Roy L. Dennis

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Roy Lee Dennis
RockyDennis.JPG
1977 junior high school yearbook photo of Rocky Dennis in Glendora, California.
BornRoy Lee Dennis
(1961-12-04)December 4, 1961
Glendora, California
DiedOctober 4, 1978(1978-10-04) (aged 16)
Glendora, California
NationalityUnited States
ParentsFlorence "Rusty" Tullis
Roy Dennis
 
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Roy Lee Dennis
RockyDennis.JPG
1977 junior high school yearbook photo of Rocky Dennis in Glendora, California.
BornRoy Lee Dennis
(1961-12-04)December 4, 1961
Glendora, California
DiedOctober 4, 1978(1978-10-04) (aged 16)
Glendora, California
NationalityUnited States
ParentsFlorence "Rusty" Tullis
Roy Dennis

Roy Lee "Rocky" Dennis (December 4, 1961 – October 4, 1978) was an American boy afflicted with craniodiaphyseal dysplasia, an extremely rare, sclerotic bone disorder. The condition usually results in neurological disorders and death during childhood. His body was donated to UCLA Medical Center after he died.[1] His life was the basis for the 1985 Academy Award winning drama film Mask.

Biography[edit]

Rocky Dennis was born December 4, 1961 in Glendora, California, to Florence "Rusty" Tullis and Roy Dennis. At the age of 4, Dennis was diagnosed with craniodiaphyseal dysplasia, also known as CDD or lionitis, an extremely rare disease occurring in approximately 1 in every 220 million births, with fewer than 20 recorded cases. CDD is a bone disorder that causes calcium to build up in the skull, disfiguring the facial features and reducing life expectancy. [2]

Doctors informed his mother that the abnormal calcium deposits in his skull would push his eyes toward the edges of his head, twist his nose out of shape, cause his eyesight and hearing to fail and, if the handful of cases on record were any indication, result in tremendous pressure that would destroy his brain before he was seven.

Dennis experienced problems with eyesight and hearing along with painful headaches, but was able to do most of the things doctors told him he would never accomplish, such as learn to read. They told him that his poor eyesight, which made him legally blind, meant that he would never read a book. However, he entered school at the age of six, despite disapproval by many teachers, and although experiencing a slow start (he spent two years in the first grade), he was able to make reasonable progress thereafter.

Dennis resided in Azusa, California. He and his mother lived for a time in Covina (Grandview Avenue), where he attended Ben Lomond Elementary School.

Family[edit]

Dennis's older brother, Joshua Mason, died in 1987 at age 32 from complications of AIDS. His mother Rusty Tullis, died on November 11, 2006 at age 70 as a result of an infection following a motorcycle accident.[3]

Adaptations[edit]

Anna Hamilton Phelan wrote a screenplay based on Dennis's life; Peter Bogdanovich directed the 1985 drama film, titled Mask, in which Eric Stoltz portrays Dennis. In one scene in the film, the character Dennis reads a poem to his mother, Rusty (played by Cher), written by the real Dennis. The movie is based very loosely on Dennis's life, with most of the scenes and dialogue altered for dramatic purposes. For example, the film shows Rusty at Dennis's gravesite; however, the real Dennis was not buried, as his mother donated his body to UCLA for medical research. The dates of birth and death on the tombstone are also incorrect.

Phelan also adapted her screenplay into a stage musical of the same name, with music by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. The musical premiered at the Pasadena Playhouse in California on March 12, 2008.

Swedish pop musician Jens Lekman self-published a song called "Rocky Dennis' Farewell Song to the Blind Girl", causing DJs to mistakenly call the musician by Rocky Dennis's name, much to Lekman's displeasure.[4] Lekman clarified that the song was not about himself with the release of Rocky Dennis in Heaven, an EP containing four songs about Dennis and his portrayal in the film.

References[edit]

External links[edit]