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Chip Hooper, agent for Dave Matthews and Phish, dead at 53

Agent, photographer Chip Hooper grew up in Glen Ellyn and went on to renown as a photographer and talent agent for Phish and the Dave Matthews Band.

Chip Hooper achieved renown in two very different careers at the same time.

One was solitary. He photographed seascapes, peaceful or roiling, capturing pearlescent moments off the coasts of California and New Zealand that are reminiscent of the work of Ansel Adams.

He also dealt with power and propulsion in his other career. Chip Hooper was an agent for the Dave Matthews Band, Phish, Ray LaMontagne and other top artists at Paradigm Talent Agency.

Mr. Hooper, 53, who grew up in Glen Ellyn, died March 5 at his home in Carmel, Calif., after fighting neuroendocrine cancer for several years.

Despite cancer — and a stroke in October — he traveled last month from Carmel to Rochester, Mich., watching from a gurney at the O’rena as his son, Max Hooper, played basketball against the Detroit Titans. It was the first and last time he saw his son play for Oakland University’s Golden Grizzlies, said his daughter, Val.

Max Hooper, right, and Golden Grizzlies teammates huddle last month around Hooper’s dad, Chip, who watched from a hospital gurney in Rochester, Mich. to see his son play against the Detroit Titans. (Photo: Mark Snyder/Detroit Free Press)
Max Hooper, right, and Golden Grizzlies teammates huddle last month around Hooper’s dad, Chip, who watched from a hospital gurney in Rochester, Mich. to see his son play against the Detroit Titans. (Photo: Mark Snyder/Detroit Free Press)

At the time, a grateful Max Hooper bounded up into the stands to hug his dad. “Him being here tonight is such a moment. You can’t replicate this moment,” his son told the Detroit Free Press. “It comes around once in a lifetime. He didn’t promise me but said, ‘I’m going to be at a game.’ I believed he would.”

Dave Matthews paid tribute to him on Facebook. “Chip could shine a light on the best things about a person. He always made me feel worthwhile,” Matthews said in an online post. “He always made you want to do more, and work harder, and believe that you could. He was one of the most generous people I have ever known. I think he made the world a better place.”

At Phish shows, frontman Trey Anastasio used to name-check him for the band’s career. “It’s impossible to overstate the effect that Chip had on Phish’s journey, and subsequently on the journeys of every Phish fan. He was there every single step of the way,” Anastasio said on Facebook. “He felt more like a brother than a booking agent. We are really going to miss him.”

The charter jet that carried him to his son’s game was arranged by Sam Gores, chairman and CEO of Paradigm. “His care for the artists he represented was surpassed only by the meticulousness of his efforts on their behalf,” Gores said via email. “Chip was a mentor to many generations of Paradigm agents, always generous with his time, intellect, charm and charisma.”

Even while ill, he never lost his taste for Chicago deep-dish pizza, said Mr. Hooper’s partner, Tamara Mims. He had it shipped to California from Lou Malnati’s, she said.

He was born the son of a dentist and attended Glenbard West High School in Glen Ellyn, said his daughter. Like his father, his first name was Donald. But he was called “Chip” for being a “chip off the old block.”

He learned to swim at a YMCA and developed into a strong racer who won national competitions, Val Hooper said.

Lake Michigan helped make him a photographer. As a youth, the Great Lake left him “mesmerized by the interplay of light, physical power, and spiritual grandeur,” according to his biography at the Joseph Bellows Gallery in La Jolla, Cal., where he showed his seascapes.

At 12, he built a darkroom in the basement of his family home, according to another outlet that showed his work, the Weston Gallery in Carmel.

After attending Southwest Missouri State University, he promoted performers in Chicago and Minneapolis, his daughter said.

In his mid-20s, he moved to California’s Carmel Valley, where he loved watching darkness and light play on the Pacific, according to the website http://www.chiphooper.com/www/. His works have titles such as, “Crashing Waves and Splash” and “6 Rocks, 1 Bird.”

“He wanted everyone to find their passion in life,” said Tamara Mims. “He looked at his clients as friends. There’s kind of a joke that there are no acquaintances in Chip’s life — they’re all Chips best friends. That’s how he approached his life, making connections. Not just on the surface, but on a deeper level.”

“He really wanted Max and I just to do whatever we wanted to do,” said his daughter. “He definitely instilled a sense of gratitude in everything.” Mr. Hooper checked in with his kids four or five times a day via email, text or a call “just to chat,” she said.

“He was very enthusiastic about music and helping artists gain popularity and expand [and] express their artistic ability,” said Fred Bohlander, co-founder of Monterey Peninsula Artists, an agency that hired Mr. Hooper years ago. Monterey was later acquired by Paradigm, where Chip Hooper rose to be Worldwide Head of Music, with a roster of an estimated 2,000 artists.

In January, he became a record-holder, winning Pollstar’s Bobby Brooks Agent of the Year award — for the eighth time. “No one’s ever done that,” said Brad Turell, Paradigm’s executive vice president of corporate communications. “He was crushing it.” Mr. Hooper was also proud that Pollstar named Paradigm named Booking Agency of the Year.

His seascapes were shown in galleries across the country, and in Canada, Japan, Portugal and South Korea. They are also in the collections of the Cleveland Museum of Art, Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Portland Art Museum and the Microsoft Art Collection in Washington.

Mr. Hooper’s death notice quoted him on the inspiration he received from the ocean, which he called “the purest expression of creation. In every moment it is ephemeral, constantly recreating itself. If we look deep enough into it, it has so many answers. For me, it breathes life into me, literally.”

He is also survived by his mother, Barbara; his sisters, Nancy Hooper and Leslie Owens; a brother, John, and his former wife, Laura. Friends are leaving tributes on hooperloop.com.#sthash.Dgr5tie1.dpuf