Monthly Archives: February 2014

Hopper to Hopper: No Easy ┬«ide


“Go make it happen.  Take the world in a love embrace.”  “Born To Be Wild” by Steppenwolf

Flipping through Comcast’s program guide last week, I came across a listing I could not resist.  “Easy Rider, ” the 1969 paean to motorcycles, pot, free love, and all the other accoutrements of the Woodstock era.  I was thirteen when the film came out, too young to see it in the theater, and definitely too young to join the tens of millions of slightly older members of my generation who claim to have been among the half a million strong who descended on Yasgur’s Farm that August.  And though I am sure I managed to catch a screening of “Easy Rider” at some point in my film-going career, most likely at a repertory house like DC’s long departed Circle, Key, or Biograph theaters, my relentless march towards the big 6-0 made it hard to remember whether I’d actually seen this counterculture landmark or was just hallucinating.  So, even though the hour was late, and the lure of “Frasier” reruns was nearly gravitational, I pressed OK on my remote and headed out on the highway with Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, and Jack Nicholson; it was a great ride for about fifteen minutes, as Fonda and Hopper cavorted with a tie-dyed,  braided clan of commune-dwellers, all  drawn to Fonda’s  character, especially the women-folk.  But as a troupe of itinerant actors begged to sing for their supper, my attention span sputtered, my craving for the two Doctors Crane too great. So I flipped back to the Hallmark Channel where I drifted off to the Kelsey Grammer’s mellifluous Brahmin accent. 

But Easy Rider is hard to forget, especially with the film’s director, the late Dennis Hopper, making today’s trademark news.  Hopper’s estate has applied to register HOPPER as a trademark for clothing and motorcycle related items such as helmets and goggles.  These articles no doubt would appeal to “born-to-be-wild-again” riders and who’ve traded their youthful hobbies for Harleys┬«. But they don’t appeal to DISH NETWORK, which claims that the estate’s HOPPER mark would create a likelihood of confusion with DISH’s ad-skipping DVR product which it calls THE HOPPER.  It remains to be seen whether consumers or the trademark office will agree with DISH’s beef or conclude that the owner of this HOPPER mark for DVRs jumped the gun.  But the late Mr. Hopper, whose career-defining roles spanned everything from Rebel Without A Cause to Blue Velvet, would no doubt take this turn of events with his trademark mix of enraged bemusement.   Paraphrasing one of his lines from Apocalypse Now, Mr. Hopper might say “The DISH TV man is clear in his mind, but his soul is mad.”

QUOTE OF THE DAY:  “Art at its most significant is a Distant Early Warning System that can always  be relied on to tell the old culture what is beginning to happen to it.”  Marchall McLuhan


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