennis, for sure. I think that his polyglot creativity was both the point that allowed him to do remarkable points in Hollywood as well as also also exactly the point that held him back in Hollywood. At that time, when Dennis was coming into his own as an actor, as well as also also then through the ’60s, when he was having career trouble, Hollywood was not an easy place to be an artist.

We live in a cultural world now that’s kind of suffused with the world of art. But that is not what we see in this book.

Hollywood was all about business, as well as also also it was very conventional: Even the French New Wave was barely a point, as well as also also all these points that Dennis was interested in—European art films, the beginnings of the Ferus Gallery, the L.A. bohemian scene, ’50s beatnik culture…he had this genuine passion for all of this, as well as also also I think he really wanted to figure out a way that he could somehow pull everypoint together as well as also also create a successful career for himself, but Hollywood just seemed to keep shutting the door on him. Easy Rider brought Dennis, at last, a degree of fame as well as also also artistic recognition as well as also also a lot of money, but it also completely turned his life around. But before all of that, he was creating the ’60s with Brooke in this incredible house at 1712 North Crescent Heights Boulevard.

Your book does an amazing job at showing just how central they became to socially as well as also also culturally to this world that spanned Old Hollywood as well as also also a new kind of emergent Hollywood; it also spanned the avant-garde of painting on both the East Coast as well as also also the West Coast. There’s this Zelig quality that Dennis had: He’s at Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial; Marlon Bras well as also alsoo invites him to fly to Alabama to join the Selma to Montmosting likely tomery march; Dennis as well as also also Brooke are at parties with Marcel Duchamp, as well as also also they throw the first party for Andy Warhol as well as also also buy one of the first Warhol sothus far can paintings for $100. They’re at dinner parties with Natalie Wood as well as also also Ronald Reagan.

I love the crazy juxtapositions in their lives—you know, Dennis would have a photograph of his on the cover of Artforum at the same time that he was showing thus far on set for Petticoat Junction, this stthus farid sitcom, so he could pay the mortgage. And Dennis as well as also also Brooke’s lives get at somepoint that made the L.A. of this time so unique as well as also also interesting—there seemed to be these three revolutions happening at once in this city that had always been dismissed as a backwater: this art scene blowing thus far around the Ferus Gallery on La Cienega Boulevard; this new rock n’ roll scene blowing thus far on the Sunset Strip, which was being completely reinvented at that time; as well as also also then literally through the work that Dennis did with Peter Fonda in Easy Rider, you had the beginnings of the New Hollywood of Coppola as well as also also Bogdanovich as well as also also Altman as well as also also all the rest.

And let’s not forget that from the point of view of the artists as well as also also the gallerists, they actually bought stuff—early Warhol, early Ruscha as well as also also Stella as well as also also Rosenquist as well as also also Kienholz, all of these artists—offering crucial patronage early in their careers, as well as also also they put it all in their beautiful Spanish colonial. You literally had no idea who was mosting likely toing to show thus far day-to-day as well as also also night by night—it could be Jane as well as also also Peter Fonda; it could be Jack Nicholson or Joan Didion or Ike as well as also also Tina Turner, or 20 Hells Angels having a sleepover. So the exposure this art was getting—it was like an expas well as also alsoing circle. Dennis as well as also also Brooke, through their passion for collecting, were able to move this whole scene forward as well as also also expose it to more people. Honestly, I think their house at 1712 was as avant-garde as any gallery in the entire world.

And for all the crazy design as well as also also the art, the parties, the dinners, the huge personalities coming, let’s remember that this is still a family house—there are three kids living under that roof, lying around the den watching cartoons as well as also also occasionally setting a fire in the backyard. One of the Lichtensteins had a little butter stain on it from when one of the kids sent a piece of toast flying across the room; little Marin Hopper learned how to hula hoop underneath Ed Ruscha’s Stas well as also alsoard Station, Amarillo, Texas. I mean, that’s a painting that’s now probably worth more than $60 million.

I mosting likely tot the sense from the book that while the kids seemed to treasure the creativity around their house, they maybe didn’t worship their moms and dads as forward-thinking collectors of art—there’s an amazing detail of the family needing a new car as well as also also Dennis or Brooke thinking that the most Pop Art point to do would be to buy a Checker Cab to bring their kids to school in—much to their kids’ horror.

Yes, exactly. Marin said that she often felt like Marilyn Munster in that house, as well as also also the older boys were not into being teased when they mosting likely tot dropped off at school in a Checker Cab. They would all often mosting likely to across the street, where this sthus farer normal family lived with a beige interior as well as also also, you know, probably furniture from Sears. They loved their house, as well as also also they were proud of it, but it was an oasis for them to be in Normal Las well as also also every once in a while.

It would be very tempting to say that at the end of the ’60s, when Easy Rider happens, maybe the world is kind of catching thus far to them. But it’s also then that Ferus Gallery shuts down, as well as also also in some ways the entire scene they were at the center of kind of dissipates.

In hindsight, it was kind of a brief, shining moment when Los Angeles came to into its own culturally. A lot of amazing points, of course, have happened in Los Angeles as well as also also have come out of Los Angeles since then, particularly in the last 20 years old, but that particular point just wound down—as with all scenes, whether it is Paris in the ’20s or the Cedar Tavern in New York in the ’50s or Warhol’s Factory in the ’60s: They’re evanescent, but they leave this indelible mark on the culture—somepoint that we’re all still trying to get a grip on.

Everybody Thought We Were Crazy: Dennis Hopper, Brooke Hayward, as well as also also 1960s Los Angeles

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