Christopher Dennis, known as the ‘Hollywood Superman’ has died at the age of 52. He was found dead inside a used clothing donation bin in Van Nuys, 10 miles from Hollywood. His cause of death is unknown, but he was reported to be homeless at the time. It is thought that Dennis was in the bin searching for clothing.
Dennis was an icon, walking along Hollywood Blvd in costume and taking photos with tourists for over 25 years. With an uncanny resemblance to the late Christopher Reeve, Dennis brought honor and pride to the cape he wore. The Hollywood Superman was known throughout the city as a genuinely nice human being. He acted as the unofficial head of the group of superheros lining Hollywood, giving advice and mentoring. He appeared many times on the Jimmy Kimmel Show and was the subject of the documentary Confessions of a Superhero – but the hero was not without his struggles.
Battling drug use and homelessness, Dennis was robbed in 2017 by another homeless man. He was beaten badly with a golf club and had his money and Superman costume stolen. With no means of making money Dennis turned to panhandling until a social media campaign raised enough money for him to purchase a new costume.
Hearing of his untimely death brings home the unseen struggle of many living in and around Hollywood. I moved to Los Angeles in the spring of 2001 at the age of 21. I was young, stupid and broke (not necessarily in that order), and went to Hollywood because that’s where everyone goes first. I had no friends, no job and no where to live. I was very lucky to right away meet someone that let me crash on their couch and I was able to find a job within days. In the 16 years I lived in LA, I found a group of friends that became my family and never once did I go hungry or spend a night on the streets. These are things that can never be taken for granted in the City of Angels.
I can clearly recall walking up and down Hollywood Blvd in my first few weeks in LA. It was dirty, there were people shooting up on street corners and scared tourists everywhere. Somewhere around Hollywood and Highland I ran into Superman and I must have had a deer in the headlights look because he stopped me to talk. He asked where I was from and what I was doing in LA. He pointed out the areas that were unsafe and should be avoided and he told me to find him if I ever had any trouble. He was the nicest man.
I lived in or around Hollywood for many years, sometimes above the Boulevard and sometimes below. I would walk to work everyday down Hollywood Blvd and, though most of the costumed characters would ignore a local, the Hollywood Superman always had a smile and a hello. I know that this wasn’t just for me, he said hello to most of the locals, it was just his way.
Christopher Dennis moved to Los Angeles with the dream of becoming an actor, as so many do. It takes a certain amount of ‘crazy’ or ‘bravery’ to make that kind of move. Personally, I had no ambitions to get into the ‘industry’, I just wanted to be away from where I was from and have an adventure. I took a leap of faith and landed on my feet because people like Christopher Dennis were there to catch me and steady me.
When I got married in Los Angeles 2018 I took my new husband and in-laws to Hollywood. We’d all flown in from the UK and I was excited to show them my city. As we walked up and down Hollywood Blvd, doing the tourist thing, I kept my eye out for the Hollywood Superman. I wanted my new Scottish family to get a picture with him. But I didn’t see him, and I honestly didn’t think much of it.
Now I wish I had.
When I think back on my early days in LA, through the lens of an older and more stable me, I think of all of the things that could’ve gone wrong. All of the bad things that could’ve happened to me. I’m grateful for all of the people that helped me and took care of me and for all of the friends that were there for me over the years. Where were Christopher’s friends? Where were his family? Where was Jimmy Kimmel and his crew? Where was the city of Los Angeles? All of those people might have been able to help him.
I wish that the Hollywood Superman had been there on that sunny day in May of 2018. Not just to take a picture, but so that I could say thank you. Thank you, Christopher, for stopping me that day in 2001 and talking to me, and thank you for saying hello when you saw me after that. Today I hang my head in sadness at your passing, and in remorse and shame that I couldn’t help you when you needed it.
Rest well, Superman.
Sidney Fraser is an American transplanted to a new life in London, where she explores fannish and geeky places, events and creations, which she relates in the continuing True and Proper Adventures of Sidney Fraser.