A short post to commemorate L.A.’s second-most-famous freeway chase, which occurred on this date, July 18th, on the Los Angeles freeways and mesmerized TV viewers for hours.
At two in the afternoon, Dennis Hopper left his home. He intended to buy cigarettes and beer, but he was so befuddled by drugs that when he climbed onto his bike and took off, he instantly forgot where he was going.
He entered the Harbor Freeway southbound, which was jammed up. As he weaved amongst the stalled cars, a Highway Patrol unit snapped on its lights and hailed him, ordering him to pull over. He didn’t slow down. The patrolman worked his way to the shoulder but by then, Hopper was long gone.
The patrolman radioed ahead and a KFWB copter picked up the transmission on its police band. By now, Hopper was eastbound on the 10, which was gridlocked. He eluded two CHiP units without even knowing that he had done so. The copter picked him up and was soon joined by copters feeding KCBS, KGIC, and KLAC. At this point, Hopper entered the East LA Interchange, the intersection of the Santa Ana (I-5 south/US 101), Golden State (I-5 north), Pomona (CA 60), and Santa Monica (I-10 west) freeways, which was frozen solid due to multiple fender-benders and the spillage of a load of lettuce into liquid tar from the ruptured tank of an asphalt truck.
Hopper at this point was signing autographs through the open windows of cars. Obscured by upper levels of the interchange, at some point he left the pavement altogether and was picked up in Boyle Heights after he stopped at a convenience store and bought his beer and cigarettes. The clerk called KTLA, having watched the pursuit of Hopper on TV until then. KTLA’s copter was joined by two police choppers and they spotted Hopper just as he was entering the heavy traffic northbound on the Golden State. It was later determined that on this stretch of his journey, he drank the six-pack he had just bought.
Patrol unit after unit watched helplessly as Hopper, smoking and snorting white powder, motored between cars down the jammed 110, back to his starting point. After an unorthodox exit from the road, he roared back to his house, dropped his bike in the driveway, went inside, and fell asleep in his laundry room under the ironing board. Knocking on his door and ringing his bell brought no response. Neither did bullhorns, which caused Hopper’s rich neighbors to protest. The clutch of copters hovering overhead created a terrible racket and the mayor was forced to call them off, after several studio heads read him the riot act.
A warrant was obtained and officers removed Hopper from under the ironing board. He was fined an undisclosed amount for traffic violations and his next movie was a monster hit.