Contact Kathryn at: kathrynspira60@gmail.com

Kathryn Spira

Dennis Hopper and the Grasshopper Martini

Back when I was living in Los Angeles pursuing my acting career ( I mean bartending career) the bar that was most memorable in my mind was the West Beach Café.

It was located on Venice Boulevard exactly half a block from Venice Beach.

I also lived on Venice Boulevard, so it was convenient to walk to work and walk to the beach.

There wasn’t really a booming breakfast business, although they had a great weekend brunch. On the weekends I worked the brunch and week days I worked lunches to mid-afternoon.

The real brass ring was getting the night shift. That’s where the most money was to be made.

However, I did pretty good on weekend brunches, making $100 to $150 per shift.

One of the semi-regulars at the café was Dennis Hopper. He both ate and drank there. When he came for a regular meal he would sit at a table, but when he ate brunch there he often sat at the bar.

He was irreverent in nature, as you might expect, and didn’t really understand all the fuss made over him by the owners and patrons alike. I found him to be pretty down to earth.

Some of my favorite memories were of putting jazz on the restaurant stereo system located behind the bar and having Dennis help me pick out who to put on that day. I remember he liked Pat Matheny, but don’t recall his other likes.

This was before the craze of CDs and we had cassette tapes stacked up next to the stereo.

We talked about the business of entertainment, what the heck I was doing out there as a young woman in the rat race. Mainly we discussed not so much the acting business as likes and dislikes about people we knew. He had a strong aversion to people falling over themselves to try to get an audience with him as if he was some kind of a guru.

Thing is, he was in iconic films with James Dean, Peter Fonda and Marlon Brando. At the bar he often sat with Angelica Huston with whom he was good friends. None of this meant a thing to me, I just liked talking to him as a regular guy and he seemed to like that attitude.

My bartending buddy Dana, who worked with me there, remembers Dennis liking a drink called a Grasshopper martini. I can’t remember if it was named for Hopper or if it was just a drink he liked.

Suffice it to say, I was not terribly impressed with his reputation, just that he was a bar regular and a great guy to talk to. (And a great tipper.)

When I see him now in TV commercials, where he acts kind of tongue in cheek, it takes me back to those days in L.A. when Dennis and I were just talking about nothing in particular. I also remember he championed me against the owner when the owner was giving me a hard time and I appreciated that. He was definitely one of the good guys.

 

About Kathryn Spira

Kathryn Spira, a native of Cleveland, OH who pursued an acting career in NYC and Los Angeles, now pursues freelance writing from Caroga Lake in Fulton County, New York. Previous columns may be accessed at her web site www.kathrynskorner.com.