James Dean, Osiris Morphing
By David Dalton

From Gadfly May 1998


Hasn't 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.

Everybody 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."

James Dean is, after all, the composite Pop icon; our all-purpose, postmodern martyr. A leisuretime deity whose devotees are legion.

Amy 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....

Today 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 is me!

It's 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.

The 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.

His 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.

James 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.

He 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.

Teen Golem
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.

But 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 excess.

In 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 style.

Scenes 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.

His 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 poet.

Mother 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.

When 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.

According 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!"

Not 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.

After 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.

Existential Crazy-Mixed-Up Kid
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.

In 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.

His 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.

There 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.

Young, 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.

The 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.

In 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.

"Maybe his father doesn't love him but the camera does," wrote one reviewer. "Look at all that beautiful desperation!"

Rebel 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.

In 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.

It 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."

The 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.

"It was depressing to see the suffering that boy was going through," said Nick Ray. "Giant was draining him and I hated to watch that happen.

Dean's identity confounded, he was caught in a trap not too different from Jett's. His close friend, Eartha Kitt, described his dilemma.

They 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 carry.

By 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.

He 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."

On 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.

Dean 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.

Food of the Gods
In the manner of an Egyptian saint, James Dean's death rather than his birth is celebrated annually on September 30th.

His 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 death.

In 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.

For 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."

After 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.

Like 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 distortions.

Bizarre 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.

The 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.

Every 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 and Deanabilia.

The 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.

Dean 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!'."

Tormented Titans
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.

Dean's 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 person.

A 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.

The 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 and stardom.

And like everything great in American culture it was all in the blend.

Unlike 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.

Dean's 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 own creation.

And 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.

Little Monsters
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 Western society.

In 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 (Giant).

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.

The 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 People!

In 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!

It 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.

Behind 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.

James 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 Teen Dream.

Novelty 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 cassandras.

Before 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.

Packaged Existentialism
In Pop, attitude is everything. A post-modern Gospel According to St. John would open with: "In the beginning was the Look...."

It's 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.

Dean 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.

James 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 and streetwear.

Packaged existentialism! The ultimate refinement of the esoteric Egyptian-wisdom-hidden-in-a-sailor's-pack-of-cards theory of cultural transmission.

Mumbling. Very existentialist. Man lost in time and space. What can he say! Look at Sisyphus. Words, obviously, have no meaning when you get this down.

Not 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 lives?")

Brando, 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.

Finally, 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.

These 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.