Hey, Lay Off!

I think Matthew Alice ought to be ashamed of himself, unless you did this deliberately as part of your “Typo Patrol” test. I’m talking about the October 28 Reader, page 6, Matthew Alice (“Straight From the Hip”), the first question he answers here, about why horses sleep standing up. Second paragraph of his answer, first line: “…a horse not to lay down”? No, it should be “lie down.” And then the third line: “Laying down, horses’ guts apply pressure” — no, it should be “lying down.”

It’s lie, lay, lain, the intransitive verb.

It’s lay, laid, laid, the transitive verb.

Okeydoke. And then in the third paragraph, first line: “So, howz he do it?” Come on, Matthew, it should be “how’s” or even better, “how does.”

Bob
University City

The correct verb, to lie, was mistakenly changed to the incorrect verb, to lay, by the editorial department. — Editor

Dennis Directs

Re “Local Boy Makes Good,” Cover Story, October 21.

In the early 1970s, Jimmy Nelson was one of Hollywood’s top film rerecordists. In one two-week period, he mixed the tracks for Peter Bogdanovich’s The Last Picture Show and Dennis Hopper’s The Last Movie. As a friend of Jimmy’s, he invited me to sit in on the sessions.

Bogdanovich was a film historian who knew what worked on screen, and it’s possible that his films were as much an homage to great filmmakers of the past as a product of his own creativity. He was a meticulous worker. At one point he spent almost an hour getting the creak on an old screen door just right. The three engineers and Jimmy patiently worked to give him the precise effect. Time proceeds happily when you’re on the clock. The session was finished in five working days.

The following Monday, Dennis Hopper showed up. You could mistake Bogdanovich for an accountant or a lawyer. Dennis was a presence. Since he was with pros unimpressed by celebrity, he was toned down, but he was a presence. I knew something about the shoot in Peru from a friend who was in the cast. There was serious partying, which probably helped Dennis’s nonlinear approach to directing. I had just arrived from Colorado, so, naturally, I had a Buck knife in a holster on my belt. Dennis didn’t know who I was, but we had a serious discussion about the quality of Buck knives and folding blades in general. He also spent time complaining/mumbling about how Michelle Phillips was driving him nuts.

The footage shot in Peru was startling — some of it was at the same level as Sergey Eisenstein’s work in Mexico in the ’30s, but it wasn’t a movie. Several of Hollywood’s old-line editors said the same thing. I never met the brave soul who did the final cut.

It seemed that the remix session was going like the production probably went. Initially, everything proceeded in a professional way. Then it got a bit strange. Several reels in was a scene with two characters in a taxi. Dennis called for a European-style police siren to be laid as background to the dialogue. It worked nicely. Then he called for it in a scene in a hotel room. Then he wanted it behind everything. One of the engineers said, “Dennis, you’re going to drive the audience crazy!” Dennis said, “Yah, f* ’em.”

The reality of Dennis Hopper is that he opened up Hollywood for a couple of years to young, hip filmmakers because of Easy Rider. The short, fat guys with cigars have no real idea of what sells, so they gave money freely to anyone with a beard and a weird idea. Then The Last Movie slammed the door shut. Dennis giveth and Dennis taketh away. He made a living displaying flaws and frailties that we humans generally try to hide, bury, run from. Bless Dennis Hopper — he made me feel sane.

Doug Sherr
San Diego

A Great Weird San Diegan

I really enjoyed David Elliott and Matthew Lickona’s piece on Dennis Hopper’s films and the enigma that was Hopper (“Local Boy Makes Good,” Cover Story, October 21).

One of my favorite Hopper roles was the psyched-out-nut–photojournalist–stoner that he portrayed in Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now. His descriptions of Colonel Kurtz to Martin Sheen and what’s really going on up the Mekong River Delta, and, yes, I’m going “up the river too, man,” it’s just “far out, man.” The real Hopper was most likely quite a bit like that character in the days of endless partying with coke and weed and booze and girls. Oh, man, the girls. Wow, I don’t think he had to practice that role very much at all.

I also believe he and Dean were not trying to outdo each other but were more or less letting each other shine in Rebel Without a Cause. After that, Dean was killed, and Dennis I’m sure lost a dear friend. Dennis was Dennis, and James Dean was gone.

I’m not really sure his life was devoted to rivaling James Dean’s fame but more of a devotion to coke, booze, weed, LSD, art, women, and so forth. Like, how loaded can we get and make this film still work. I dunno, I’m not a film critic or an analyst. But I did quite enjoy his acting in all of its capacities, plus he was a local kid, good, bad, ugly, beautiful, and sometimes very stoned.

Thank you for a great read!

Ron B.
Ocean Beach

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