Six degrees

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 June, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 June, 2010, 12:00am

Actor, director, artist and rabble rouser Dennis Hopper left the world stage recently. During his long career, Hopper (above) came back from a drug-addled 15-year frenzy during which he went from prominent anti-Vietnam-war protester to being found naked and hallucinating on a street in Mexico trying to raise an army for a third world war. An avid art collector, Hopper lost most of his collections in various divorces. He paid a mere US$75 for the first Campbell's Soup painting by Andy Warhol ...

The shy artist, one of whose pieces has fetched US$100 million, became synonymous with 1960s youth culture. In 1968, Warhol was shot by a fringe member of his Factory. He barely survived and required an open-chest heart massage. The event had a profound effect on Warhol and the devout Catholic took on more commissioned work, including a portrait of the shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi ...

After taking power, the shah set about modernising his country by extending suffrage to women and recognising the state of Israel. The moves angered traditional Shia clerics and led to the 1979 revolution, by which time he had spent a reported US$100 million celebrating the monarchy's 2,500th anniversary. The money went towards, among other things, breast of peacock prepared by French chefs from Maxim's of Paris and decorations by Maison Jansen, the firm that was hired to redecorate the White House by US first lady Jacqueline Kennedy ...

During her White House tenure, Kennedy endeared herself to world leaders. When the Soviet Union's Nikita Khrushchev was invited to shake her husband, president John F. Kennedy's, hand, he remarked, 'I'd like to shake her hand first.' Jackie O was known for inviting artists, writers, scientists and musicians to mingle with politicians and statesmen, and she shared a stepfather with 'America's conscience', Gore Vidal ...

Early in his career, Vidal outraged the literary world with his unambiguous presentation of homosexuality in the book The City and the Pillar, leading The New York Times to boycott his next five books. He has been a vocal supporter of myriad causes, among them military veterans suffering post-traumatic stress disorder. He was joined on the advisory board of a support group for suffering vets by notables such as journalist Walter Cronkite, actress Whoopi Goldberg and architect Frank Gehry ...

With his use of unorthodox materials, Gehry conjured up unexpected, twisted buildings that broke the conventions of design. His work has been called radical, playful, organic and sensual. His legacy can be seen around the globe and includes the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Spain; the Dancing House in Prague, the Czech Republic; and a Venice Beach, California haven commissioned by counterculture rapscallion Dennis Hopper.


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