A Book, a Gas Station and James Dean

The actor died 61 years ago today.

As a small group of James Dean and Porsche aficionados takes part today in the annual James Dean Last Drive, which retraces the fateful route the actor took from Hollywood to central California, there are several recent media items worth noting on the 61st anniversary of the actor’s death.

In August, Peter L. Winkler released his well-researched book The Real James Dean: Intimate Memories From Those Who Knew Him Best. We wrote about Winkler five years ago, in connection with the author’s debut tome about Dennis Hopper.

Here’s how he framed one aspect of his new book, just ahead of publication, for Frontiers Media:

In The Real James Dean, I have excerpted the portions of Ronald Martinetti’s groundbreaking biography, The James Dean Story, that contain [advertising account executive Rogers] Brackett’s revelations about his one-time protégé. “My primary interest in Jimmy was as an actor—his talent was so obvious,” Brackett told Martinetti. “Secondarily, I loved him, and Jimmy loved me. If it was a father-son relationship, it was also somewhat incestuous.”

It’s possible to discount Brackett’s story as proof that Dean was gay. Their relationship looks like a classic quid pro quo. “Rogers Brackett was the key to Dean’s career,” Val Holley writes in his insightful biography of Dean. “He took him in when almost no one else believed in him; fed, clothed, and employed him; and planned and financed his move to New York. Eventually he introduced Dean to the producer who would put him on Broadway for the first time.” Although Brackett believed that his sexual relationship with Dean was mutually satisfying, Dean later called himself Brackett’s “whore.”

Winkler lives in a portion of the San Fernando Valley known as Valley Village. As Stephen Sachs, a playwright and theater company owner just recently discovered and details today on LAObserved, the gas station nearby at Ventura and Beverly Glen Blvd., where Dean filled up for his Sept. 30, 1955 journey, is being torn down.

Sachs’ piece is wistful, tying in what Dean meant to him as a kid growing up in L.A., how one of his sons is now the same age as Dean was when the actor died. He also details how he was allowed by construction workers to take a keepsake from the gas station.

Previously on FishbowlNY:
A Celebration of Roy Schatt and James Dean
California Newspaper Gifts James Dean Fans With East of Eden Photos

Jacket cover courtesy: Chicago Review Press

@hollywoodspin rhorgan@gmail.com Richard Horgan is co-editor of Fishbowl.