Mark Rozzo’s Everybody Thought We Were Crazy: Dennis Hopper, Brooke Hayward, and 1960s Los Angeles is at once a biography of a wildly creative and inventive couple and a landmark and long-overdue cultural history of a scene that made a city. Hayward—a model, actress, author (of the bestselling memoir Haywire), and former Vogue cover star—and Hopper (best known, of course, as an actor and director, but shown here to be more prolific as a poet, painter, and photographer whose work was featured in Vogue many times) didn’t just dabble in the art of their era: They helped define it with their patronage, their purchases, their social acumen, and their daring.
That’s not to say that their lives—or their relationships—were easy. As writer Terry Southern put it in a 1965 Vogue story about their art-filled home, replete with captions by Joan Didion, both Hopper and Hayward were “tops in their field”—though “precisely what their field is is by no means certain. . . she is a great beauty, and he a kind of mad person.”
We chatted with Rozzo about his book, which is that rare thing: A thrilling read that brings us inside a scandalously under-reported time and place.
Vogue: What’s the origin story of the book? Is it simply a longstanding interest in Brooke or Dennis, or something beyond that?
Mark Rozzo: I’ve been fascinated by the cultural history of Los Angeles for a really long time. For a number of years I’ve been able to get out there once or twice a year, and I became that very East Coast kind of person who, when they’re in L.A., will drive accidentally on purpose past Brian Wilson’s house. I just kind of loved the music of L.A., I love the architecture, I was interested in the art—particularly the Ferus Gallery—and I knew a bit about Dennis and I knew some about Brooke, but I couldn’t figure out how to write a cultural history of L.A. And then about 10 years ago I met Marin Hopper, who is Brooke Hayward and Dennis Hopper’s daughter, and we hit it off. She has been, since Dennis’s death, the steward for his photography and his archive, the Hopper Art Trust, and through her efforts a series of photography books showcasing Dennis’s work has been coming out. Only after she started telling me stories about her parents did I realize that after so many years of thinking about a book about Los Angeles at a certain time, I finally had a story with emotional depth and heft to it.