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. His life was the basis for the 1985 drama film Mask.
Rocky Dennis was born in Glendora, California, to Florence "Rusty" Tullis and Roy Dennis. At the age of 2 he 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.
Doctors informed his mother that the pressure from the abnormal calcium deposits in his skull would distort his face, destroy his eyesight and hearing and, based on the handful of cases on record, eventually destroy his brain and result in his death before his seventeenth birthday.
Dennis experienced problems with eyesight and hearing along with painful headaches; but he was able to do many things he was thought not to be able to accomplish, such as learning to read. His poor eyesight, which made him legally blind, meant that he would never read a book. He entered school at the age of 6, despite many of his teachers' disapproval; and, although experiencing a slow start (he spent two years in the first grade), he was able to make some progress thereafter before he died at 16 years of age from his life-limiting condition. He turned down an offer to have plastic surgery.
Dennis resided in Azusa, California. He and his mother lived for a time in Covina, where he attended Ben Lomond Elementary School.
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. His sister lives in Illinois. Neither of his siblings appeared in Mask.
Anna Hamilton Phelan wrote a screenplay based on Dennis' 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' life, with most of the scenes and dialogue altered for dramatic purposes.
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' name. 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.