Artists need to come to terms with their personal fear of death and the other mysteries that we all eventually face. That doesn’t mean that Dennis or any of us have to go around brooding and cursing our fate. On the contrary: the absurd side of being alive, for however long and for whatever reason we are, can be the source of playfulness, if we allow it to be. Fear and the absurdity of being afraid of what cannot be understood was part of Dennis’ everyday life and, in some way, of all his conversations and observations that I was witness to. His regular fits of in-your-face cackling and unrestrained laughter were as important as weapons against darkness and loneliness as were any of his cameras, words, or colours. The joke was always on him, always on all of us, he constantly seemed to be saying and celebrating. To be a serious artist, you’ve got to be able to take a joke, to look for one, to be one. There is a lot to be worried about in the world these days, as there always has been and always will be, but everything is possible when you can laugh in life, laugh at and for yourself and everyone else.
A couple of months before Dennis died, he was recognised with a star on Hollywood Boulevard. On that occasion I tried to honour the fearlessness honesty that he inspired in others by reading a short poem by William Stafford, a very wise writer from Dennis’ native Kansas. I offer it to you, and to Dennis, again now:
For My Young Friends Who Are Afraid
There is a country to cross you will
find in the corner of your eye, in
the quick slip of your foot–air far
down, a snap that might have caught.
And maybe for you, for me, a high, passing
voice that finds its way by being
afraid. That country is there, for us,
carried as it is crossed. What you fear
will not go away: it will take you into
yourself and bless you and keep you.
That’s the world, and we all live there.
Original Photo for Celebs.com by Scott McDermott