In 1968, a young Californian set out looking for a place to shoot a movie—a movie about motorcycles, a movie about the counterculture emerging in America, a movie about sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll.
After looking at five other places (and specifically telling a friend he didn’t want to go to “some artist commune”), 32-year-old writer/director/actor Dennis Hopper ended up in the quiet, Northern New Mexico town of Taos and started shooting the film that would become Easy Rider.
“The mountain called to me,” Hopper says four decades after the fact.
With the help of his friends, including co-star/co-writer/producer Peter Fonda, his financiers and his crew, Hopper created one of the most iconic movies of the counterculture generation.
The movie was a major box-office hit, initially grossing $19 million ($110 million in today's numbers) on a budget of $360,000. It won Hopper a Best First Work award at the Cannes Film Festival in 1969 and scored two Academy Award nominations. It also helped launch a new era in Hollywood, which lasted from the late ’60s into the early ’80s. Dubbed the New Hollywood Movement, a new generation of young filmmakers came to prominence in America by operating outside the Hollywood studio system. Pioneering productions like Bonnie and Clyde, Midnight Cowboy, Dog Day Afternoon, Taxi Driver and, of course, Easy Rider helped pave the way for the independent movie revolution of the ’90s.
Forty years have passed since the release of Dennis Hopper’s Easy Rider, but its effects can still be felt. Taos Mayor Darren Cordova says he wants to pay proper homage on this ruby anniversary to the man and his movie.
“It’s an honor to recognize him [Dennis Hopper] for his contributions, not only to our community, but the entire country,” Mayor Cordova says.
To these ends, Mayor Cordova and the City of Taos are making Hopper an Honorary Mayor, giving him the key to the city and offering him two gallery exhibitions at the Harwood Museum of Art (one curated by Hopper, another featuring his photographs and paintings). As if that weren’t enough, Taos is using the Easy Rider theme to kickstart a major tourism campaign filled with flashback-heavy events that would fit right in with spirit of the ’60s. The Taos Summer of Love is a five-month-long celebration that had its official start on May 4 and will run until Sept. 30.
There are dozens of events taking place during this time. Notable happenings include:
May 16-21 That Was Then, This Is Tao, an exhibition by TAO artists with subjects of love
May 22 Love Bead Contest
May 23 Flower Power Costume Party
May 24 Girls’ Night Out: Four female singer-songwriters perform songs tied to the Summer of Love.
May 26-31 World Peace Week kicks off with a conference focusing on strategies for achieving peace, social justice and a sustainable future.
June 6 Hippy Dippy Parade, sponsored by The Taos News and KTAO 101.9 FM
June 20 Easy Rider screening and Taos Mountain motorcycle rally
July 11 Magic Bus Psychedelic Celebration
Aug. 1 Taos Mountain Music Festival
Aug. 15 Ledoux Street Love Art Stroll
Sep. 4 Gathering of the Mystics
This laundry list of events is only a snippet of what’s happening in Taos this summer; for a full schedule of everything that’s going on, visit www.taossummeroflove.com. As the days grow longer and the nights get warmer, consider hopping on your hog, riding up to Taos and reliving (or at least pretending to relive) the Summer of Love.