By JOHN P. WISE
One Great Season
Dennis Hopper's death has America buzzing, giving movie fans plenty to argue about at their backyard barbecues this holiday weekend.
Easy Rider? Apocalypse Now? Rebel Without A Cause? Unless you're a sports fan, surely you think one of the aforementioned flicks was Hopper's best.
But if you did enjoy "Hoosiers," and chances are good that you did, you'd agree that Hopper's Scooter Flatch character was key to that movie's being recognized as one of the best sports films of all time.
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Hopper was nominated for a best supporting-actor Oscar for his portrayal of the town drunk, top assistant to head coach Norman Dale and father of one of the Hickory High basketball players. When Gene Hackman's Dale character gets teed up and ejected, a nervous Shooter takes over the bench and delivers not only a victory for Hickory, but a goosebump moment when he draws up the game-winning Picket Fence play and advises his charges, "Don't get caught watching the paint dry."
Upon learning of Hopper's death, Hackman said, "As an actor, one is always taken by someone who is different. An iconoclast, Dennis was an artist and I will always treasure having worked with him. He will be missed."
And about the picture above, this is one of my favorite pictures I've ever taken. It was at the 2004 Barnstable Brown Derby Eve Gale in Louisville. I'd looked at it so frequently that when I noticed an extra in the HBO hit "Entourage" in the summer of 2006, I couldn't help but recognize the man who was in the background of this picture. It was celebrity photographer Larry Birkhead, and this was the night he met Anna Nicole Smith.