Ride the 'Easy Rider' way

Taos is the epicenter of a special celebration of Dennis Hopper's life and times

By Tamra Testerman
tempo@taosnews.com
Posted 5/15/19

Dennis Hopper had a tempestuous relationship with Hollywood, and a raucous whirlwind love affair with Taos that lasted over a decade until his death in 2010. A left turn-right turn …

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Ride the 'Easy Rider' way

Taos is the epicenter of a special celebration of Dennis Hopper's life and times

Posted

Dennis Hopper had a tempestuous relationship with Hollywood, and a raucous whirlwind love affair with Taos that lasted over a decade until his death in 2010.

A left turn-right turn direction mishap by a film production manager brought Hopper to Taos, according to an interview in 2009 with Tempo editor Rick Romancito. "I was coming down from Farmington with my production manager, we were looking for locations [for the film 'Easy Rider']. We got to Española and he said, 'Well, if we take a left here, we'll go to Santa Fe, if we take a right we'll go to Taos, and Taos is an art community.' I said, 'Well, I don't want to go to any damn art community, man, we're making "Easy Rider.' " So he got the directions wrong and I ended up in Taos … in the plaza and this Indian guy came up to me as I was getting out of the car and said, 'The mountain is smiling on you, I know where you need to go.' He took me out to New Buffalo, which is what I was looking for ... I was looking for a commune. So, that's the way it started."

The iconoclastic "Easy Rider" man who changed American cinema from the saddle of a chopper and reveled in living on the lunatic fringe would have been 83 on Friday (May 17).

Taos is celebrating the man on Dennis Hopper Day 2019 with all things Hopper. Local promoter Eagle Thunder's website lays out the activities which include the Easy Rider Rally and Ride, a village market and fair featuring local merchants and a special Buffalo Barbecue prepared by Tiwa Kitchen at Taos Pueblo. To celebrate Hopper's life in film, there is the Rebel Film Festival, followed by a birthday celebration and music performance.

This year's festivities launch on Friday (May 17) at 7 p.m. with the Rebel Film Festival's 50th anniversary free screening of "Easy Rider" at the Taos Community Auditorium, 145 Paseo del Pueblo Norte. The film features scenes around Taos, including the Taos Pueblo, Old Taos County Courthouse Jail and the Manby Hot Springs.

In the Taos tradition of Mabel Dodge Luhan's salons in her parlor, a birthday celebration follows in the Encore Gallery at the TCA with a cake baked by Orale! Gallery. It is an opportunity to mingle and swap stories about Hopper's life and times. The Rebel Film Festival party continues with a postparty celebration at the Sagebrush Cantina.

Saturday (May 18), the Easy Rider Rally and Ride convenes at 10 a.m. at the Sagebrush Inn parking lot. Even if you're not cruising on a chopper or motorcycle, you can visit the Village Market. which is open from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. Artisans and wild-crafters from Taos Pueblo and nearby communities will be on hand and they will stock the Sagebrush concession stand with Northern New Mexican cuisine. There is no charge to attend the market and there is a raffle to win a hot air balloon ride.

Kickstands are up at 1 p.m. for the Easy Rider Ride. The route snakes along Northern New Mexico's Enchanted Circle with a stop at the Río Grande Gorge Bridge and possibly to Taos Pueblo. Bikers registered for the event receive a Dennis Hopper Day Easy Rider Ride patch. The Bualo Barbecue catered by Tiwa Kitchen, begins at 4 p.m. and the Post-Party Music Celebration begins at 7 p.m. in the Sagebrush Cantina, featuring Hopper-inspired music, dance, libations and hand-rolled cigars.

The following day there is a brunch starting 10 a.m. at the Sagebrush Grill. Concluding the weekend festivities is a 2 p.m. matinee of Hopper's film "The Last Movie" at the TCA with introductory remarks by his brother, David Hopper.

Sagebrush Inn and Suites 1508 Paseo del Pueblo Sur is offering a special Hopper event rate for lodging. Call (575) 758-2254 for reservations.

Local restaurants offering Hopper-inspired cuisine include The Alley Cantina, El Monte Sagrado Resort, Ranchos Plaza Grill, The Taos Inn, Tiwa Kitchen, Ranchos Trading Post Café and Lambert's of Taos. Kimberly Armstrong, the owner of the Trading Post Café in Ranchos de Taos, who served Hopper back in the day, said they always have Hopper's favorite on the menu. "He ordered it every time he came in, Pasta Bolognese, a small Caesar salad, a Chianti before he stopped drinking … a glass of water after."

For more information, visit the Dennis Hopper Day website at dennishopperday.com.

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