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Thursday, September 06, 2007

L.A. IN '87 (#1 OF 2)

When I learned that MTV is amping up the 2007 edition of its Video Music Awards, I thought, "Where did the time go?" It was a reminder that it's been 20 years since Kathy and I spent a week in Los Angeles (during which time I covered the VMAs for the Asbury Park Press). Thinking about the trip brought back a flood of memories.

I remember we had an audience with Dennis Hopper while he was in post-production on "Colors," a gang-themed drama he directed starring Sean Penn and Robert Duvall. (One of Kathy's best friends, who hosted our trip, worked on the film.) I presented Hopper with the original artwork for a comic strip I had published about his drug-induced descent into madness and his then-recent comeback in the films "Hoosiers" (for which he received an Oscar nod), "Blue Velvet" and "River's Edge." Hopper laughed that crazy laugh of his at my (not altogether flattering) comic strip, and then autographed a reproduction of it for me, reading his inscription aloud: "To Mark: Life's a bitch, thank God. Love, Dennis Hopper."

When I spotted Ellie, the inflatable love doll from "River's Edge," decorating Hopper's office, I recounted the tense liquor-store scene in which Daniel Robuck pulls a gun on the cashier while Hopper -- with Ellie tucked under his arm -- casually inquires if a certain beer is in stock. As I quoted the line of dialogue, imitating Hopper, I guessed at the beer: "Heyyy, mannn, do you carry Miller?" Hopper corrected me without missing a beat: "Bud in bottles."

Then Kathy, her friend and myself had lunch in the Lion's Gate commissary with Hopper's daughter, Marin, who went on to become the fashion director of Elle magazine.

One night, four of us went to what was described as the hottest nightspot in L.A. at the time. (I can't remember the name of it, and I doubt if it's there any more.) It was a huge converted warehouse. Outside, it had the velvet rope and the security guards before those things became a movie cliche, so this elitist ritual was news to us.

You could only gain admittance three ways: (1) if you were a celebrity, (2) if you were extremely hot, or (3) if either a celebrity or someone extremely hot vouched for you. We got in via option #3. You'll never guess who vouched for us: Gerardo Mejia, who would later score a hit song/video with "Rico Suave." Gerardo wasn't nationally famous at the time, but he was known around L.A. as a hunky struggling actor and choreographer. He played a gang member in "Colors" and knew Kathy's friend. It's so weird to be able to say, "Gerardo got me into a club."


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