REMEMBERING DOUG HOPKINS

I first came to Phoenix in late September, and I had three days to find a place to live before returning back East to get my stuff and move out here permanently. I stayed with my friend, Wes, the only person in town I knew, in his apartment on University Drive in Tempe. One night over beers, he was telling me about some of his friends who lived nearby and he pointed out the front door to the apartment directly across the parking lot. "There's this guy Doug Hopkins who lives over there," he said. "He used to be in the Gin Blossoms. You'd like him."

I didn't get the chance to find that out; I never met Hopkins. But in the days since Hopkins took his own life, I've learned a lot about him from a lot of people: He was a very talented musician. He was a very funny guy. He was a very big drunk. Someone who had been wrestling with various demons for a long time and not winning.

A huge chunk of the local music community holds a great deal of affection for him, yet no one I've talked to has expressed any surprise over his death. Almost relief, in fact, for Hopkins' sake.

I'm in no position to analyze how or why he did what he did, and I can't pretend to get weepy; that's a right reserved for those of you who knew him.

The rest of this column is devoted to the voices of a couple of Doug's friends. I know he had a lot of them; it seems like every other person I talk to has a Doug Hopkins story.--Peter Gilstrap

"He had to eat cat food one time cause they were so damn broke, and he ended up giving half of it to the cat because the cat just kept looking at him. The way he told it was so funny--this was like two weeks ago--I was laughing and I was crying."--Laurie Notaro

"One time he got on a train in Tempe at Mill Avenue, and he was just going to jump on the train and take it south to Broadway or Baseline or to where he was living at the time. He thought, you know, if the train is going fast enough for me to jump on, then I can get off whenever I get to where I need to go. Well, the train started picking up speed, picking up speed and he ended up in Tucson. "And I mean, he had 20 bucks on him, he stayed at the Congress Hotel, I guess they have a bar there, he drank all night and came home the next morning on a bus. That's typical Doug."--Lawrence Zubia "Two of the most physically impressive people I've ever seen are a friend of mine who's six-seven, and Doug Hopkins when he was playing guitar. When I first came to Tempe years ago, the first band I saw was the Gin Blossoms--they were still nobodies--and I remember just seeing Doug. I mean I saw him and I saw Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page and everyone else standing right there; he was so cool, he was a rock star.

"To know Doug and then to get up and play with him, everything he was about personally he was about onstage. It wasn't put on, it wasn't a stage show. He was born to do that."--Curtis Grippe

"Playing with Doug made you feel like a rock n' roller. I got to do little side projects with him; you could rely on him musically onstage, and it made you stronger."--Brian Griffith

"I can hear his voice right now: Christ on a crutch! That was one of his lines. It was just very sarcastic. Three days before he killed himself, he got a set of contact lenses cause he was blind as a bat. He couldn't put em in, he kept calling me--Lawrence!' I'd have to go in the bathroom and look for a half-hour for the damn contact lens, and finally I sat him on the toilet and played optometrist and put the lenses in. And that was one of the real times I actually looked in his eyes.

"After I got it in, he said, 'Goddamn, Lawrence, you found a new profession, man.' And right then, he said, 'Let's go to the Sail Inn, man. Let's go have a drink.' I said, 'Doug, I'm not here to drink with you, I'm here to hang with you, bro.'"--Zubia "Doug told me he only had one job in his life, and it lasted one day in a pizza parlor. He'd moved to Portland and the only job he could get was standing in front of this pizza place dressed up in a big-slice-of-pizza outfit, this costume, and waving people in. If you ever saw Doug, the thought of that is just comical because he was just so tall and lanky. "He got fired from that job cause he just split; they found him dressed up like this piece of pizza sitting on a bar stool. He was still in his outfit, just sitting there drinking."--Notaro

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