If you visit Los Angeles and do the tourist-y thing, one of the usual stops is Hollywood Boulevard. There’s the Walk of Fame, of course, and you can also see the TCL Chinese Theatre. They’re both perfect symbols for Hollywood–allegedly glamorous, but kind of grimy. However, perhaps nowhere was that dichotomy more apparent than when you saw the Hollywood Boulevard characters. Dressed in superhero and other character costumes, these folks would hang out on the Boulevard, angling for tourists to tip them. One of the most famous was the Superman, Christopher Dennis. Sadly, Dennis died last week at the age of 52. But as he was one of the most well-known of the Hollywood Boulevard denizens, we thought we’d remember him.
Christopher Dennis: Life As Superman
According to Dennis himself, he decided to become Superman due to popular demand. Like so many others, he was waiting tables in Hollywood, hoping for a big break. However, after several customers told him he resembled the late Christopher Reeve , Dennis decided to don the tights and cape, too. This was around about 1990 and Dennis claims that he pioneered the phenomenon of the Hollywood Boulevard “sidewalk characters,” as they’re known.
The sidewalk characters make their money through a variety of methods. Some simply accept tips, while they’re expected if you take photos of or with the characters. And while Dennis certainly made a living as the Hollywood Boulevard Superman, he also seemed to take pride in his work. Some might have seen him as only a guy in a cobbled-together costume. However, in interviews, Dennis clearly believed that he brought joy to people. And perhaps, they returned the favor.
Christopher Dennis in Later Years
In 2016, Dennis became homeless, after his motor home was towed. Still, tougher times loomed. An unknown assailant beat and robbed Dennis, taking, among other things, his Superman suit. Without his suit, Dennis started panhandling. However, like a superhero, he managed to make it back onto his feet. A GoFundMe campaign, which Dennis intended to raise $1000 for a new suit, reached over $8000. A Los Angeles-area costume designer also offered to make a suit for free, so Dennis could use the money to find lodging.
It was a pretty typical episode for Dennis. He had a number of ups and downs in life, but he also touched a lot of people. Dennis appeared in documentaries, like 2007’s Confessions of a Superhero, for example. He was also a semi-frequent visitor on Jimmy Kimmel’s late-night talk show, even appearing on the cover of The Hollywood Reporter with Kimmel. He was also beloved by the people who knew him. And he loved them back. As he told The Guardian in a video feature, “When I put on this suit, I am Superman…After meeting me, they walk away with that feeling, ‘My God, we just met Superman. That’s the real one.'”
The Superman Museum in (where else?) Metropolis, Illinois, announced Dennis’s death. As you can see from the many comments, he will be missed. Dennis believed that being Superman made him a better person. Maybe it made us better, too.
Did you ever meet Christopher Dennis on Hollywood Boulevard? If you’d like to share your story, then feel free to do so in the comments below or on social media.
featured image via screen capture
Salomé Gonstad is a freelance writer who grew up in the swampy wilds of south Alabama. She now splits her time between the Appalachian wilds (of Alabama) and the considerably more refined streets of New York City. When she's not yelling about pop culture on the internet, she's working on a supernatural thriller about her hometown. Also, we're pretty sure she's a werewolf.