There’s something in celebrities ‘fessin-up about how they became clean and sober that has replaced the witch trials as popular entertainment. Once it was naming familiars and butt-sex with the coven, now it’s mea culpa on Oprah, with tie-in book and a ten-minute-work-out DVD. (Of course, the conspiracist might take this just a wee bit further by pointing out the date of the first Salem witch hanging was June 10th, 1692; while Alcoholics Anonymous was founded on June 10th, in 1935.)
To be frank, I’m not too impressed by hoary old tales of some star’s drink and drug excess, as I don’t think it important, especially in today’s culture of such ubiquitous and casual drug use. Haven’t we all been down that rabbit hole numerous times before, and all lived to tell the tale?
Of course, once it was novel and even considered revolutionary, but now drug taking is as commonplace as a franchise outlet. Blogs send out their hacks stoned or tripping to interview the dull and unwary, while our favorite TV chefs are exposed by trial to have allegedly snorted their way through the housekeeping money. (The most scandalous part of that last tale was not the alleged drug use, but the fact nearly a million dollars goes missing and nobody thought it important enough to investigate? How the 1% lives, eh?)
Of course, there has always been an element of pretend machismo in how many grams, pills, and shots one can take—like those would-be-writers who once daily stood wreathed in cigarette smoke at the end of the bar, downing pint-after-pint-after-pint, short-after-short, as if alcohol consumption were some Herculean challenge. Ah, we’ve all been there—no?
Dennis Hopper was there in spades. By all accounts he should have died from his excessive indulgence of drugs and booze. He didn’t. He went briefly mad instead, and ended-up in a mental hospital, where it is claimed Hopper was exhibited as a (barely) walking “Just Say No” advertisement (One can imagine the scene.)
Then Hopper got clean and sober and told everyone about it. You could say he switched his addiction for self-gratification to an addiction for work, acting in virtually every film, TV show, and video game he was offered. His aim was to be a grown-up, and provide for his family. This meant acting in a lot of duff films, such as playing King Koopa in Super Mario Brothers.
After seeing Super Mario Brothers, Dennis’ son Henry asked his father, “Why did you do that?” Dennis smiled and replied, “To buy you shoes.” Henry didn’t smile back at his father, “I don’t need shoes that badly,” he said.
It must have been galling for the clean and sober Hopper to see so many ill-conceived and poorly written movies get made (no matter the size of the pay-check), especially as he had tried for many years to make his own movies when he was under-the-influence. I know which ones I prefer.
In 1994, Dennis Hopper was the focus of this documentary for the BBC series Moving Pictures. It’s a star-studded, access-all-areas program, richly informative with a great central interview with Hopper, who happily ‘fesses up to just about everything.