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136                                     Jack Fritscher, Ph.D.
            Night, Dean, as Rechy’s hustler, would have been as perfectly conflicted
            in his own way as Jon Voight was in Midnight Cowboy (1969), the John
            Schlesinger film based on gay author James Leo Herlihy’s 1965 novel.
               Brando and Dean fused into one archetypal leather image repeated
            a thousand times in irresistible 1950s “juvenile delinquent” photographs
            from Chuck Renslow and Etienne’s Kris Studio in Chicago and from Bob
            Mizer’s Athletic Model Guild in LA. The names of the characters Dean
            played all sounded like AMG porn stars: Cal Trask in East of Eden, Jim
            Stark in Rebel, and Jett Rink in Giant.
               On Folsom Street in San Francisco, artist Mike Caffee sculpted his
            famous Leather David statue (1966) for Fe-Be’s bar, but its leather jacket
            and cap were from Brando, and its existential slouch was pure, patented
            James Dean. In 1970, I bought a Caffee Leather David from Fe-Be’s for
            $125. Research Mike Caffee, the statue, and leather heritage in Popular
            Witchcraft: Straight from the Witch’s Mouth.
               If Dean had not been seven years younger than Brando, Tennessee
            Williams might have had some interesting choices casting his leading
            men who were considered peers by their mutual Actor’s Studio director,
            Elia Kazan. Dean was born too late, but perfect, for The Glass Menag-
            erie (1945) and was counter-intuitively ideal for A Streetcar Named Desire
            (1948), and was dead too soon for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1955). As a
            lifelong critic writing on Tennessee Williams, I have noted that very often
            the actors cast in Williams’ plays are too old for the roles. What James
            Dean could have brought to Tennessee Williams’ Suddenly Last Summer
            and Sweet Bird of Youth! Research Tennessee Williams:
               In the 1950s, I was a gay boy who — same as everyone else — did not
            know what being a “masculine gay” was, and I could not let go of Jimmy
            Dean because I wanted to be like him. I wanted to be the kind of man he
               He so absorbed me into him that I began writing anguished teenage-
            boy fiction like “The Odyssey of Bobby Joad” and “Father and Son”
            which the Catholic press seemed happy to publish because the stories
            safely reflected teenage angst. In August 1957, as soon as I turned eigh-
            teen, I flew to New York for my first visit to Manhattan to track Dean’s
            haunts on 42  Street, on West 68  Street #19 where he had sublet, and
            in the Village on Christopher Street at the Theater de Lys where he had
            appeared on stage. That didn’t take much time so I was soon catching
            folk singers in Washington Square Park and beat poets in coffee houses,
            and I was buying books on yoga and physique magazines, and dying my
            hair red. I was too young to know gay bars existed.
               Homosexuality always pushes into the future those who listen which
            is why fundamentalists hate it and the change it causes. I was fifteen years

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