DENNIS HENSLEY is an L.A.-based writer and performer who has plied his trade in a number of different media including television, film, radio, novels, magazines, cruise ship shows and the occasional Tweet.
He was born in the small town of Holbrook, Arizona on September 29 and later graduated from Arizona State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Broadcasting. While at college, Dennis started a screenplay and never finished it, hosted a radio show at the campus station KASR and performed in countless stage productions, including the musical Snoopy where his turn as the title character was compared to “day-old Alpo” by a local theater critic. That miserable dude is still more than welcome to kiss his furry ass.
After graduating cum laude from ASU, Dennis moved to Los Angeles and landed a job as a studio page ushering eager audiences into tapings for such shows as She’s the Sheriff with Suzanne Somers. Sometimes he had the unfortunate task of turning people away from My Sister Sam and that was a drag, but otherwise, it was a fun glamorous gig.
A year after moving to Los Angeles, Dennis landed a job as a singer/dancer/Assistant Cruise Director for Princess Cruises. He would work for the company for nearly five years, performing in many musical extravaganzas with exclamation points in their titles. After leaving the company, he created his own line of cruise-themed greeting cards, which were sold on ships throughout the world.
In 1990, Dennis sold his first story as a writer, Confessions of a Boy Toy Wannabe, a first-person account of his harrowing dance audition for Madonna’s Blonde Ambition tour, to Movieline magazine and continued to write for them until its print demise. When he told Madonna, in a round-table interview in '95, that if it weren't for her rejecting him, he wouldn't have a writing career, she replied, "Good for you, you took a negative and turned it into a positive." She wasn't the least bit British yet.
In his two decades as a journalist, Dennis has written for Hollywood Life, In Style, Us Weekly, TV Guide, Total Film, Esquire, Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Gotham, Hampton's, Out, The Advocate and The Face. He's had Charlize Theron in a bowling alley, Celine Dion in a limo and Carrie Fisher in her own bed. In 2006, he penned the Ashlee Simpson Marie Claire cover story where she encouraged teenage girls to love themselves the way they were, then promptly went out and got a nose job. Says Dennis: “I should have known something was up when the anesthesiologist showed up at the end of the interview.”
As a travel writer, Dennis has written about such destinations as Thailand, New Zealand, Zurich, Montreal, Toronto, Prague, Budapest, Vienna, Dubai, Peru, Brazil and Phoenix, AZ. In the late 2000's, Dennis penned a monthly column called “Going My Way” for OutTraveler.com and is currently a regular contributor to the online magazine Man About World.
In 1995, Dennis began writing a fiction column for Detour Magazine entitled Misadventures in the (213). Three years later, he turned his columns into a novel of the same name that was published by Rob Weisbach Books, a division of William Morrow. The book spent several weeks on the L.A. Times bestseller list, and garnered Dennis appearances on The Rosie O’Donnell Show, the Bravo pilot Dishin' with Andy Cohen and TNT’s Movie Lounge. The audio version, featuring Kathy Griffin as Dandy Rio, was nominated for an audio book award in 1999.
2000 saw the release of The Water’s Fine, Dennis’s debut CD as a singer/songwriter. The album, which was produced by Norman Arnold was nominated for a GLAMA Award and the song "Shotgun” was the most requested song at GayBC radio for the first quarter of 2001. In 2013, another track from the album, “Afterthoughts,” was included in the anti-bullying charity compilation CD AnonymUSe.
In 2001, Dennis wrote Independent Spirit Awards, hosted by John Waters, and realized a lifelong dream of having a celebrity presenter trash his patter-writing abilities on national television. James Woods did the honors.
That same year, Dennis co-wrote, co-directed, and co-starred with his friend Jack Plotnick in Evie Harris: Shining Star, a short film about a washed-up Hollywood actress on a quest to find her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The 13-minute comedy played festivals across the country and was a finalist in the 2002 Planet Out Short Film Awards. Dennis was also seen in the feature film Girls Will Be Girls, again sharing the screen with the delightfully desperate Evie Harris.
Dennis co-wrote the feature script Testosterone with director David Moreton (Edge of Seventeen). Based on the novel by James Robert Baker, the darkly comic suspense drama starred Antonio Sabato Jr., David Sutcliffe, Jennifer Coolidge, Sonia Braga and Argentine actress Celina Font. The film was shot in Argentina in 2002, premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2003 and was released in theaters in 2004, getting the highest per screen average in the country the weekend it opened.
The fall of 2002 saw the release of Screening Party, Dennis’s second book from Alyson Publications. It was about a group of friends who get together to watch and crack wise about the movies that have effected our lives, from Jaws to Pretty Woman to Flashdance to The Sound of Music. The book was also released as a full cast audio book featuring Kathy Griffin as the inimitable Dr. Beverly Beaverman. In 2003, Dennis was nominated for a Lambda Book Award in the humor category for Screening Party.
In 2005, Dennis appeared as one of the “Main Gays” on the Emmy-winning reality show Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D List. Favorite scenes included: any scene at the Mexican restaurant Chevy’s and the heart-stopping search for Kathy’s Oscar credential just minutes before she was supposed to go live on the red carpet for E!
In 2006, Dennis worked as a writer on the comedy series Lovespring International, starring Jane Lynch, Sam Pancake, Jack Plotnick, Wendi McClendon-Covey and Jennifer Elise Cox and Mystro Clark. Alas, his episode about a drug de-muler was deemed too offensive for Lifetime to air but you can get it on iTunes. Other TV writing credits from the mid-2000’s include Fox Televison Studios' Life of Leisure and Bravo's All-Star Reality Reunion.
Also in 2006, Dennis recently adapted his novel Screening Party into a TV pilot, which he executive produced and appeared in alongside Tony Tripoli, Erin Quill, Ossie Beck, Felix Pire and Nora Burns. The pilost was directed by Chil Kong, a friend Dennis later cheered on as a “booster” on the game show Deal or No Deal to a windfall of $211,000!
From 2006-2008, Dennis co-hosted the pop culture-themed radio show Twist, which was syndicated by Clear Channel's Premier Radio Network and played on stations all across the country. Dennis is also a frequent guest host on The Frank DeCaro Show on SiriusXM OutQ satellite radio where he gets to say all the dirty words he couldn't say on Twist.
Dennis is the proud creator and host of Dennis Hensley’s The MisMatch Game, an R-rated updating of the beloved 70's game show, The Match Game. To date, the show has raised over $110,000 for the LA Gay & Lesbian Center’s Homeless Youth Program. Dennis has also hosted and produced Outfest's Home Video Gong Show every year since 1998 and is proud to the person who brought clips like "Meat Ass" and "Dixie Carter’s Un-Workout" to the masses.
2008 saw the release of Dipshits, an animated short film about written and directed by Dennis, with animation by the brilliant Sean Nadeau. It depicted a conspiracy between Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, Nicole Richie and President George W. Bush and featured the vocal talents of Julie Brown, Stacy McQueen, Madeline Long, Kali Rocha, Maile Flanagan and John Michael Beck.
In 2008, Dennis was one of three winners of the HBO Shout Short Film Contest and was given a grant to direct his script for Reunion, a comedic short about a gay TV decorator who returns to his smalltown high school reunion and gets hit on by someone very unexpected. After playing festivals around the country, the short aired on Cinemax-on-Demand and Logo’s The Clip List.
Dennis spent the spring of 2009 in New York City, working as a writer on Logo’s The Big Gay Sketch Show, writing sketches for such mega-talents as Kate McKinnon, Julie Goldman, Colman Domingo, Paulo Andino, Johnny McGovern, Stephen Guarino and Nicol Paone, who played the title character in “Two Lines with Glenn Close,” Dennis’s proudest moment as a writer on the show.
In 2010, Dennis wrote and directed another comic short film, Rubdown, a based-on-actual-events spy comedy about a guy who goes undercover as a secret shopper at a spa to make sure a certain masseur isn’t breaking the spa’s modesty rules. The short starred Jaimie Fauth, John McCutcheon and Jackie Clarke and is one of the five titles included the 2011 compilation DVD The Dennis Hensley 5-Pack along with Reunion, Screening Party, Dipshits and Evie Harris: Shining Star.
From 2010 to 2013, Dennis worked as a staff writer on the hit E! comedy show Fashion Police starring Joan Rivers. The popular segment “Starlet or Streetwalker” was his idea so no one can ever say he didn’t contribute something to society. Dennis also consulted on the third season of RuPaul’s Drag Race and in 2013, served as Executive Producer/Showrunner on the comedy series BRKDWN for BounceTV.
2014 saw the release of If We Took a Holiday, a comedic short film Dennis collaborated on with comedienne Nadya Ginsburg and filmmaker Glenn Gaylord. In the film, Dennis and Nadya play loose versions of themselves. It’s Dennis’s birthday and he’s got the blues after a bad breakup so his actress friend Nadya agrees to make his birthday special by pretending to be Madonna all day long. The short premiered at Outfest of 2014 and is currently starting to play festivals all around the world.
Dennis returned to his cruise ship roots recently, writing and directing the murder mystery comedy show The Dangerous Hour for Princess Cruises. The show is currently playing on multiple ships around the world and a follow-up show The Love Ahoy Mystery Hour is in the works for 2015.
Upcoming projects include the pilot script Rhapsody, a musical dramedy about Dennis’s days as a cruise ship dancer that is currently in development with Flower Films. Dennis also recently wrote a new TV adaptation of his novel Misadventures in the (213). The story’s still set in the mid-90’s so now, it’s a period piece.
Follow Dennis on Twitter @HensleyDennis