When Jerry Hopkins passed away on 3 June at the age of 82, the world lost a legendary writer and raconteur, and many of us lost a dear friend.
The author of 39 books and over a thousand magazine articles, Jerry first wrote for underground newspapers in Los Angeles in the mid-60s. He submitted a “spec” review of a Doors concert to Rolling Stone and within a year was their west coast correspondent.
Besides his musical biographies — The Doors: No One Here Gets Out Alive, Elvis: A Biography, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, etc. — he wrote Thailand Confidential, Bangkok Babylon and several other chronicles of the life he chose when he moved to Thailand in 1993.
I first met Jerry Hopkins in 1998 in the Superstar Bar in Patpong when I was scouting locations for Brokedown Palace — a 20th Century Fox film set in Thailand that we eventually shot in Manila. Tim Young was our host and offered to introduce us to the author of the Doors biography No One Here Gets Out Alive. The producer, Adam Fields, rudely scoffed that Danny Sugerman wrote that book. Jerry smiled his most engaging gray-bearded smile and said, “That’s the popular misconception.”
I, of course, knew who Jerry was — I’d been reading his Rock ‘n’ Roll bios for years. The Doors book was prominent on my book shelf and at one of my Laurel Canyon Halloween parties, a lanky hippy picked it off my shelf and said: “I see you’ve got my book.” That was Danny Sugerman.
Jerry and I immediately became friends, and he explained that Sugerman’s personal relationship with Jim Morrison provided much-needed access and a deal was struck in which he received a writing credit.
When I decided to try my own hand at fiction writing, Jerry was always there with sage advice and criticism. When, in 2007, I undertook to write a novel about Jimi Hendrix — Chasing Jimi — mixing real events with a fictional plot, Jerry opened his writer’s library to me, giving me his actual yellowed-paper clipping files full of interviews and other material he’d gathered for his Hendrix biography. Jerry also graciously provided a cover blurb that instantly lent the novel a degree of credibility it didn’t yet possess.
Jerry and I shared a lot in common — we both married Thai wives, we shared membership in the informal writer’s salon CHAIRS, a love of Bangkok nightlife, and of course … Rock ‘n’ Roll. Jerry was a fan of my alter ego — blues shouter Jimmy Fame — and came to gigs regularly until his failing health caused him to temper his nocturnal excursions.
Another thing that we had in common was a love of Hawaii. Jerry was writing a bio of Don Ho in 2007 when I was production designer on the television series LOST, and he introduced me to the legendary music promoter Tom Moffatt and gave me an autographed copy of his rare Elvis In Hawaii book.
Jerry always sent me clippings taped to exotic post cards. These would generally be about “real” Vampire sightings (related to my Vampire Of Siam book series). Jerry was one of the last proponents of “snail mail”.
The last time I saw Jerry was about a year ago in his long-held apartment on Soi 8. He was not able to walk without assistance and his eyesight was failing. I volunteered to go shopping for him and brought two bags of groceries to him on a rainy afternoon. He was seated facing the rain and smiling at it. He told me how much he liked the rain. We enjoyed a good long chat and I vowed that my wife and I would come up and visit him and Lamyai in Surin soon.
Alas we never did.
James (Jim) Newport is an Emmy-nominated production designer and author