Gay History: James Dean

William Bast and James Dean were roomies for a time in New York. Bast went on to become one of the first biographers on Dean. Bast admitted himself that the two of them had experimented sexually – further evidence that Dean dabbled in dick.

Marlon Brando’s Famous Gay Lovers James Dean, Richard Pryor, Burt Lancaster, Wally Cox and others from new book.

Brando’s own great love was likely Wally Cox — who had found fame with his mild-mannered persona on the sitcom “Mr. Peepers” and as a regular on “Hollywood Squares.” The actors lived together in New York City early in their careers. Wally died in 1973, and Marlon’s will specified that his ashes be mixed with Wally’s before being scattered in Tahiti and Death Valley

Marlon Brando’s Famous Gay Lovers James Dean, Richard Pryor, Burt Lancaster, Wally Cox and others from new book.

James Dean’s Secret Gay Past Revealed

There’s a new James Dean biopic on the radar, chronicling the all-too-brief life of the 1950s film star. And if you’re thinking it will just be another showcase of how manly smoking cigarettes and riding motorcycles can be, you might want to think again. 

The film is called Joshua Tree, 1951: A Portrait of James Dean, the debut feature from burgeoning filmmaker Matthew Mishory and, unlike previous Dean biopics, such as the made-for-TV James Franco vehicle James Dean, this version doesn’t skirt Dean’s long-rumored bisexuality. In fact, at least judging from the trailer, the film embraces it.

James Preston, last seen in ABC’s short-lived The Gates, stars in the role of Dean as he’s followed in the period leading up to his breakout success, mostly set in California’s Mojave desert. Alongside Preston in this sexy, mysterious setting is openly gay Queer as Folk hottie Robert Gant as well as The L Word’s lovely Erin Daniels. 

Even if the film comes to no solid conclusions about which team Dean played for, this is still a win for making any mention of the issue at all. The film has yet to find a distributor, though, so keep your fingers and toes crossed in hopes we’ll be seeing it in theaters soon.

JOSHUA TREE, 1951 Full-Length TrailerIconoclastic FeaturesVimeo.

James Dean's Secret Gay Past Revealed

Marlon Brando & James Dean S&M Relationship: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

James Dean and Marlon Brando reportedly had “a secret sadomasochistic relationship” sparked by Brando’s “desire for control,” according to a new book.

Daily Mail reported that the unidentified book states that the two actors would partake in “master and servant style sex sessions.”

In 2006’s Brandon UnzippedDarwin Porter presented Brando to readers in a different light, revealing that the bisexual thespian slept with several male actors and directors. Porter claimed that Brando — aside from Dean — also had gay relationships with Montgomery Clift and John Gielgud. However, Porter wrote that — out of all the relationships — Dean was Brando’s “most lasting yet troubled” one.

Marlon Brando & James Dean S&M Relationship: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

Find out what the former movie star told us about the icon

Even so, for decades, there have been rumors that James Dean was bisexual and maybe quite possibly gay.

Tab Hunter, a former 1950s matinee idol and friend of the Rebel Without a Cause star who publicly came out of the closet in 2006, weighed in on the gossip when I sat down with him at South by Southwest to talk about his new Jeffrey Schwarz-directed documentary, Tab Hunter Confidential.

Hunter, now 83, said he knew „Jimmy pretty well“ because his friend Dick Clayton was his agent.

„People always said that,“ Hunter said about Dean swinging both ways. „All I know is I saw him with Ursula Andrews a lot and with Pier Angeli.“ (Dean was dating Andrews at the time of his death. He and Angeli apparently wanted to marry but never did because her mother was against it.)

„People want to hang labels on people—Oh, he’s like this or he’s like that—[but] to me I don’t buy into far as I know [about] Jimmy, no,“ Hunter said.

While Hunter was outed by infamous tabloid Confidential in 1955, he continued to have a massive career. „People believe what they want to believe,“ Hunter said, explaining that studios had the power to make such stories go away. He went on to become Warner Bros.‘ top grossing star from 1955 through 1958.

Hunter never discussed his sexuality publicly or privately (he was even in a long-term relationship with Psycho star Anthony Perkins) and had plenty of studio-arranged beards to sway public opinion.

He was often seen—and more importantly, photographed—with Natalie Wood, even though she was secretly dating Dennis Hopper.

Find out what the former movie star told us about the icon

Dean’s iconic appeal

Dean’s appeal is that he portrayed the teens of America. They identified with Dean and the roles he played, especially in ‚Rebel Without A Cause.’The typical teenager, caught where no one, mostly not even his(or her) peers can understand them. Joe Hyams says that Dean was „one of the rare stars, like Rock Hudson and Montgomery Clift, who both men and women find sexy.“ However, according to Marjorie Garber, this quality is not rare, „it is the undefinable extra something that makes a star.“ [19] Dean’s iconic appeal has been attributed to the aura of youthful pain and confusion and to androgyny[20] he projected on screen. Dean’s „loving tenderness towards the besotted Sal MineoRebel Without a Cause Readers‘ Awards cited him as the male gay icon of all time…“[21]

Dean’s personal relationships and sexual orientation

Dean is today often considered a gay film icon. [22]

There have been several accounts of Dean’s sexual relationships with both men and women.William Bast was one of Dean’s closest friends, a fact acknowledged by Dean’s family. [23] Dean’s first biographer (1956),[24] Bast was his roommate at UCLA and later in New York, and knew Dean throughout the last five years of his short life. Bast has recently published a revealing version of his first book, in which, after years of successfully dodging the question as to whether he and Dean were sexually involved[25][26] he has finally admitted that they were ( 2006).[27] In his second book Bast describes the difficult circumstances of this involvement and also deals frankly with some of Dean’s other homosexual relationships, notably the actor’s friendship with Rogers Brackett, an influential producer of radio dramas who encouraged Dean in his career and provided him with useful professional contacts.[28]

Journalist Joe Hyams suggests that any homosexual acts Dean might have involved himself in appear to have been strictly „for trade,“ as a means of advancing his career. Val Holley notes that, according to Hollywood biographer Lawrence J. QuirkMike Connolly „would put the make on the most prominent young actors, including Guy MadisonAnthony PerkinsNick Adams and James Dean.“ [29] However, the „trade only“ notion is debated by Bast[30] and other Dean biographers.[31] Indeed, aside from Bast’s account of his own relationship with Dean, Dean’s fellow biker and „Night Watch“ member John Gilmore claims he and Dean „experimented“ with homosexual acts on one occasion in New York, and it is difficult to see how Dean, then already in his twenties, would have viewed this as a „trade“ means of advancing his career.[32]

In his Natalie Wood biography, Gavin Lambert, himself homosexual and part of the Hollywood gay circles of the 50s and 60sRebelNicholas Ray has also gone on record to say that Dean was bisexual. [33] Consequently, Robert Aldrich and Garry Wotherspoon’s book (2001) includes an entry on James Dean. William Russo also confirms that Dean’s bisexuality was well known.

As for Dean’s relationships with women, after Dean signed his contract with Warner Brothers the studio’s public relations department began generating stories about Dean’s liaisons with a variety of young actresses who were mostly drawn from the clientele of Dean’s Hollywood agent, Dick Clayton. Studio press releases also grouped „Dean together with two other actors, Rock Hudson and Tab Hunter, identifying each of the men as an ‚eligible bachelor‘ who has not yet found the time to commit to a single woman: ‚They say their film rehearsals are in conflict with their marriage rehearsals.‘ “ [34] Dean is best remembered for his relationship with a young Italian actress Pier Angeli, whom he met while Angeli was shooting The Silver Chalice on an adjoining Warner lot, and with whom he exchanged items of jewelry as love tokens.[35] Angeli’s mother was reported to have disapproved of the relationship because Dean was not a Catholic. In his autobiography, Elia Kazan, while dismissing the notion that Dean could possibly have had any success with women, paradoxically alluded to Dean and Angeli’s „romance,“ claiming that he had heard them loudly making love in Dean’s dressing room. For a very short time the story of a Dean-Angeli love affair was even promoted by Dean himself, who fed it to various gossip columnists and to his co-star, Julie Harris, who in interviews has reported that Dean told her about being madly in love with Angeli. In any event, Dean soon found himself dumped by Angeli in favor of singer-actor Vic Damone, whom she married. Some friends of Dean still maintain that he was heartbroken over Angeli’s marriage, although Bast reports that Dean seemed merely angered at being dumped, and losing out in what he saw chiefly as a contest of wills between himself and Angeli’s mother.[36]

Actress and SeinfeldLiz Sheridan claims that she and Dean had a short affair in New York. In her memoir detailing this, she also states that Dean was having a sexual involvement with Rogers Brackett, and describes her negative response to this situation. [37]

Contrary to popular notions, Gavin Lambert wrote in his Wood biography that Rebel Without a Cause did not lead to a romance with co-star James Dean: „Like many people, she was fascinated by his charm. He had this magnetic quality on the screen and in life… They got on very well, they liked each other a lot,“ but there was no affair and no sexual relationship. [38]

James Dean was sleeping with sirens of the silver screen

According to the Internet Movie Database, James Dean landed his first role in 1951 as „John“ on a Family Theater episode titled „Hill Number One.“ Three more roles would come his way that year as the actor honed his craft, and a series of similar roles carried his career through the early 1950s. But according to the Express, Dean also became a typical Hollywood playboy, and „would sleep with anybody to get ahead,“ according to biographer Darwin Porter. Famous women the actor bedded included Joan Crawford, Judy Garland, Marilyn Monroe, and Elizabeth Taylor, all starlets with whom it didn’t hurt to be seen with in public. Dean supposedly wanted to marry Monroe, but the actress claimed that doing so would cause the couple „to destroy each other.“ He also pondered stealing Taylor from husband Michael Wilding, but that too „crashed and burned.“

Notably, however, Dean did have one promising relationship with actress Pier Angeli. Cinesuffragette confirms the two met when Dean was filming his first movie, East of Eden, in 1955. The two touted a storybook romance, her gentle charm taming his rebellious nature. It was a delicate balance, especially since Angeli’s mother disapproved of Dean, and Dean felt marriage might prove too restraining. When the two separated to work on their respective projects, Angeli began dating singer Vic Damone and eventually announced her engagement to him. Supposedly, Dean sat astride his motorcycle outside the church at the wedding, speeding away as the newlyweds came out afterwards.

According to the Internet Movie Database, James Dean landed his first role in 1951 as „John“ on a Family Theater episode titled „Hill Number One.“ Three more roles would come his way that year as the actor honed his craft, and a series of similar roles carried his career through the early 1950s. But according to the Express, Dean also became a typical Hollywood playboy, and „would sleep with anybody to get ahead,“ according to biographer Darwin Porter. Famous women the actor bedded included Joan Crawford, Judy Garland, Marilyn Monroe, and Elizabeth Taylor, all starlets with whom it didn’t hurt to be seen with in public. Dean supposedly wanted to marry Monroe, but the actress claimed that doing so would cause the couple „to destroy each other.“ He also pondered stealing Taylor from husband Michael Wilding, but that too „crashed and burned.“

Notably, however, Dean did have one promising relationship with actress Pier Angeli. Cinesuffragette confirms the two met when Dean was filming his first movie, East of Eden, in 1955. The two touted a storybook romance, her gentle charm taming his rebellious nature. It was a delicate balance, especially since Angeli’s mother disapproved of Dean, and Dean felt marriage might prove too restraining. When the two separated to work on their respective projects, Angeli began dating singer Vic Damone and eventually announced her engagement to him. Supposedly, Dean sat astride his motorcycle outside the church at the wedding, speeding away as the newlyweds came out afterwards.

Rumors abound that James Dean was gay

Especially after he died, Hollywood’s rumor mill began churning out stories that James Dean was gay, or at least bisexual. In truth, at least some of the rumors might have dated back to as early as 1954. That year, Dean played a gay houseboy, Arab, in the play The Immoralist interview with American Legends, writer Hal Hackaday remembered Dean „was not very happy playing the young Arab. He didn’t like the plot. I also believe he didn’t like playing a homosexual on Broadway. He felt uncomfortable.“ When asked whether he believed Dean was homosexual, however, Hackaday responded, „I never heard anything like that.“ And, it should be noted that James Dean’s role as Arab was what landed Dean his part in East of Eden.

Biography also acknowledges that Dean’s „sexuality has been a matter of debate,“ and says that some biographers not only question whether he had a physical relationship with Pier Angeli but also believe the actor was bisexual. Writer Kenneth Anger took his thoughts on Dean’s sexuality even further, claiming the actor was „kept by an aging TV producer“ as he built his career, was into kinky sex, caught crabs while filming Rebel without a Cause, and liked scouting for random partners at a „bondage bar“ in east Hollywood. Anger also claimed that Dean told Hedda Hopper that he got out of serving in the military because, Dean said, „I kissed the doc.“

Especially after he died, Hollywood’s rumor mill began churning out stories that James Dean was gay, or at least bisexual. In truth, at least some of the rumors might have dated back to as early as 1954. That year, Dean played a gay houseboy, Arab, in the play The Immoralist interview with American Legends, writer Hal Hackaday remembered Dean „was not very happy playing the young Arab. He didn’t like the plot. I also believe he didn’t like playing a homosexual on Broadway. He felt uncomfortable.“ When asked whether he believed Dean was homosexual, however, Hackaday responded, „I never heard anything like that.“ And, it should be noted that James Dean’s role as Arab was what landed Dean his part in East of Eden.

Biography also acknowledges that Dean’s „sexuality has been a matter of debate,“ and says that some biographers not only question whether he had a physical relationship with Pier Angeli but also believe the actor was bisexual. Writer Kenneth Anger took his thoughts on Dean’s sexuality even further, claiming the actor was „kept by an aging TV producer“ as he built his career, was into kinky sex, caught crabs while filming Rebel without a Cause, and liked scouting for random partners at a „bondage bar“ in east Hollywood. Anger also claimed that Dean told Hedda Hopper that he got out of serving in the military because, Dean said, „I kissed the doc.“

Before he died in 2016, the TV director, known for his work on ‚The Twilight Zone‘ as well as twice directing Dean, spoke with novelist Matthew Rettenmund about being a bisexual man in Hollywood, sex later in life and giving Tony Randall his first job.

I met radio veteran and prolific TV director James Sheldon when I sat in the front row of an Oct. 12, 2015, screening of Tab Hunter Confidential.

James Sheldon: Yeah, they’re good. I didn’t like [„I Sing the Body Electric“] as much … I did two with Billy [Mumy], and they were both good; one [„It’s a Good Life“], he played a villain, the other [„Long Distance Call“], he was a darling. The lady who played his grandmother [in „Long Distance Call“] was a Hungarian actress [Lili Darvas] who was Mrs. Ferenc Molnár, the playwright, a delightful lady of — I guess she was about 80 then. [She was just 59.] But a big star in the theater in Hungary when she was younger, before World War II.

Yeah, I got a chance to work with a lot of wonderful people.

I never knew that some guys specialized in one thing. A lot of guys specialized in one thing and maybe they made more money, but I liked the variety. I did a lot of Westerns, but I also, you know, did a lot of comedies — or you can call them comedies, sitcoms. But I worked very steadily from the beginning of television.

I always enjoyed running into children of famous movie stars. A girl that I went with for years was [Judy Lewis,] Loretta Young’s daughter by Clark Gable, but they never had been married. Judy and I became best friends and we went out together over the years. She died last year. Terrible.

I was always, not a starfucker, but a stars‘-children-fucker. (Laughs.) Ernst Lubitsch’s daughter Nicola, Nicola Lubitsch, I went with for years and we’re still very close friends. She lives in California.

You know, I had a very „mixed“ life, you know? I had some very nice girlfriends and I’ve had some very nice boyfriends …

I think I have. My taste varied, but when you’re your age [mid-40s], you can get it up and get it on with anybody. But as you get older, you have to be more choosy. When you get to be older, it’s harder … sexually I could go from one to the other and never had a problem, but as you get older, it’s harder to fuck girls because you can’t always keep a hard-on. I’m older. I have ladies that I go out with because I like them as people, or I need a date for some social reason, but I really am happier with … [men].

Well, sometimes guys fuck you, and that’s easier. (Both laugh.)

When I was younger, I was very sexual. I’m still sexual, but I can’t do it as often.

Yes; I knew him because his agent was a friend of mine — Dick Clayton.

I knew Henry. I sent him Troy Donahue — Merle Johnson his name was, originally. But he didn’t have the ability to last. I kept telling him to please go study, work with Sandy Meisner and, „Jim, I don’t wanna be an actor, I’m a movie star!“ and then came the deluge and he was touring in small parts on the road and one-night stands. The last time I saw him, he was just in bad shape — it was very sad. But he never listened to me. He did at first, I sent him to Henry. I met him at a bar. I used to drive home when I was working out in the Valley and I lived in Malibu. I would drive and stop for a drink before I went over the Canyon with a producer I was working with who lived next door to me. There was this cute blond boy, he was 19 and he wanted to be an actor. So I set up an appointment with Henry Willson and he signed him! He could have done something. But he wasn’t very bright.

Tab’s career ended too abruptly, too. But as Tab said [at the Q&A], maybe it was a mistake to leave Henry. I didn’t know him well, but I liked him.

I used to be, yes. She was really something. I followed her very closely. I was 16 when I went away to college and I met a guy who also liked Judy Garland and we used to dance with chairs with her singing „You Made Me Love You.“ This was 19 — God! — 1937 at the University of North Carolina. When I went to Hollywood the first time, a friend of mine, a guy I’d been a page boy with at NBC, worked at the Berg-Allenberg Talent Agency, and he introduced me to Judy. I couldn’t talk. But I did see her — there’s a picture many years later when she was on her last legs and doing this thing at CBS and I worked at CBS.

I went away to college and I became a member of the Carolina Playmakers. I never did very well as an actor, but I worked backstage. I always wanted to be a director. I wasn’t sure if it would be in the theater or radio — there was no television then — and I got a job offer from an agent to be their assistant, but they didn’t offer me any money, and then NBC offered me $14.50 a week so I went to work at NBC. Of course, my folks lived here, so getting $65 a month was spending money — I lived at home right here on the isle of Manhattan. I was a page boy at NBC, and then I was a guide, and then I was in the news department. It was during the War that O.W.I. [the Office of War Information] took over NBC International, so they put me in the press department.

I was doing publicity, and after you work in the press department for a while, you get to know people and there was a girl, I went to see her, and she was the secretary to the guy who was in charge of assistant directors, I went to see her and I said — a friend of ours who was an assistant director was leaving to become a director at CBS — and I said, „I’d like to see Mr. Knight about Bob Stevens‘ job,“ and she said, „Oh, Jim, there are 20 guys ahead of you,“ and I said, „What can I do to get to the head of the list?“ and she said, „Well, you can come home with me tonight“ — and I did, and I got the job. She later married Burt Lancaster and had five children.

It was a radio show, a fire prevention series called Crimes of Carelessness, and it went on the Mutual Network — and radio — every Sunday. And I did that for six months. And then, all of a sudden, there was television! The first television show I directed was We the People, which was kind of like a magazine on the air. We’d have different news stories and the people in person. And sometimes it would be Richard Rodgers or Oscar Hammerstein, it might be Mary Martin.

I was already directing when Mister Peepers popped up. Fred Coe, a very good producer, a star producer at NBC, was preparing Mister Peepers and he said to me, „I’m thinking of doing a pilot with a young comic named Wally Cox,“ and I had just seen Wally at whatever club he was playing. I said, „Oh, he’s terrific!“ And he said, „Wanna direct the pilot?“ And that’s how I got to direct Mister Peepers.

Wally Cox was a sweet guy. We got along very well. My wife and I — I had married by that time — we had a summer house we rented for the summer out on Fire Island, and over the hill was another house and Tony Randall and his wife [Florence] lived there. His wife worked with my cousin Gertrude in the dress business,and she kept saying to me, „Why don’t you give her husband a job?“

One week, I’m lying on the beach and I see Tony Randall walking along, poking at dead pigeons, and Wally had been out for the weekend as a guest the week before and Wally was walking along the beach poking dead birds so I thought, „Gee, they would get along well,“ so I called Fred and asked if I could use this guy with five lines and he said sure, so Tony Randall comes to the studio and he and Wally just hit it off and by the end of the week — we started rehearsals Monday and it was on the air Friday — Tony had three pages or 15 minutes worth of stuff. Anyhow, it worked and we started his career with that. He was always very nice, telling everybody I gave him his first job.

I was working at Young & Rubicam before Mister Peepers, and I didn’t have a show, I just sat and watched commercials from other freelance directors and a friend of mine said, „There’s a boy coming to New York who I hear good things about and he doesn’t know anybody,“ and James Dean walked into my office. We became friends. He was such a pest that I, there was another girl I had met who had just become an agent; she handled Marge and Gower Champion and a few people like that and I thought Jimmy Dean needed an agent, not me, so I sent him to Jane [Deacy]. They got along very well.

I got Jimmy his first jobs, in television. I did a show with him [Robert Montgomery Presents episode „Harvest“ (1953)] — two shows with him — one with Dorothy Gish, who was the leading lady, and they just re-ran it on TNT the other night! The reviews I got from people who saw it, like Bruce Goldstein at the Film Forum, said it was so much better than the others.

He didn’t take off until after he died. He was working and was well-received, but Warners publicized him at just the right time.

Rebel Without a Cause [1955] was the only of his films in release. [Note: it was East of Eden that had already been released.] I had moved to California that summer. I had wanted to do a movie, but I was working for CBS Television and Jimmy was gonna do a movie with me, returning the favor, and that’s how I got to know the agent who was handling him in California for Jane, who was Dick Clayton for Famous Artists, and we all sort of were together a lot that summer, and then one day, Ralph Levy — who was the guy who sent Jimmy to me in the first place in New York — called me and said, „Did you hear what happened?“ … Jimmy had been killed … So I never got to do the movie with him. But we saw a lot of each other in those days.

Never had sex with him. I know people who did. I know one guy in particular who I introduced him to who gave Jimmy a couple of jobs and I know that they had sex.

A lot of people have [made that claim]. Some of us didn’t talk about it. But this director, [the late] Bob Stevens, did … he had just gotten his director’s job at CBS and they had a little thing before Jimmy really took off. While he was in New York. „Before he signed with the agent, I got him.“

The scripts weren’t very good, they weren’t very funny. I remember one day I said, „Lookit, we all know this is a lousy script, but if we play it like we believe it’s a good script the audience will believe it’s a good script.“ And they went to work! … So I kept getting Love Boats, which I didn’t enjoy — because it was too rushed.

Oh, yeah! In San Francisco. With Lynda Carter and Loni Anderson. I enjoyed doing that show because it was shooting in San Francisco. The two ladies were crazy competing. They would keep us waiting all the time. The sun was going down, and I go into the makeup room and I say, „Ladies, you might be prettier, but you’re not gonna get your close-ups …“ and they’d come out. I liked San Francisco and we had nice hotel rooms.

What she did, she did well. She handles herself well. She’s smart. She’s not my favorite person, but I admire her. She took that funny face and learned how to make it up to look better, and she really ruled the roost in her own show.

Up until that time, I always dressed in a tie and jacket when I went to work. In New York you did, in California I did, and one day she said to me, „Jimmy, why don’t you dress like the rest of us?“ and I never wore a tie on the set after that; I became more comfortable. I just thought the director should dress like an advertising executive.

I had a good time working with Disney — half a dozen shows [seven episodes of The Magical World of Disney (1966)]. Even though I really didn’t like him politically, I thought he was really clever and we got along very well.

Walt was a character, somebody I was glad I got to know, whether I approved of all the things he believed or not. He died very young. I did the last five shows that he produced, and then he went into the hospital, which was across the street from the studio, and the story has it that he would lie by the window to see what time people got to work to give him something to do.

Walt was an experience, and he was in every casting session — he really had his finger in every pie. I remember there was an actor I wanted to use. It was a three-parter, he came East for a week, it was about seeing-eye dogs [„Atta Girl, Kelly!“ (1967)], a three-parter with Beau Bridges and Arthur Hill and there was an actor Walt wanted to use. You don’t argue with Walt Disney, so I said, „OK.“ He was attractive enough — Sean Garrison was his name. The Disney people are very polite, they’re all so uptown, you never hear „fuck you“ or anything.

So Sean Garrison was arriving [on set] in a bus from the airport and it’s the Disney group and he was drunk, had drunk too much on the flight. Cute young guy, very pretty. And [the associate producer] went over to him on the bus and said, „Please stop drinking, this is a Walt Disney Picture and you’ve gotta …“

„Fuck Walt Disney!“ Needless to say, I got the actor I wanted, because they sent him home. He was so pretty, but he never quite made it.

I had a charming house that I fenced in and put a pool in. It was pretty wild at times. No one could see. You could swim naked. Then I got a lot of money for it and stopped working as often as I had been and bought this [apartment] when I still lived in California. I wanted to travel. So when I stopped working, I started traveling and I went to Africa and South Africa and Australia and Tahiti and France and England and so forth. I just wanted to have time to just travel.

I still have friends in L.A. but I used to have more; they’ve all gone by the wayside. The last time I was there was for my friend Jerome Lawrence’s funeral. Jerome Lawrence and Robert Lee wrote Inherit the Wind (1955) and Auntie Mame (1956), but they were very successful television writers before that. And they were friends. Bob was married, Larry was gay, but they were always having big-name parties — I met Ingrid Bergman at his house, I met Barbra Streisand at his house, they were always grand Hollywood parties. When Auntie Mame became such a hit, he became so rich he built a big house overlooking the sea with lots of decks and it was a great house for parties, and I used to be part of that crowd.

I loved it all. It was all very exciting and creative — and romantic.

Matthew Rettenmund is the author of the novel Boy Culture. A series based on the novel, which inspired the 2006 film of the same title, is in postproduction. He blogs at

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Rebel Without a Cause

Dean quickly followed up his role in „Eden“ with a starring role in , a film that would prove to be hugely popular among teenagers. The film is widely cited as an accurate representation of teenage angstNatalie Wood and Sal MineoNicholas Ray.

William Russo says that „Nick Ray’s world of the teenager rebel contained knife-fights, drag racing (a baptism named ‚chicky run‘), stolen cars, underage drinking, social worker, high school scene (…), dumb police, police station scene, death of teens by speeding car and gunshot, dysfunctional families, a teenage gang with both male and female members,“ etc., and that „unleashed a spate of teen-oriented films, both with message and without.“ [10]

Director Nicholas Ray often encouraged Dean’s creative input. However, „Verbal battles with his directors increased in each film as James Dean became more sure of himself as a director … He demanded and was allowed to direct scene after scene from by Nick Ray, and he became so engrossed in throttling his on-screen father that a few cognoscenti wondered if he knew the difference between his performance and his life.“ [11]

In her study on bisexuality, Professor Marjorie Garber writes that Ray, when he directed , „was not averse to using Jimmy’s bisexuality to good purpose. The director knew that Sal was homosexual and encouraged him to explore that part of him that would love Jimmy. At the same time, according to Ray, Jimmy fell in love with Sal.“ [12] „The studio heads refused to allow Nick Ray to film a kiss between James Dean and Sal Mineo that the director had proposed.“[13] At the actor’s insistence, Jack Simmons played „one of the members in the gang in , a pay-off for reportedly servicing as James Dean’s live-in-boyfriend.“[14] This rumor, however, was contradicted by Dean’s close friend and confidant William Bast, who states that Dean specifically insisted to him that Simmons and he had no sexual involvement, that Simmons was only a groupie who „ran routine errands for him.“[15]

35 comments:

Thank you for this summary. There’s far too much history-rewriting for gay men who could be role-models (etc) and its good to read some historical facts presented plainly.

It will be a good day when people can lead their lives as they see fit vs. societal „norms“ bullshit. RIP Dean, Brando, Hudson and friends.

It is really sad that someone’s sex life is no longer private, and everyone has to learn private things.

Karen in many ways I understand just what you mean, When my Uncle Danny came out to me as a child, he referred to himself as my uncle, my friend, my loved one who happened to be gay. So, my reference point was that his entire identity, like my own, centered around his person-hood, and not his homosexuality. Mind you when he was murdered in a nationally publicized LGBT hate crime in 2001, he wasn’t a person who lost his life, he was the „fag someone shot/“ When it came time to mourn his passing, it was those outside the loop that reminded me just how different he, and I, were from everyone else. You see Karen, for those of us raised by parents in the LGBT community, we are constantly told to remain private, closed, and forgotten. The problem is that sometimes history cannot be a matter of private speculation, but must remain an open book of lives, memories, and actions. What makes me sad is that such an icons story is regarded as loathsome, instead of enriched by his love life. Be well!

It is also really sad when you have to hide the people you love for your entire life.

@Karen: Brando was very open about his sex life. In 1976, he told a French journalist, „Homosexuality is so much in fashion, it no longer makes news. Like a large number of men, I, too, have had homosexual experiences, and I am not ashamed. I have never paid much attention to what people think about me.“

It’s very upsetting to think same sex marriage was only legalised a few years ago. Privately it’s upto the person if they want to spend time with someone and people should have and need to stop involving themselves in things that don’t concern them!

@Karen, I doubt you would have objected to this story if James Dean’s lovers had been women. This story is about validating who he was as real person; sorry if it burst your bubble.

I believe that Sir Alec Guinness was introduced to James Dean because he thought he was a gorgeous looking young man and he liked those.

Sure I’m curious about who was a classic actor who was gay. Theyvhad to have been strong people not to mention cool individualists. I’m not curiouss in an omg don’t let it be way. Support our gay community!

The Celluloid Closet was the best documentary I ever saw, it opened my eyes and my mind.

I don’t understand why this article questions whether Dean was gay; Elizabeth Taylor very publicly outed him at the GLAAD media awards in , as she was his friend, I would think she would have known. Check out the link below at 3 mins 15 secs

Hi Andy,Thanks so much for the link; I’ve never seen that clip! I get so many angry women sending me messages about how terrible I am for saying that James Dean was gay; maybe this will finally shut them up! LOLI think I’ll have to copy and paste that clip into the post, thanks

Hello! I just want to say that I love your blog and I find it so strange how so many people get angry at these types of posts! I love James Dean, and I don’t mind whom he liked or went to bed with. I mean, I actually prefer it if he was not straight since I get kind of jealous thinking about him with a woman.. lol (Whereas I don’t get jealous seeing two men together, I just find it hot haha) Once again, I love your blog! I hope you can post more of these stories of old Hollywood film stars (or singers etc)

Thanks Clara, You can’t even image how many crazy messages I get about this post. Apparently some people are shocked that there are gay actors! LOLJeff

Thanks for this bit of Hollywood history….I’m sure had things been as James Hudson and possibly been able to live as genuine queers out loud and is..a wonderful history is what it you for giving their history some voice!!

Great blog. The video of Elizabeth Taylor is very poignant. She was so supportive and publicly championed same sex marriage very early. I wish she had lived to see it a nation wide reality. I think about people like her, who have nothing to gain personally, who could continue successfully and beloved, without risking anything, but chose to do so because she loves her friends and believes in what is right. Compare that to my own family who can only manage excuses and embarrassment that anyone find out the truth.

She was so supportive of gay men at a time where just the thought of hanging around someone with homosexual tendencies was deemed weird. She was comfortable around them because there were no sexual tensions. Which, I’m sure comforted her.

In the book „Live Fast, Die Young : The Wild Ride of the Making of ‚Rebel Without A Cause'“ by Larry Frascella and Al Weisel, actor/opera librettist Jack Larson recounts how Dean and Simmons tried to pick him up for a three-way — which freaked Larson out. After Dean’s death Simmons who only took acting roles to hang around his Master Dean) went into real estate. He owned the Hollywood mansion Errol Flynn once inhabited and rented it to Warhol and the gang when they came to town and shot several films including „Imitation of Christ“ with Patrick Tilden Close ad Nic.

I adored James Dean who was my kind of post-teen. Bill Bast was no doubt James Dean’s lover. I read his book back in the 1950s when he published his first, necessarily discreet, memoir. In 1960, I wrote this article, also necessarily discreet, about the potency of James Dean, only five years after the crash. It took a bit of time even to find a publisher. Here’s the feature with an introduction. Enjoy!

Hi Jack,I was huge fan of Drummer when I was young man in the 80s. Thanks for being brave enough to publish such a revolutionary magazine!

Why would anyone be shocked that a male actor is gay, it pretty much goes with the territory, some don’t see the real person, they see the actor acting a part and assume they are as they appear on worked in television for 5 years I can safely say that at least 3/4 of the males I’ve come across are Homosexuals

I liked the article… I grew up with a big crush on the James Dean look… thanks for this article…

Excellent article. Love the vid with Elizabeth Taylor. Send it to the Predident

I lived with Rogers Brackett until his death from cancer. I am straight. He did confirm these facts to me in private. He was my Best Fiend. Very witty, and thoughtful. A true Gentleman, who happened to be gay. I truly miss him.

Really? Is it possible you tell a few things he told you about Jimmy? (Doesn’t need to be sexual things but some curiosities about him 🙂 )

Of course he was gay. The affair with Pier was fabricatted.

I have a copy of an authentic gay fan letter sent to James Dean in June fan was a Sgt Major in the US Army who sent Dean his photo and on military stationary. Dean was using Claire Rochelle of United Fan Mail Service who sent the Sgt a signed photo on June 22,1955. The Sgt gushes about Jim’s looks and acting in East of Eden and pines on asking Dean to run his fan a striking letter because of its time and it’s from a career soldier risking it all to meet James Dean. I met Claire in 1970 in Los Angeles who told she witnessed a major argument between Winton Dean and Jean Deacy,Dean’s NY agent over Dean’s post accident fan mail (who’s paying the bills) Rochelle said Winton destroyed any and all gay themed fan letters she had on file. She surmised that because Winton was active reserves and employed at Sawtelle VA that the Sgt Major’s fan letter survived. BTW in 1969-70 you could buy authentic James Dean autographs for $25 in I could send you a copy of my Gay Soldier Fan letter to JD. From my research its the only one in existence while Dean was living.

. is really shocking to understand the amount of IGNORANT people.