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134                                     Jack Fritscher, Ph.D.
            than it is to come out as gay.) I knew that James Dean was who we all
            were inside. That struggling universal identity was one of his secrets. He
            died young and found eternal life on film. Looking at him, seduced by
            his charisma, we discovered sex worship while we ate popcorn and went
            rocketing on in a rising perfect storm of popular culture that eventually
            led me to Drummer.
               In 1956, I bought the paperback, James Dean, A Biography, written
            by his roommate, William Bast, whose unspoken clues and cues told me
            to read between the lines.
               At the same time I wrapped a brown-paper bag around Walt Whit-
            man’s Leaves of Grass, a book praised in my high-school literature class,
            even though we had been cautioned by the priests not to read it because
            parts of it were impure.
               With flashlight under my blanket covers, I was also reading Grace
            Metalious’ sensational bestseller, Peyton Place (1956). I knew what Betty
            Anderson did to Rodney Harrington.
               Those books were about a liberated life I was longing to have. In
            the pressure cooker of the conformist 1950s, we were reading in code the
            books that would liberate us in the 1960s.
               On television in 1956, I watched TV news footage of the Hungar-
            ian Revolt as students marched through the streets of Budapest, and I
            wondered why we couldn’t do that.
               I never recovered from the 1955 death of James Dean any more than
            I have recovered from the 1963 death of Jack Kennedy. Distraught over
            JFK, I left the Catholic seminary three weeks after he was killed. I should
            have left on the Friday, September 30, 1955, when Dean died. Both men,
            aged twenty-four and forty-six, imprinted me and my teen-beatnik gen-
            eration which grew to be the first generation of gay liberation and the first
            generation of Drummer readers.
               By the time James Dean crashed his Porsche Spyder at sunset east
            of Paso Robles, California, he had appeared on Broadway as a gay Arab
            hustler in Andre Gide’s The Immoralist (1954); and he had made three
            films in one year: East of Eden (1955) from the novel by John Steinbeck,
            Rebel Without a Cause (1955) from the screenplay by legendary direc-
            tor Nicholas Ray, and Giant (1956) from the novel by Edna Ferber, the
            keenest lesbian of the fabled Algonquin Club. While the publicity-savvy
            Warner Brothers rushed the postmortem premiere of Rebel into theaters,
            the studio withheld Giant from screens for a whole year “out of respect”
            for Jimmy, watching Dean fever spread from teenager to teenager. We
            worshiped him the way Sal Mineo worshiped him even more than Natalie
            Wood wanted him with all her heart on-screen and off. It was not lost on

          ©Jack Fritscher, Ph.D., All Rights Reserved—posted 05-05-2017
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