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Dennis Hopper: Rennaissance Rebel

Once spurned by Hollywood and nearly destroyed by drugs, Dennis Hopper has resurrected his life and his art.
Elizabeth Snead
From the Print Edition:
Dennis Hopper, Jan/Feb 01

(continued from page 10)

Hopper bought one of three loft studios designed by renowned architect and friend Frank Gehry and had architect Brian Murphy make it livable. A few years later, Hopper had Murphy build what Hopper calls "the Art Barn." He has since bought a second Gehry studio and Murphy linked the structures, knocking out walls and building connecting staircases.

"It's been described as a floodlit fortress," Murphy says. "It's an interior landscape bereft of windows with sliding walls that can showcase his enormous art collection on both sides. The entire structure keeps morphing to suit his changing lifestyle. Dennis is a very sophisticated person in terms of aesthetics and he's been very involved in aspects of the design."

Last year, Hopper purchased the small Craftsman house on the opposite side of the main house, transforming it into a modern guest cottage situated near his new combination lap pool/Jacuzzi. "I tried to buy that little house for years, but the old lady who lived there just wouldn't sell it to me," Hopper says. "She finally died and her daughter quickly sold it to me. I guess I outlived her," he says, with a grin.

"Now I finally have a yard," Hopper pronounces. Pointing to the freshly planted rose bushes, he explains, "Those are for Victoria."

Victoria Duffy, his wife of five years, is a striking, slender brunette. She heads out clad in gray jodhpurs and boots to train her thoroughbreds, Time Point, Samba and Red Night. Before she leaves, she gives him a kiss, calling him "Mr. Beautiful," her pet name for him taken from a character in a video game he played.

It was Victoria who chose to speak to Hopper nine years ago at Rebecca's, a restaurant Hopper frequented.

"I had been separated from my last wife for just a week and I was eating alone. She seated me and then came over and said, 'I don't want to bother you now but when you're finished, would you mind if I asked you about your art. I just saw your show at the James Corcoran Gallery and I'd like to discuss it with you.' We have been together ever since."

Hopper hasn't always been so lucky in love. His "ex" list includes Brooke Hayward (1961-'69), Phillips, Daria Halprin (1972-'76) and Katherine La Nasa (1989-'92). But it sure looks like five is his lucky number. Does Victoria's horse sense, her inherited talents at handling high-strung, skittish thoroughbreds, come in handy?

"Victoria just knows how to deal with me. If she sees me in a mood, she comes over, touches me and says, 'How are things going?' But if she needs to stay away, she stays away. She has an understanding. We just don't get into confrontations."

As well as joint custody of his son, Henry, Hopper has two grown daughters: Marin, 37, fashion director at Elle, and Ruthanna, 27, who has an art history degree and is studying acting with a coach Hopper recommended.

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