American Folk Figure. Born with the rare disease, craniodiaphyseal dysplasia, which causes the calcium to accumulate on the skull and makes the head grow to twice its normal size, Rocky showed a remarkable display of courage in the face of inevitable death. The movie "Mask" (1985) was made about him, with Eric Stoltz playing the role of the teenaged Rocky, and Cher playing the role of his mother, Rusty. Rocky was the son of Roy Dennis and Florence "Rusty" Tullis. Rocky was the second child of Rusty Tullis, a go-go dancer who had a passion for motorcycle bikers like herself. Her first born son, Joshua, would die in 1987 from AIDs. In 1959, Rusty and her second husband, Roy Dennis, moved to Covina, California, where Rocky was born two years later. Initially Rocky appeared normal, but when he was two years old, an X-ray technician noticed irregularities in his skull, and a battery of tests by the UCLA Medical Center confirmed the diagnosis of Craniodiaphyseal Dysplasis (CDD). Rocky was four years old, when he was diagnosed with craniodiaphyseal dysplasia, an extremely rare disease that occurs approximately once in every 22 million births. In all of medical history, according to some sources, there are less than 20 recorded cases. Doctors would inform Rusty that the calcium deposits would push his eyes towards the edges of his head, resulting in his eyesight and hearing to fail, and the pressure on his brain would eventually kill him, probably before his seventh birthday. The doctors gave him less than four years of survival. Despite this dire diagnosis, Rocky would learn to read, even though his eyesight deteriorated to the point of legal blindness. His mother insisted he live as much of a normal life as possible, to include attending public school, and at age 6, he entered first grade at Ben Lomond Elementary School in Covina, California. Despite having to repeat first grade again, he then had a relatively normal schooling and progressed normally. Rocky would graduate from junior high school as an honor student. To cope with his condition and to help others cope with him, he developed a knack of making friends, with a "happy go-lucky" attitude. Due to an active role of helping the students and teachers understand his disease, Rocky enjoyed as close to a normal life as a boy afflicted with a horrible disease could, and his positive attitude won him many friends. Although Rocky experienced poor eyesight, failing hearing, and painful headaches, he accomplished almost everything a boy of his age would be expected to accomplish. Rocky would die at the age of 16. His mother would later state in an interview in 2001, that her sons had "lived every day of their lives. Every moment." After his death, his mother donated his body to the UCLA Medical Center for medical research.
Bio by: Kit and Morgan Benson