Tuesday, June 1, 2010

James Dean

James Dean

James Dean died Saturday—time stopped.

It wasn’t really Dennis Hopper who died—Hopper was only a Doppelganger James Dean. Dennis Hopper—was just the Fifties Double movie star who filled in for the real thing.

It’s kinda like River Phoenix—dying down in LA. Outside some ratty nightclub—dying on the sidewalk. Outside Johnny Depp’s—“The Viper Room.”

Moody, sullen Joaquin Phoenix filling in for him—in some ways doing better than his brother ever could. River Phoenix could never have done— Gus Van Sants’ “To Die For.”

The same with Heath Ledger—born to die fast and beautiful. Perfect for “Brokeback Mountain”—looking out the lonely trailer window of his dumpy Wyoming trailer. Thinking about his dead lover…

Time stops—and we’re left to pick up the pieces.

Take Dennis Hopper, for example. It may be an exercise in futility—but go down the list of his filmography.

There, there—yes, there, maybe. And here, here—yeah, maybe this one too. There’re the ones—Dean could’ve or would’ve been in maybe. If the dog hadn’t of crossed the road…

Both of them in “Rebel Without a Cause” & “Giant”…

But what about later on—which ones would James Dean have played in. Instead of Dennis Hopper?

“Apocalypse Now,” “Blue Velvet,” “Easy Rider,” “Red Rock West”? Hardly…

“Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part II,” “Waterworld,” “Superstar: The Life and Times of Andy Warhol.” Surely you jest…

Nope. Hopper warped out in his own personal way—completely different than James Dean.

There wasn’t anybody like James Dean, was there?

James Dean was more the quiet, moody type. The kind of kid kicked outta the Garden—and exiled East of Eden.

Besides that—I kinda doubt Dean would’ve acted out and gone crazy. Snorting nitrous—and giving fucked-up performances like Hopper. Dean wasn’t a show-off—not that way anyway.

Dean was more introspective—more sullen & subtle. Anybody who could do—André Gide’s “L'Immoraliste” on Broadway. Well, it takes a gay delicate touch—if you know what I mean. To play a young hustler—in North Africa…

For some reason, last night I thought about Steve McQueen. Dean was into funky horror roles—playing Frankenstein back in his Indiana high school drama club. He got off on all the Boris Karloff makeup—even though I kinda doubt Variety or the NYTimes picked up on it and reviewed his stunning Shelley performance do you?

But there was “The Blob”—even though Steve McQueen was too old to really play a horror flick teenager back then. He downplayed it though—and got away with it.

Probably because McQueen didn’t really have that much depth anyway—not like Dean. They might have got along together later on though—as racecar drivers. If it wasn’t for that Porsche Spyder—and that fatal race in Salinas, California.

I was thinking more along the lines of “outsider” roles—like maybe Paul Newman. “Cool Hand Luke” or “Hud” or “Hombre.” But these roles are just too butchy and hetero—for James Dean, my dear.

Maybe sone of Newman’s earlier movies would’ve been better—the really queer ones. Like Billy the Kid in “Left-Handed Gun” (1958).

Or even better yet—Newman’s swishy first movie, “The Silver Chalice” (1954). With that evil queen bee in drag—marvelous Jack Palance. What a camp “Bible, Tit and Sandal” Hollywood flick that was—Newman in his skimpy lavender loincloth there in faggy decadent Rome.

Can one see Dean doing the same thing—posing in a risqué toga? I kinda doubt it. And even though he was friends with Elizabeth Taylor in “Giant”—I kinda doubt Dean would’ve made a very good tragic butchy Brick in Tennessee Williams’ “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.” Newman was sullen and self-centered enough—but I can’t really see him in the dumps over some cute high school track star sweetheart, can you? Hardly.

Nor can I really contemplate seeing James Dean—doing a male hustler role like Jude Law in “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.” James Dean was pretty decadent all right—but I really don’t think that Southern Decadence was up his dark alley.

So where did that leave me last night—James Dean’s future movies just seemed to kinda stop when he crashed his Porsche Spyder that day heading for the races in Salinas.

Well, I did leave out his friendship with Vampira. She might have got him to stop fuckin’ around with his bongos at those Hollywood Babylon parties—and star in something worthwhile. The “Human Ash Tray” they called him—because he was into kinky S&M you know?

After all, Vampira did some flicks with burned-out Ed Wood Jr. toward the end—maybe James Dean would’ve liked camping it up in one of those weird fucked-up sexploitation flicks of Eddie’s genre?

You know, like “Plan 9 From Outer Space”—about raising the dead from an LA cardboard graveyard. Or playing a dizzy, disillusioned transvestite in “Glen or Glenda” or maybe even playing sexy Steve Reeve’s cheese-cake role in “Jailbait”?

Well, I really kinda doubt it. Although you never know. Maybe James Dean and Bela Lugosi would’ve become good friends on the set—and shot up morphine with a demerol chaser later on to kinda mellow out you know what I mean?

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