Dean, Osiris Morphing
By David Dalton
Gadfly May 1998
anyone ever told you you look like him? As if you
didn't know! James Dean, of course! You're the splitting
image of him. Really. The next time you look in
the mirror, check it out. Try combing your hair
straight back. Okay, so you're not blond, not quite
as tall, not quite as young, not as handsome, or
your female.... But let's not quibble about these
little details. Let's face it, you've got the look.
has a little James Dean in them. Anybody who's ever
worn Levis, been a rebel, felt like an outsider,
dragged on a cigarette introspectively or looked
coolly defiant through a pair of Ray Ban shades.
In the fifties, Dean's look was so imitated that
when a teenage boy—arrested for breaking and
entering—was identified on the basis that
he "looked like James Dean," the judge
dismissed the case. "Every kid in America,"
he said, "looks like James Dean."
Dean is, after all, the composite
Pop icon; our all-purpose, postmodern martyr. A
leisuretime deity whose devotees are legion.
Fisher—the Long Island Lolita—compared
herself to James Dean. Bob Dylan visits Dean's hometown
of Fairmount, Indiana on a pilgrimage. Jack Kerouac,
Elvis Presley, William Burroughs, and the Gasket
King—all quote James Dean on immortality as
if from some hipster's bible. He's also Bill Clinton's
hero. And we haven't even gotten into actors. You
could make your own list. Easily. Dennis Hopper,
Jean-Paul Belmondo, Martin Sheen, Johnny Depp....
there are redneck deans in honky tonks, transvestites
Deans, reflective Deans in glasses, serial killer
Deans (he was Charlie Starkweather's idol), Taiwanese
Deans, Ecuadorian Deans, Turkish Deans, Polish Ashes
and Diamonds Deans, black Deans, balding
Deans, Hell's Angel Deans, Fureur de vivre
hustler Deans in Paris bars, punk Deans, female
Deans, rock Deans (he was the model for the early
Beatles), corporate Deans, Presidential Deans and
all manner of shadings in between all saying: Jimmy
not that exclusive a club, exactly. A club for loners,
a club for people who don't join clubs. One of the
many ironies surrounding James Dean, our oxymoronic
hero. His qualities appear paradoxical because it
was his Herculean task to undo the monolithic culture
of the fifties—when men were men and women
were big busty blondes.
further we get from James Dean's time the more difficult
it becomes to extract him from his myth. In the
series of photographs Joseph Abeles took of him
between 1951 and 1953 for his actor's portfolio
you can see him putting himself together piece by
piece as he evolves from hayseed kid to goofy collegiate
and finally into the teen icon with glowering gaze,
pentecostal wave of hair and cool hep cat expression.
The unassailable mask of teen anguish and defiance.
teen golem was a fusion of adolescent types: the
ingenuousness of the farm boy, the coolfry vibe
of the Beat hipster, the scorn of the street punk,
the introspection of the loner.
Dean's own oxymoronic nature allowed him to solve
the central paradox of pop culture. A convincing
anti-establishment hero and star, he merged the
eruptibility of the Teen Dream with the American
Dream of success. He managed to transcend the contradictions
of an antisocial attitude and commercial success
through stardom itself.
made stardom the only acceptable form of adulthood
in a culture that has substituted a collective fantasy
life for the obsolete convention of an ultimate
reality. This method of aging without growing up
found its ultimate incarnation in rock stars, a
sort of unanointed royalty who rule by divine right.
At the heart of the Pop Zeitgeist is the delinquent,
the teen anarchist, the biker, the mod, the rocker,
the mistfit, the hood, the psychopath, the post-Hiroshima
culture devil. Wayward youth had been working at
their delinquincy with Wesleyan zeal since 1945.
Dean is idolized
by rock stars because he is the original rebel without
a cause, the first ten seconds in the Big Bang of
pop culture. He's the pop Prometheus. Axl Rose and
Bruce Springsteen, out there on the tour bus (or
the rock star jet), thumbing through The Mutant
King as if it were a vita,
a saint's life, the template for rock canonization.
in comparison with his exotic progeny—Jimi
Hendrix, Boy George and Sid Vicious—he seems
a conservative figure. His own disciples have
long since surpassed him in outrage and anarchy although
they would all claim him as their inspiration. What
they (and we) celebrate in James Dean is his promethean
act. He almost single-handedly converted the crude
techno-utopia of the American Dream (machines, appliances,
comfort, plenty) into the ongoing fantasy life of
the Teen Dream. He is the originator of Pop in his
combination of youth, fame, genius, life style and
tragic death, a modern saint of transcendence and
the more conservative decades that followed his
star began to rise again. He's been assimilated,
his rebellion has become fashionable—and marketable.
His patented slouch is now a poster, the defiant
cowhand slumped in the backseat a commercial for
Levis jeans. You can buy James Dean T-shirts, James
Dean shades (Ray Bans, natch), red nylon Rebel
Without a Cause windbreakers along with
such unlikely items as James Dean wingtip shoes
and perfume. It's not hard to see why his commercially-endorsed
defiance is so popular. It's far easier to walk
into a suburban living room (or downtown club, for
that matter) in levis, windbreaker and slouch than
to burst in dressed as a green-tenaxed cyber punk
or Martian Inca. And this is perhaps the greatest
irony about James Dean. He's become an essentially
conservative figure, the all-American icon, all
that angst and fury transmuted into
From The Life Of
He was born in 1931 in Marion, Indiana, the
heartland where such mythic American characters
as Abraham Lincoln, Jesse James, Clark Gable, and
Paul Bunyan came from. Dean grew up in the neighboring
town of Fairmount—home to the Wright Brothers
and Bing Traster, "World Champion Liar."
Inventions and tall tales poured out of this tiny
midwestern town in an endless stream: the first
car was built there, the hamburger and the ice cream
cone were invented there, and it was to Fairmount
that Frank James retired to raise horses.
father, Winton, was an undemonstrative, taciturn
man. His mother, Mildred, was an affectionate, romantic
woman who lavished attention on her son. From the
start she planned great things for him: she gave
him the middle name, Byron, after the great Romantic
doted on son and together they created a secret
world of fantasy and magic. His faith in make believe
began early, in the wishing game they played together.
Each night he would write a wish on a piece of paper
and slip it under his mother's pillow. The next
day she would try and make the wish come true.
he was four the family moved to Santa Monica California.
Four years later Mildred became terminally ill.
She was twenty-nine. Within a year Mildred was dead.
It was a devastating blow, and in many ways Dean
never recovered from it.
to the story he told fellow actor Dennis Hopper,
Jimmy's mother was the inspiration for his consuming
ambition. When Dean and Hopper were working together
on Rebel Without a Cause, Hopper asked
Jimmy why he became an actor. To his amazement,
Dean told him: "My mother died on me when I
was a kid, and I used to cry on her grave and say,
Why did you leave me? And that changed into, I'm
gonna show you! I'm gonna be great!"
long after his mother's death Winton sent him back
to Indiana to live with his Aunt Ortense and his
Uncle Marcus on their farm in Fairmount. Jimmy travelled
to Indiana on the same train that carried his mother's
body back to be buried. He slipped a piece of paper
into his mother's coffin with a spell on it as if
it were part of the wishing game they used to play
together. For the first two weeks in his new home
he played the wishing game on his own.
his mother's death his father left him with relatives
and moved to California. Dean grew up on his uncle's
farm, a typical Grant County boy—raising pigs,
racing primitive motor bikes, winning pole vaulting
championships and prizes for recitations. At eighteen,
Jimmy went to live with his father in Santa Monica.
He attended college, appeared in a couple of forgettable
films and a Pepsi commercial and two years later
headed for New York to become a serious actor.
He was withdrawn, angry at the world, and hard to
get to know. A loner. Given to violent mood swings.
A born exhibitionist and provocateur. He loved to
sit in store windows and watch the expressions of
passersby or take an armchair into the middle of
the street and hold up traffic.
New York he attended the famous church of Method
acting, the Actors Studio, from which his idols
Marlon Brando and Montgomery Clift had graduated.
He learned to play bongos with Cyril Jackson, took
dancing lessons with Eartha Kitt, and soaked up
the early Beat vibes of bohemian New York.
style of acting was far more emotional and precarious
than the Method encouraged. He wanted to feel what
it would be like to be carried away on the riptide
of illusion. The knife-edge balance between acting
and life that Dean perfected gave to his impersonation
of psychotic janitors and schizophrenic teenagers
an edge of menace and alarming realism.
would be ample opportunity for Dean to parade his
new Frankenstein. Between his arrival in New York
in 1951 and his departure for Hollywood two years
later he appeared in some twenty TV shows, putting
his own peculiar spin on a newly minted type, the
existential crazy-mixed-up kid. Typical of these
charismatic punk roles on TV is his portrayal of
a hep cat killer who disturbs the sleep of a country
doctor (played by Ronald Reagan) in The Dark,
Dark Hours—a tense, schizzy misfit
bursting into a placid, bourgeois living room.
disaffected TV writers like Rod Serling, Gore Vidal
and Paddy Chayevsky provided the vehicle for Dean's
beautiful monster by putting a new twist on the
stock juvenile delinquent character in cop shows
and melodramas. They made him into a casualty of
society, of bad parents. The juvenile delinquent
was seen not as a violent malcontent but as a victim.
By rotating this idea another 90 degrees teenage
trouble makers became paragons of a true morality
raging against a corrupt and hypocritical society.
director Elia Kazan spotted Dean playing an Arab
boy who seduces Louis Jourdan in a Broadway adaption
of Andre Gide's The Immoralist. Dean
went to Hollywood with his belongings in a paper
bag, and went on to make the three classic movies
for which he is famous: East of Eden,
Rebel Without a Cause and Giant.
his first major role—as Cal Trask in East
of Eden—Jimmy played a young boy
searching for a mother whom he has been told is
dead. Even critics dubious of the unmediated angst
and violence in his performance in East of Eden
couldn't help appreciating it.
his father doesn't love him but the camera does,"
wrote one reviewer. "Look at all that beautiful
Without a Cause is a movie about teenagers,
by teenagers, and for teenagers. Made in the most
adenoidal manner possible, it is full of adolescent
angst, Freudian cliches, teen tableaux, True Romance
courtship and rites of passage. The director Nick
Ray, a case of retarded development himself, virtually
handed over the film to its star and teenage cast.
Emotionally overblown, sentimental, violent, often
incoherent, it is the classic teen testament. Its
outrageous claim that parents should learn about
life from their children was to see its ultimate
flowering in the sixties.
Hollywood Dean began to unravel while pouring his
emotional turmoil into his parts. He had turbulent
love affairs with Ursula Andress and Pier Angeli.
He turned quite morbid and began hanging out with
a local witch who called herself Vampira. He also
took up sports car racing with a vengeance. Dean's
recklessness, his need to take things to the limit,
was already legendary. Forbidden to drive while
making Giant, he looked forward to
taking part in a race meet in Salinas, California
after he'd finished filming.
was on the set of Giant, a week before
his death that Dean made a commercial for the National
Highway Committee that now seems prophetic. "People
say racing is dangerous," he told the host,
Gig Young, "but I'd rather take my chances
on the track any day than on the highway.... Well,
Gig, I'd better take off. Remember... drive carefully
because the life you might save might be... mine."
role of Jett Rink in Giant was one
Dean had fought for. The director George Stevens
was one of his idols, but Stevens was a director
of the old school and the two soon clashed. For
days Dean waited in the blistering Texas sun, seething
with pent-up fury and still Stevens didn't use him.
He began not showing up on the set, rewriting his
lines, inventing scenes that weren't in the script
and a major feud developed.
was depressing to see the suffering that boy was
going through," said Nick Ray. "Giant
was draining him and I hated to watch
identity confounded, he was caught in a trap not
too different from Jett's. His close friend, Eartha
Kitt, described his dilemma.
wanted to typecast him, make him into a stuffed
doll. I think that's all that Hollywood can handle.
During Giant, Jimmy was being set
up to play Rocky Graziano in Somebody Up There
Likes Me, and that Left‑Handed
Gun picture.... Just the same old commercial
grind. That sort of frustration is real heavy to
the time the unit returned to Hollywood in July
to shoot interior sequences on the Warner Brothers
lot, Dean had become a shadow of himself. During
these last weeks of filming, Eartha Kitt greeted
him at a friend's house and sensed with a shudder
the eeriness of his disembodiment.
hugged me and kissed me as he always did, but I
couldn't feel him.... It was the strangest sensation.
I said, "What's the matter with you? I don't
feel you." And he said, "Kitt, you're
being a witch again."
September 22nd, 1955 Dean finished the "last
supper" scene in Giant. The following
day he attended a cast party for the movie with
Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson. Friends noticed
a marked change in his behavior. He said formal
goodbyes to his friends. On September 29th, the
day before the race, he gave away his cat—a
gift from Elizabeth Taylor. At 8:00 a.m. on the
morning of September 30th, Dean—along with
his mechanic, Rolf Wutherich—arrived at Competition
Motors to check out the Porsche Spyder he had christened
"Little Bastard." At 1:30 p.m., Dean and
Wutherich departed for Salinas. At 3:30 p.m. outside
Bakersfield, Dean received a ticket for speeding.
At 5:45 p.m., at the intersection of routes 466
and 41, a Ford sedan driven by a local farmer with
the bizarre name of Donald Turnupseed, pulled in
front of the Porsche. Wutherich was thrown clear.
The eggshell thin body of the Porsche crumpled on
impact pinning Dean to the steering wheel. He was
dead at age twenty-four.
like to quote a line from the movie Knock on
any Door which went: "Live fast,
die young, have a beautiful corpse." Oddly
enough he died looking like a little old man. His
hair had been shaved back and dyed grey for his
part as the aging Jett Rink in Giant.
In a grey car on a grey road at twilight, James
Dean was invisible.
of the Gods
In the manner of an Egyptian saint, James Dean's
death rather than his birth is celebrated annually
on September 30th.
fame and immense popularity are entirely posthumous.
Before his violent death only East of Eden
had been released. He was relatively unknown, therefore,
when Rebel Without A Cause opened
on October 26th, 1955, less than a month after his
the two years following his death a fanatical cult
began to develop around him, inflamed by the crass
commercialization of his death. Pieces of the wrecked
Porsche were sold as amulets, Miracleflesh masks
and red windbreakers were hawked along with one
shot magazines claiming to have been dictated by
him from the beyond. One magazine offered a $100,000
reward to the person who spotted the reclusive Dean.
two years after his death fan magazines pumped out
a ghoulish stream of articles such as "Proof
in His Own Handwriting, that James Dean Knew He
had a Date with Death," "Jimmy Dean's
Alive," "The Ghost Driver of Polonio Pass,"
and "James Dean's Black Madonna."
James Dean's death a new sensibility entered the
fan mag's marzipan kingdom. Like an Asiatic mystery
cult, the way fans responded to Dean's tragic accident
ushered in an era of freakishness, any combination
of sex and death being a genetic component of the
seething teenage brain. An actor dies in a car crash
and suddenly... altars! Suicide pacts! Supernatural
appearances! Fantastic rumors! He's not dead but
badly disfigured and living in New Mexico.
others who died young and under mysterious circumstances,
James Dean's life is read backwards. His already
larger-than-life reputation among insiders precipitated
into a morbid and evangelical cult when he died
on the road to Salinas. Lives read through such
a dark glass—Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix—lend
themselves to fantastic fabrications and grotesque
rumors surrounding his death soon appeared: Dean
had committed suicide by deliberately driving his
car into the path of the other car; he was not dead,
but was so badly hurt, so terribly disfigured in
the smashup that it was kinder to let his public
believe him dead. Or: the love of Vampira had turned
to hatred when Dean forsook her for Pier Angeli.
She had therefore placed on Dean a voodoo curse
that forced him to lose control of the car.
Warner Bros. publicity department who engineered
these hokey speculations had no idea it would go
on for four years, never mind four decades. The
Elvis sightings (a tabloid this week proclaims "ELVIS
DEAD AT 63"), the Jim Morrison cult—it
all came from James Dean. Vandals/disciples recently
dug up his grave and stole his body from the Fairmount
cemetery (since returned). Nothing remotely like
this had occurred in pop culture before James Dean.
Today the teen liebestodt motif is
one of its sacraments.
year on the anniversary of his death thousands of
fans converge on the small farming town where he
was born. Fairmount is an ideal place of pilgrimage.
A "bedroom town" to neighboring industrialized
Muncie it is like a village under a spell, hardly
changed since the fifties. Vintage cars parade down
Main Street, you can buy an entire fifties prom
outfit—poodle skirt, saddle shoes, Peter Pan
collar—at retro stores and find Carl Perkins
EPs at the hundreds of booths selling fifties memorabilia
anthropologist James Hopgood has compared Dean to
Mexican folk saints like Niño Fidencio with
whom he has much in common. Devotees come to visit
Fairmount, the same way Fidencio's disciples visit
his hometown of Espinazo in Mexico. Dean fans tour
the sacred sites (the ground he walked on, his home),
put flowers on his grave, take away mementoes and
read his biography as an exemplary tale. Some even
ask Dean to intervene in their lives. But in late
twentieth century America, instead of lighting candles,
we buy t-shirts.
is in a long line of Pop messiahs, cowboy angels
and beautiful, possessed, seraphic martyrs of youth
and art. Lives—like those of Rimbaud, Van
Gogh, Robert Johnson—that had in common precocious
talent, a wayward urgency and early death. In hindsight,
their sudden, violent, untimely deaths seem the
only possible conclusion to their possessed lives.
It is the ultimate proof of their authenticity,
their intensity, their reckless pursuit of sensation
and their articulation of it. James Dean became
the epitome of Jack Kerouac's combustible geniuses,
those who "burn, burn, burn, like fabulous
yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across
the stars and in the middle you see the blue center-light
pop and everybody goes 'Awww!'."
Into the smug, drowsy, suburban fifties came the
metachildren of the new Pop culture—Brando,
Dean and Marilyn—with their feral appetites,
androgynous sexuality, innocence and violent fantasies.
Like his idol, Marlon Brando, James Dean reversed
the sexual polarity of the movies. It was Dean not
Natalie Wood who was the sex symbol in Rebel
Without a Cause.
shifting moods—violent, vulnerable, reckless,
whimsical—reflected the changing states of
adolescence. He blurred the lines utterly: child
and adult, macho and sensitive, wounded and defiant,
actor and character, flesh and fantasy, star and
master at making the most of his own shortcomings,
his nervous twitch, erotic slouch, menacing prowl
and chronic headhanging became part of our social
history. The very complexity of his psychological
make-up creates the impression that James Dean can
be a symbol for just about anything imaginable.
He is a little like Jung's Theory of the Hat: a
mass-produced item that becomes uniquely one's own.
But this is the very essence of Pop, the sine
qua non of a mass audience icon, someone
who in their charismatic person can hold together
the largest number of contradictions.
very idea of Pop begins with him. Not pop culture
itself, of course, but a certain take on it. With
James Dean, a new Pop synthesis presented itself
that would combine a number of elements: the doomed
poet, the artist writing his own movie, tragic death
like everything great in American culture it was
all in the blend.
his predecessors Montgomery Clift and Marlon Brando,
Dean had none of their disdain for the movies as
a crass medium for mass entertainment. He had somehow
gotten around the supposed contradiction between
art and popularity, and he'd done it while he was
still young, barely out of adolescence.
new formulation was to become the essence of the
new star. It included as many elements of adolescent
fantasy as possible. After him came his immortal
progeny: Elvis, Jackson Pollack, Jack Kerouac. They
were titans. They were tormented. Fate snatched
them from us before their time. They were stars
whose own lives were the stuff of movies. The plot,
the lines, the art, the lifestyle was all their
no one could have written a more perfect life story
for themselves than James Dean. He came out of nowhere
to become the consummate actor of his time and then
vanished into his own immaculate myth. Watching
these movies one gets the eerie impression of being
witness to a colossal Technicolor daydream.
America was an adolescent, even delinquent culture
from the beginning. A country of dissenters, prodigal
sons, disinherited malcontents, rootless rebels.
The American colonists didn't simply break away
from the British Empire, they disinherited themselves
from the European family—fracturing the old
order and bringing on the apotheosis/crackup of
an almost mystical manner, all of Dean's films,
either by coincidence or twist of fate, parallel
not only his own life and by some even greater mystery
tell the story of America from ecstatic Eden to
crumbling corporate giant. He's the archetypal American
hero whose life is a series of modern parables:
the innocence of evil (East of Eden),
the wrath of outraged innocence (Rebel Without
a Cause), and the betrayal of that innocence
Americans were powerful, they were rich, they could
afford to discard the shackles of puritanism and
get down to prosperity and compulsive consumerism.
American High. Electric clothes dryers, garbage
disposals, dishwashers, frozen orange juice. The
disposable democratic dream had come true. Gadgets
would free us from mowing the lawn, cooking dinner,
even getting dressed.
prevailing hallucination of post-war USA was that
life was simple. Its vision was similar to one of
those optimistic World's Fair exhibits sponsored
by a major corporation—the fully automated
house, for instance. The House That Thinks For Itself!
It Knows What You Want To Do Next Before You Do!
Brought To You By Westinghouse—The Tomorrow
a perverse and fortuitous twist, the dominant culture
began to take an interest in its outcasts, and once
they emerged from the shadows it was all over. The
party had begun—and out poured a sort of anti-matter
America, the proleptic counterculture. Zoot-suited
bebopping hipsters, hairy dope-smoking Beatniks,
churlish bar-brawling Abstract Expressionists, juvenile
delinquents, rock 'n' roll and (why not?) JFK!
was the end time and a good time it was. It only
lasted about twenty years but it so redefined American
culture that it came to symbolize America itself,
a culture seen in terms of its artifacts, music,
style and Pop stars.
all this was the Teen Dream, unfocused in the Fifties,
a sort of Id-like lunge at conventional morality
and the doltish adult world in general. But with
the next generation it would dilate to cosmic proportions,
and it would all come down in the sixties: the anti-war
movement, free love, cosmic consciousness, civil
rights, Pop Art, organic rice.
Dean, the great grand daddy of Pop. His legacy:
rebellion, androgyny, the codification of the teen
wardrobe and the counterculture, perpetual adolescence.
All the cardinal elements of our current turbo-charged
and self-gratification replaced the old gothic virtues
of denial and hard work, and it was not too long
before the loutish, selfish teenager was setting
the tone for the whole country. Like a Holy Roman
Emperor who lisped and obliged the whole kingdom
to lisp with him, what the authentic American teenager
did became custom. This was only further encouraged
by the fifties obsession with teenage problems.
Masturbation, hormones, romance, and skin problems.
Psychology taught us to listen to teenagers as cultural
James Dean, teenagers were portrayed in the movies
as either cute Andy Hardy bobby soxers or psychopathic
delinquents. Nevertheless, by the mid-fifties teenagers
had their own highly developed culture, their own
clothing styles, their own language, mating practices,
coming-of-age-in suburbia rituals. Now they needed
a leader. And in James Dean they were about to get
their messiah. He is the Abraham Lincoln of adolescence,
he set the little monsters free.
In Pop, attitude is everything. A post-modern Gospel
According to St. John would open with: "In
the beginning was the Look...."
an odd twist of providence that Dean's defiant posturing
had its origin in French metaphysics. The pictures
Dennis Stock shot of James Dean in Times Square
are pure attitude. The cigarette angled like a dangling
modifier, the brooding hunched shoulders, the existential
slouch, the essential coolness of the Beats, the
secret crazy wisdom of the jazz aficionado.
owned a copy of Jean-Paul Sartre's Being and
Nothingness though it is doubtful he
ever got beyond the first page. He didn't need to.
In a flash of teen epiphany he assimilated the whole
epistemological shebang from a photo of Camus on
the back of a paperback copy of The Stranger.
Dean's insight was to convert a pessimistic European
philosophy into a flashy, self-indulgent, morbid
teen mystique. He caught the drift of this doomy,
cigarette-smoking philosophy on the fly, took it
and slipped it on like a t-shirt. Camus, the gloomy,
Sisyphusian dyspeptic grafted onto an American juvenile
delinquent. A gesture of sheer genius, it is at
the core of Dean's appeal, somewhere between metaphysics
existentialism! The ultimate refinement of the esoteric
theory of cultural transmission.
Very existentialist. Man lost in time and space.
What can he say! Look at Sisyphus.
Words, obviously, have no meaning when you get this
so much choice as the rejection of all choices,
not to mention solutions. It's an absurdist pose,
and one that only teenagers in the most secure,
affluent generation the world has ever known could
afford. Absurdists and teenagers agree: all philosophy
is mumbling in the face of the void. Life is pointless.
(Natalie Wood in Rebel: "Who
of course, started it. James Dean gave it to the
middle class because he was middle
class. Articulate resistentialism. Exist-entialism,
in the form Brando and Jimmy interpreted and exported
it, was a fusion of proletarian posturing, teen
rebellion, and French metaphysics.
Dean's magnetic angst begat yet another beautiful
freak: Elvis. Elvis idolized James Dean. He memorized
Dean's movies by heart and desperately wanted to
play him in a movie biography. So obsessed was he
with Dean that he got the screenwriters of King
Creole to duplicate the confrontation
scene with the father in Rebel so
he could be James Dean. Elvis took
James the Baptist's image as his own, amplified
it and sent it out into the world where it became
the new gospel.
two transformers radiated the infectious cry of
the mutant from Lautreamont's Chants de Maldoror:
"I need creatures who resemble me!" Their
prototypes allowed whole armies of outsiders to
march on the citadel of American culture and the
walls came tumbling down.