Birthday: December 4, 1961
Died At Age: 16
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Also Known As: Roy Lee Dennis, Roy L. Dennis
Born Country: United States
Born in: Glendora, California, United States
Famous as: American Boy Who Had Craniodiaphyseal Dysplasia
father: Roy Dennis
mother: Florence Tullis
siblings: Joshua Dennis
Died on: October 4, 1978
Cause of Death: Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome
U.S. State: California
education: Sandburg Junior High School, Ben lomond elementary
Who was Rocky Dennis?
Roy Lee "Rocky" Dennis was an American boy who suffered from the rare sclerotic bone disorder, craniodiaphyseal dysplasia, which caused his death at the age of 16. His head grew unnaturally big and distorted due to excessive calcium buildup, which resulted in poor eyesight and hearing ability. Nevertheless, with support from his mother, Florence Tullis, he attended school and led a life as normal as he possibly could until the rare disease took his life. He had a "happy-go-lucky attitude" that helped him overcome his physical problems. The 1985 film 'Mask' by Peter Bogdanovich, starring Eric Stoltz and Cher, was loosely based on his life. His mother consented to the film because she "thought showing Rocky's courage would help a lot of disabled kids and the parents of disabled kids."
When Rocky Dennis was born, he was no different than any other baby, except that the "bridge of his nose hadn’t formed", which was common in kids and was initially ignored. However, his head eventually started to grow, which left his mother in panic, and when he was 18 months old, an X-ray technician noticed a slight cranial anomaly, following which a series of tests were run by the UCLA Medical Center, confirming that he had craniodiaphyseal dysplasia. It is an extremely rare disorder, with less than 20 known cases, which results in excessive calcium accumulation in the skull. Dennis was four years old when the diagnosis was made. Doctors had predicted that his head will grow twice the normal size and cause his eyes to move towards the edge of his head, which will gradually reduce his ability to see and hear. The disease was expected to cause his death before he turned 17.
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Upbringing & Death
Despite the fact that doctors had told Florence Tullis that Rocky Dennis would not be able to lead a normal life, she encouraged him to do everything normally. After the family moved to Covina, California, she enrolled six-year-old Dennis in Ben Lomond Elementary School, ignoring advise from teachers to put him in a school for the handicapped because "his intelligence was impaired". He eventually learned to read, even though he had to stop reading afterwards due to poor eyesight and headaches. He took two years to complete first grade, and continued to study during his teenage years. His mother once took 7-year-old Dennis to Hacienda Resort Hotel in Las Vegas, and taught him that it was okay if people laughed at him after he giggled spotting a dwarf woman. He had accepted his deformity, and even declined to an offer by a plastic surgeon to make him look 'normal'. In September 1978, he was forced to use wheelchair after headaches increased, but still wanted to die at home. He died weeks later on October 4, 1978, and his body was donated for science to UCLA genetics research center and then cremated.
Family & Personal Life
Rocky was born on December 4, 1961, in Glendora, California, United States, to Florence 'Rusty' Tullis and her second husband, Roy Dennis, who was legally his father, but not biologically. His mother, who was a school dropout, smoked marijuana and enjoyed riding with bikers as a teenager, and later worked as a go-go dancer. She already had another son, Joshua, from her first marriage. Dennis was raised primarily by his mother and his legal father, and they continued to take care of him together after they divorced, even though his mother took primary responsibility. However, when she was away from the family for a time, he was raised by his father, grandmother, and his step-mother.
His mother was very supportive who, according to Anna Hamilton Phelan, screenwriter of 'Mask', "never made him feel sorry for himself". She also supported his older brother when he came out as homosexual, even though she wanted to have grandchildren, and once called him to coax him into visiting a sperm bank. His brother died of AIDS in 1987, at the age of 32. His mother died from an infection following a motorcycle accident on November 11, 2006, when she was 70 years old.