‘The Ghost of James Dean’ by Roy ‘Oily’ Phillips

James Dean's grave without tombstone (August 1983)

The world was so, so different then in the early 80s. It was still a big adventure for anyone to travel to some remote, odd places and lap up all the feelings at that particular time and place. It’s been over 30 years since that time. And it’s a strange, blurry, even surreal thing — with pictures coming into my head and other things flashing by like, you say, the smell of something, etc. But it really is the mystery of it all that still means the most. I went there, I stayed there, and I’m still here. Memories come back again, be it they are very shadowy … a bit film noir, in fact …

Winslow farm from rear taxi window

Winslow farm from rear taxi window

‘Oily’ is how I sign my cheques and everybody calls me ‘Oily.’ It came from my messing with Triumph motorbikes as a kid, so it was ‘Royly Oily’ and it stuck. In fact, I was born Roy Terence Phillips in Isleworth, London on the 14th of October 1957. I grew up in a very musical environment. My dad was a professional drummer, my mum a singer, and music was everywhere — in all shapes and forms and sounds around the house, all the time. From Elvis, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Little Richard … then, of course, into The Beatles, Dylan, David Bowie, Led Zeppelin … then into the whole punk thing of The Clash, Elvis Costello and so on … and so on and on … mostly ‘rebel’ music.

I knew I was a musician from a very early age. Drumming at 5, guitar at 8 and having absorbed thousands of records into my early teens, I had enough ammunition firing from everywhere to create my own music and, indeed, bring ideas very quickly to artists or bands I played with and still do, in fact. I have recorded and played / written music all my life and toured with many great artists — The Clash, especially. My old friend Joe Strummer was a big Dean fan, too.

All the time this was going down, there were also films — which meant just as much to me. I loved Robert Mitchum, Bogart, Robert Ryan, Cagney, etc. But this one chap stood out a million miles away from anyone else I’d ever seen on a screen. I knew instantly, as a very young kid, I wanted to be HIM — James Dean. The images and characters he created are the truest mark of an incredible actor.

James Dean seemed to me to be like a rock musician. Then I found out he was dead and gone before rock music was truly born. It all then started making sense that this guy was the spark of a revolution in all the arts — bringing about a totally new wave of young creativeness not seen before or since.

I knew in my soul that one day I would go visit some strange, far-off place he was from — although, at the time, America might have well been on Mars. Where I grew up, the street you lived on was the world.

I had an uncle who moved to Canada many years ago — to Toronto, in fact, and I planned a trip to visit him and his family in the summer of 1983 — on my own, which I did. After getting there and settling into my month’s break, it suddenly hit me: ‘Ahhhh, Jimmy Dean comes from a state which I could maybe get to from here.’ So I told my aunt and uncle the whole story about my love for this man’s films and they, of course, knew straight away what had to be done. Mind you, I had my red sport’s jacket, Levi 501s and hair brushed back like Dean’s. So it wasn’t really a guess who I wanted to go visit.

I came back one afternoon, from being out with my two cousins in Toronto, to find my aunt had arranged everything — all the relevant bus routes and connections and had even found out the number and rang the Winslow’s farm to find the exact location.

I went on my journey dressed as though I was a stand in from Rebel — not really thinking that much about what, why or where I was headed. We stopped at places with names I’d only heard in songs over three-thousand miles away — like Bowling Green or Napoleon — then suddenly the guy driving the Greyhound bus says, ‘Marion, Indiana’ and I go, ‘Oh my, my. This is very powerful.’ And something in my soul stirred.

I booked into a motel and told the desk clerk I wanted to go see Jimmy Dean’s grave. The clerk kindly got me a taxi service and away I went …

The guy driving was a great fella. I’d basically told him my whole story by the time we pulled up right next to the grave. He said, ‘Do you want me to come get you?’ and I replied, ‘Yes, please. In about five-hours time.’ I got out. He went. Then I noticed there was no headstone.

Roy Phillips (ghost @ James Dean's grave)

I’d seen that stone many times in my many books about Jimmy and there I was ready with my camera and there was nothing but the base. I sat there for what seemed an eternity — probably three hours — when I noticed a car coming in the distance, which finally pulled up behind me. It was a police car and this fella gets out — Deputy Sheriff Ferguson, who slowly walks up to the grave with me sitting there and his first words were — and I’ll never forget it — ‘Damn near thought I’d seen a ghost.’

I am not a religious man, nor do I necessarily believe in any other force surrounding us, but there definitely was and still is a spirit of James Dean in me or my soul or whatever we wish to call it. I do believe a soul of a person can enter someone else — be it for a second or a million years.

Well, Deputy Sheriff Ferguson and I got to talking about Dean. The sheriff was investigating the missing stone — which had been stolen a day or two before I got to Fairmount. For a very brief moment I thought, ‘Shit, maybe this guy thinks I took it.’ You know how it goes with the police around you. But it seems quite funny now to even have such thoughts. Apparently, the stone was stolen weeks before but found hanging in a tree or some such, according to the sheriff, then returned before it was just stolen again. He was a great fella, though, and took some photos of me, and I of him, at Dean’s grave without the stone.

Roy Phillips @ James Dean's grave (August 1983)

Roy Phillips @ James Dean’s grave (August 1983)

Just about this time, another car pulls up and an elderly couple get out — Wilbur and Joan Hoskins from Fairmount — who were coming to see the grave with its missing stone, which was actually in the local papers that very day. They owned the Hoskins shoe shop in Fairmount and spoke to me for about an hour about how they were friends with Jimmy’s parents and, in fact, babysat Jimmy on a few occasions. It’s a while ago now and I can’t remember the wheres or whys of their looking over Jimmy as a babe, but they were there and they said it and that’s that. I got a feeling of real warmth from these people and a great sense of love and caring for not only the boy Dean but for his family as a whole unit. I would love to know if any of Wilbur and Joan’s family is still around in Fairmount?

James Dean's tombstone stolen (3 Aug 1983) Fairmount news

Wilbur and Joan Hoskins

Wilbur and Joan Hoskins


Deputy Sheriff Ferguson and Wilbur Hoskins

Deputy Sheriff Ferguson and Wilbur Hoskins

It was, in fact, Wilbur who just casually said, ‘Have you been to the house yet?’ I replied, ‘No.’ I didn’t even know it was that close by, to be honest, and was just going with whatever would deem to happen. I must admit it was a sort of dream like experience, in a way, as I didn’t really go to find out anything or to meet anyone — let alone talk to anyone who knew the family or Dean himself. It was just a calling of a personal nature.

So next thing I know I am at the driveway to the house I’d seen so many times in books with JD and his flat cap on in winter time or pushing Marcus around in a makeshift cart. We walk up to the house and a guy opens the front door. I didn’t know who he was. So he speaks with Wilbur and Joan in their Hoosier way and then, just in conversation, they tell me this is Marcus Winslow. Then they introduce me as a guy travelling like a billion miles to see Jim’s grave. Wilbur said, ‘We damn near thought we’d seen a ghost at the cemetery.’ With that Marcus looked me up and down and quietly and slowly said, ‘You’d best come in, then.’

I was totally taken over, when I entered, by a sense of me not being me but some stranger who was maybe popping home for a coffee and a sandwich. I know it sounds strange, but that’s how it felt. And I know Marcus felt totally at ease, too. I did have quite a lot of Jimmy’s characteristics — even to the point of walking slightly pigeon-toed! I never would compare myself to him, and no one can, but he affected me in a big way as a kid. And people through my teens and twenties would mention him whenever I was about. So that’s where it all sprang from really.

I think I straightaway showed Marcus my JD tattoo. It simply says JAMES DEAN at the top, with a rebel flag and Rebel Without a Cause underneath. Then I told him my story. We just chatted about Dean as though it was something totally normal like we all chat with our friends and families about things like what we have done or plans of what we’d like to do.

I can remember drinking lots of coffee with Marcus. It sticks in my mind as we only really rarely had coffee at home in England — always an instant brand and certainly not made in a big glass jug, as Marcus made it. This coffee was a vanilla flavour and I was hooked on it.

The kitchen looked very 50s / 60s — with those sliding cupboards in obscured glass where you put your finger in the hole-cup and slide. Some had just regular opening doors, too. The smell of the house was a kind of an oldie-worldly smell in as much as a sort of woody odour — not quite musty, but a hint of that if you get me. It was quite a hot time of year and it’s a different heat to England’s — as our summers can be very intense heat, whereas this felt quite open and fresh — although still very warm, but not sweaty.

Marcus was a very kind man and spoke quite slowly and very kind of monotone. I don’t mean boring, but it was sort of one level of tone apart from when I started going on about my music and the impact of JD upon my musicality. His words were quite few and far between, to be honest. It was more a connection on his part, I think, that someone had come to stop by who felt very familiar to him. I was around the same age then as JD when he died, so it was a real connection. But my story, as opposed to the film world, was the music world.

Marcus smiled a lot and, although he was very young when Dean passed away, he has quite a concrete picture of his personality. In fact, I could feel the love and, indeed, presence of Jimmy most of the time through being with Marcus. We spoke about what-ifs. The films Jimmy could have done interested both of us. Obviously, using classic films we now all love, I often imagined him in a Travis Bickle type role from Taxi Driver say. Marcus spoke about Jimmy’s love for animals and wildlife in general, which is always a good sign. I asked about the winters, especially during the 40s and 50s, in Fairmount. Marcus said they were pretty harsh and bleak. I said I thought they were more so in my country then, but it brings out a real closeness to family – even more so in Fairmount, because they were and still are quite remote and rural there.

I remember sitting in the living room on a very comfortable, single high-backed armchair. I think there is a photo I’ve seen of JD sitting in that chair, maybe with a cat?

Before I knew it, it was dark outside and I got to stay at the farmhouse with Marcus — who I just simply remember as a down-to-earth man, very much in keeping with what a lot of the world sees as an American farm person. And I’m sure Jimmy, himself, was this. It’s the image we all love and that’s at the heart of his greatness. Not only did I get to sleep in that house but in Jimmy’s room.

I guess it’s simply because I knew things about that place — having read many things about Dean as a youngster, plus about Steve McQueen, James Coburn, Paul Newman and many other great actors who all used to visit JD’s grave, for many years, on his birthday or death day. It was a very easygoing thing, like it was meant to be, at that exact time and place for me.

Another thought I did have at that time in the house was that maybe the headstone had disappeared because he has returned. You know how the mind can run riot. I imagined I was James Dean, come home to stay a little while, then go quietly back in time, once again. It all was beautiful, like time-lapse photography.

The Winslows' house (Jimmy's open window at top, far left)

The Winslows’ house (Jimmy’s open window at top, far left)

The stairs, if I remember correctly, had a carpet that ran up the middle of them — with borders of brass on each side, holding the carpet down. There were a few creaks. The house was like on typical rural farms in most countries, built of 90% wood. And the wood breathes and moans quite a lot. I slept in a single bed. I’m not sure if Jimmy would have slept in it. I didn’t even think to ask. But I obviously lay there thinking, ‘Jeez, to think James Dean lived in this house …’ and sort of getting overwhelmed with the whole thing. But, at the same time, just being me imagining I was him — a kind of ‘I’m playing James Dean but I am James Dean — the James Dean that girls at bus stops in England would call James Dean.’ This is all probably sounding a bit bloody odd but — hey, it’s what I felt at that time.

Jimmy’s bedroom (or box room as we Brits would call it) was at what I’d call the side of the house, which in fact is the front door side or porch area — because it sort of faced sideways, to the main road, so you could see just farmland and the road heading back to town from his bedroom window. The gramophone player I saw in his bedroom, where I slept for just that one night, is in a photo with him that, when I see it, takes me back through years and years until it’s like I’m back there. I’ve seen many pics of Jim playing his records and bongos in the room. Anyways, there was his old gramophone — a rather large piece of furniture, really, much like the 40s / 50s grams that we all had in the 50s, even 60s — with a cabinet at the bottom and a few 78s. The speeds on the player were 78, 33, 16 and 45 — 16 is interesting, because it’s a speed for mainly spoken word. So he must have listened to maybe poetry or plays, which were put onto Bakelite 78 discs.

James Dean with his gramophone

After that first night, I stayed in Marion for a few days and in those three short days I’d sit at Dean’s grave, alone — feeling even closer to him in spirit, since I’d met his cousin, slept in Jimmy’s old bedroom in the house I’d only ever seen pictures of, and looked around the barns where Jimmy kept his motorcycles. And I met some great folks and it all will be in my heart always …

Even now it seems a bit like a dream sequence, but it’s all inside me — forever. What was happening at the time was just part of my life. There was no deep mystery or meaning. It was just a trip to say hello to Jimmy Dean. It was as though I was supposed to be there at that time and I was. It’s as simple as that. It’s a situation, a very simple one in its reality. A young man from London, England — who loves films and music — gets James Dean in his soul at a very early age, goes to visit the place JD was from and ends up meeting members of his family, close friends and, on top of all that, the police are looking that very day for his stolen headstone.

Roy Phillips stands at James Dean's grave




An Interview with J. David Nall

John David Nall & James Dean (yearbook)

What was it like growing up in Indiana when you did? What are some of your most fond memories of that time?

I remember with great fondness being part of the Fairmount High School basketball team. I say part because by the time the season started I had been eliminated from the team. I was definitely not an athlete! However, we had a really great coach and before he cut me from the team, he went up to my Mother’s classroom and told her that it was going to happen. He then asked her how she might feel if he offered me the position of “Student Manager.” (That is the individual who attends every game, hands the players a towel and water during time-outs, and washes their uniforms and jock straps) She said yes and frankly I loved the position. Thinking back, however, I realized this was an additional burden on my Mother. Our farm home was 10 miles from the school. The position meant that she had to wait around till after practice, nightly, to take me home. This she did without a word of complaint.

What would you say is the most important thing your mother taught you? What did you love about her most? 

My mother was an incredible woman! Her devotion to those she loved was almost incomprehensible. If she believed in you, as she did in Jim and me, and hundreds of others over her lifetime, she would do anything and everything to help, to coach, to provide inspiration and suggestions—all to help them “move ahead” in the building and maintenance of their life and their careers. Her belief in me, that I would succeed in whatever I chose, was awesome…as it was with Jim.

What was it like to attend a school that had 130 students in all four grades? Do you think such intimate classes make for the best learning environment?

Not necessarily. Even in a large school, if they can hire enough qualified teachers to be able to have classes the size of 20 and 25 students it will work. Unfortunately, that is not always possible in this day and age. Having said that, one of the beauties of Fairmount High School’s small size was that you, literally, knew everyone from Freshmen to Senior and you interacted with them all, in many numbers of ways. For example, Jim and I, though Sophomore and Senior, were both members of the Debate Club which, in itself was only about 10 members. This is simply impossible in today’s 400-600 HS student bodies.

Do you think it is imperative that a person be encouraged to always pursue their interests throughout their lifetime? 

Absolutely! The problem of course, is that in many cases there is no one around to DO the encouraging! Jim and I were extremely fortunate to have a teacher/mother who understood the need to constantly encourage us (and many, many others) to follow their dreams. The secret is to find that mentor, follow their advice, and make SURE that the mentor knows and understands your quest for success. That quest comes from within. The encouragement come when it is helped by a mentor.

Did you know Jimmy before high school or did you only meet him then?

I first knew Jim when I entered FHS.

What was he like when you first met him? 

I’m afraid that I don’t have a very good answer. In fact, I don’t remember the first day I met Jim. Remember that was almost 65 years ago.

However, the fact that I don’t remember would probably mean that he was just another Junior that was harassing me and the other 35 or so classmates of mine who had just reported to our first day of High School as Freshmen.

The school tradition was that the “Newbies” were harassed during that entire day by the other 100 or so upperclassmen. I, for example, had black ink pored over my head just outside the second story window of my Mom’s room. Everyone yelled so that she came to the window to see what had been done! As you can imagine, I have NO IDEA who did it, but at least I joined in to the laughter. However, it took a couple of months to grow my hair back out to its natural blond.

Adeline Nall & Jimmy Dean

Adeline Nall & Jimmy Dean

Aside from your similar interests what was it that first drew you to him?

Actually, I’m not sure when our acquaintance began but I’m sure it took place either on the basketball court or in one of the areas that were under Mom’s “Wing,” i.e Debate, Public Speaking, Theater etc. Jim and I were never close friends. We never double dated or met after school, unless it was involving some school sponsored activity in the above areas or basketball.

As the two of you shared like interests, did you ever feel the need to compete with one another?

Not really. Jim was recognized as a good actor. And all the big plays were done by class. In other words, there is the Senior Class Play etc. We did compete in the debate club but that would be expected.

Did you and do you admire his dedication to do the best he could in all things? 

Absolutely! Jim would never give up! Once, during basketball practice (before I was cut) our coach had the first team (of which Jim was a member) play against the second team which I was on.  As such, Jim was assigned to guard me. The coach said, “If any second team member makes a basket, his guard will do 30 laps!” As luck would have it, shortly thereafter, I put the ball in the hoop and Jim then began to run the required laps, to the laughter of everyone! When he finished, he came over in front of me, dropped to both knees, and dramatically with great humor, pleaded that I not do it again. However, he then turned to the coach and asked if he could continue to guard me. He did and expertly! This was Jim. Never give in! It is what made him an excellent basketball player who, even with his small size and limited abilities, developed into a team leader!

What was he like as an individual? 

Jim was not the life of the party. Actually, I would call him shy. He was always in a hurry. He, on his motorcycle, was always on the move. I don’t know who he dated, but I’m sure he did. In a sense he was a loner, but no one would accuse him of that. He knew he was good at what he did. He was a superb artist and his paintings were lovely. He would always go one step beyond! For example, during the second intermission of the Senior Class Play, Mom was presented with a lovely flower. Unbeknown to all (except Jim and Mom) Jim had whisked it away from her and returned it the next morning with a beautiful picture for her…“to keep it forever” as he said when he, privately, gave it back to her. He did not anger quickly, but when he did…look out! You may know the story of his fight with, I believe, Dave Fox, who was taunting Jim during his practice of The Mad Man’s Story in one of Mom’s classes. A fight broke out after class when Jim really lit into Dave. Jim was suspended from school (for three days). In typical fashion, however, they both continued as friends, and Jim, in the Year Book willed his “Anger to Dave Fox.”


Jimmy’s artwork of Adeline Nall’s orchid, on which he wrote “her pride”

Adeline Nall & JD's orchid

Adeline Nall with her orchid from Jimmy

Do you think the fame aspect of his life often overshadows the greatness of who he was as a person? 

Not necessarily. Jim had recognizable talent at FHS. His dedication and determination to move into the theatrical world was not a surprise at all to Mom, who probably knew him best. I believe that the fame aspect of his life was because of the greatness of who he was as a person.

What was he like as a friend? 

As implied above, I think of Jim more as a guy, or an acquaintance, I knew in high school, who with a lot of help (which started with my Mother) became one of America’s all time, finest actors. I remember returning home from college shortly after the release of, I believe, East of Eden, when Jim was in Fairmount visiting the Winslows. (Perhaps you have seen the picture of Jim holding his cap in his hand, rather formally, standing next to a Pig.  I was grinning at him while standing next to the photographer). That day we spent a couple of hours together reminiscing about our days at FHS, his asking me about Wabash College and my current girlfriend.


Are there moments from that friendship that you hold most dear?

Again, I don’t think I would use the word most dear to describe it. However, I do remember, vividly, the period of time that Mom was working with both of us during our joint preparations for the national speech competitions we were both in, and that wonderful day during which we were both competing, and winning, our respective Indiana State competitions. I can still remember arriving home where Jim and Mom were waiting (his competition, which he had won, was in a closer city than mine was). I jumped out of the car and ran toward the front door. Jim leaped over the front porch steps with Mom close behind and the three of us hugged each other because of our combined successes!

What was it like to share a stage with Jimmy?

Well, we only did it once and that was for a Halloween skit named Goon with the Wind in which I played a “Dudley Do-Right” character and Jim, the villain, did as one would expect, a masterful job. Trust me, there was no sharing of the stage! It all belonged to Jim. Every inch of his character was perfectly done from the tweak of his mustache to the delicate pointing of his left hand!

John David Nall & James Dean (onstage)

John David Nall onstage with James Dean in Goon with the Wind

What was that weekend like when you both won state speaking competitions in ’49?

I think I’ve covered most of it above. However, the ongoing preparation for the next stage (which we both, unfortunately, lost) began almost immediately. Literally the next day Mom met with both of us to continue our collective work on polishing our presentations. She was a master at this! Mine was a straightforward presentation. “Speak to the last row in the auditorium, David!” she would say. “Wait for a laugh, should it come, but if it doesn’t, move immediately ahead!” With Jim it was, “As the Madness of your character increases, extend the moment of silence as you stare—widen your eyes—at one member of the audience.” This lady truly was a master in the art of Direction.

Do you have any stories of him you might be at liberty to share with our readers?

I think I’ve provided the best in some of my answers above. However, there is one more that might provide an insight into the appreciation Jim had for my Mom. As you probably already know, after Jim had made it he very strongly urged Mom to give up her teaching profession and move to New York. He went as far as to make sure that his NY agent met and worked with Mom in assisting her to see the right people there to get into the acting profession. There was no reason Jim had to do that. But that was just Jim! Mom was highly honored with his thoughtfulness and consideration, especially since he was on the other side of the nation pursuing a career. Mom DID make it onto the stage of a couple Off Broadway shows, but quickly realized that her talent was on the other side of the camera or in the back of the auditorium. Directing, coaching, and teaching her student to exceed in whatever was their planned profession.

What would you say is the most important thing you learned from Jimmy?

Well as you can see from the above, I’m not sure I can give anything but a qualified answer. Certainly, to feel and thoroughly enjoy the sheer happiness of winning, and I should say, the absolute dedication to perfecting our craft whatever that might be

Do you think Adeline sort of filled a mothering role for him in a way?

It was not so much of a “mothering” role but more of a highly qualified coach and directing mentor.

Did he ever speak to you of Mildred? 

No, never. I didn’t even know her name. It may have been that Jim and I were never that close in our friendship.

Did he ever talk of things like love, life, dreams, death, and the things that matter most? What did he like to speak of most?

Again, Jim and I were never that close of friends (probably the fact that I was two years younger, me being a Sophomore and him a Senior). Actually, I must admit that I really don’t know who his close friends were.

Do you think it is fair to say that he was an even more complex individual than he is given credit for?

While it is quite possible, I don’t think I am qualified to say.

How do you think he would have liked to be remembered if he had any say in the matter?

I, personally, think he would be absolutely delighted to be remembered in the exact way he is being remembered. He is, in my mind and without any qualification, the finest movie actor that the world has ever been privileged to know and see. The fact that so many people keep his memory alive and have great joy in knowing of his short, but splendid, life would make him extremely happy!



A revealing essay Jimmy was assigned to write at Fairmount High:

James Dean's Essay


The above conversation was conducted with J. David Nall, V. P. of Marketing of Aetna Insurance, Int. (Retired). In that role, thanks to the incredible training and education in forensics and public speaking provided by his truly amazing mother, he has made numerous presentations to audiences in the U.S. and around the world. To fans of James Dean, however, he is known as the son of Adeline Mart Nall, the lady who instilled in Jimmy the confidence that he could become an actor. A high school friend of Jimmy’s, as mentioned above, they both won Indiana State Speech Competitions the same weekend in 1949. It is an honor to be able to hear some of those memories recounted fondly by David and to offer them up to you the reader. 



An Interview with Steve Rowland


Photo by Frank Worth at Santa Barbara Road Races, May 29, 1955. Right to left: James Dean, Steve Rowland, Kathy Case.

Steve Rowland has worked as an actor, singer, columnist, and record producer. As an actor he appeared on such television shows The Rifleman, Bonanza, and The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp as well as countless others, and graced the silver screen in the films Crime in the Streets, Battle of the Bulge, Gun Glory, and The Thin Red Line. He was the lead singer of the band The Family Dogg. Steve also appeared in the academy Award Winning documentary Searching for Sugar Man,  dealing with the disappearance and re-a merging of the artist known as Rodriguez, due to being producer on his second album, Coming From Reality, the music from which made up half of the film’s sound track. Steve’s work as a producer led to his discovering the acts of Peter Frampton, The Herd, and The Thompson Twins. He has also worked with the best British studio musicians of the time like Jimmy Page, John Bonham, John Paul Jones, and pianist Reggie Dwight (later to be known as Elton John). He received a gold record and ASCAP award for producing Jerry Lee Lewis (The London Sessions). Steve went on to write the book Hollywood Heat: The Untold Stories of 1950’s Hollywood, which contains memories of James Dean, Elvis Presley, Tony Curtis, Natalie Wood, and Marilyn Monroe. He was also in attendance on Memorial Day, May 30, 1955 when James Dean raced his last race at the Santa Barbara Road Races.

What was it like to grow up in Beverly Hills? What was it like in those days?

I explained in my book Hollywood Heat, Untold Stories of 1950’s Hollywood, that growing up in Hollywood had its benefits but I was like any other young kid. I created havoc in grammar school. I fit right in with all the other screaming brats running up and down the halls. All of us were spoiled.

What are some of your most fond memories of those times?

In the 1940’s and 50’s in Hollywood, to my knowledge, were very naive times. You could leave your doors unlocked and my mother used to say, “Steve go out and play and don’t come back until dinnertime.” You can’t do that today. My fondest memory of those times would be our family meals at the end of the day when we all discussed the things that were on our minds and the events of the day. Those were lovely warm times.

Your father was Roy Rowland the film director your mother Ruth was a writer. Do you think coming from such a creative upbringing has helped shape you into the man you are today?

Obviously coming from a creative family does have an influence. I can say with my hand on my heart that my parents were not particularly enamored with my wanting to be a singer and an actor. However I went ahead and created a buzz with my singing and subsequently my mother and father supported my ambitions.

steve rowland

Steve with his parents Ruth & Roy Rowland.

What would you say is the most important thing you learned from them?

To always follow my dream and do the right thing.

Your first film appearance was in Boy’s Ranch at age 11. What was it like singing Darling Clementine in that campfire scene? Were you nervous at the time?

To be honest, I had been singing various little songs around the house before I asked my father if I could audition for that scene. Therefore it was more like me showing off than it was being nervous. Obviously the song was recorded on a soundstage and then I lip synced to it when the scene was filmed.

What do you love most about the art of acting?

Being able to completely submerge yourself into the character you are playing. Method acting of the era helped me a great deal.


From “Naked Youth” 1961.

Who do you consider to be some of the best actors of all time and why?

Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift, James Dean, Lawrence Olivier. And oh yeah, don’t leave out Steve McQueen. All of these people had the ability to make you see yourself and to believe that they were reacting to reality. The art of acting on film is listening and reacting.

What was it like to see Jimmy race at the Santa  Barbara Road Races that Memorial Day way back when? Can you tell us all you remember about that day?

Jimmy had the ability to be a great racing driver. He was natural. Watching him come off the line from starting at 18th on the grid to 4th place by the end of the first lap was amazing. The fact that the engine blew up was, as far as Jimmy was concerned, a major catastrophe. He was inconsolable the rest of the day.

What was it like to hear him speaking of racing and things he loved?

Jimmy spoke mostly of racing, whether it is a motorcycle or sports car, his mind was focused. I hardly ever heard him discuss his acting craft.

What was he like in person?

Jimmy was one of the guys – a little aloof. His ability to connect onscreen with the emotions, fears, and desires of teenagers from all over the world was what made the icon that he is today.

Do you think he would have gotten a kick out his icon status today?

I don’t know whether he would have gotten a kick out of it, but he certainly would have proved that his attitude and his ability to portray the characters he portrayed have lasted through the century.

What about him stood out most in your mind in the short time you knew him?

Jimmy was a very direct person. He insisted on doing things his way which created problems at times on the film set. However, his talent proved out.

How do you think Hollywood has changed most since its heyday? Do you think it will ever again be as it was?

Everything in life moves on, including Hollywood. Actors in the heyday were groomed to be stars mostly based on their looks. The acting style of that era was to “ACT”, they had to look and appear invincible. The men were handsome six foot two hunks and the women were gorgeous glamorous sirens. For instance, Rita Hayworth, Lana Turner, Ava Gardner – and Clark Gable, Tyrone Power, Rock Hudson. They were all bigger than life, which is in complete contrast to today’s stars like Clint Eastwood, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, and Ben Affleck.

No, I don’t think it will ever go back to the way it was. Style has moved on.


In “Battle of the Bulge” as Eddy, with Henry Fonda and Telly Savalas.

Do you feel lucky to have had a chance to meet everyone you’ve known over the course of your career?

Absolutely yes.

What was the best advice anyone ever gave you? Who was it?

Never give up your dream. Said many times over by both my father and my mother.

How have you changed most as a person since your early days?

I am no longer naive about people and their agendas.


In Madrid, Spain 1964.

What do you think is key to a life well lived?

By all means, maintain self-respect. That covers everything.

Is there anything you’d like to say in closing?

If you pick up a copy of Hollywood Heat, Untold Stories of 1950’s Hollywood, that question will be answered. On final parting I can only say this: If you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much room.


Steve Rowland 3

An Interview with Charles Paul Waters


Charles Paul Waters is a James Dean enthusiast best known for his work in the rockabilly act Paul Waters,The Rockabilly Rocket.

Can you tell us a little about what it was like for you when you first discovered James Dean?

It actually happened in two separate events, one being a 1981 film class I had in high school in which we saw East of Eden and Rebel Without a Cause. The other was three years later, after music pursuits had relocated me to the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, and a local college campus theater screened all three of Dean’s films. In 1981 I was ALL about Buddy Holly, guitar playing and trying to get a permanent band going. The 1978 film, The Buddy Holly Story, had literally rescued me from the trenches of alienation, despair and angst by way of music and being drawn into Buddy’s colorful life and legacy. I temporarily lost sight of much that was my own dilemma and daily row with confusion, awkwardness and social ineptitude. When I graduated, just barely at the bottom of my class, then came the free fall into the aforementioned hallmarks of teen angst reality, from which music couldn’t shield me 24/7. Nothing could have prepared me for what seemed so real, yet idealized and colorfully glamorous, as Dean’s Cal Trask and Jim Stark, a few short years later in a Minneapolis theater. It was like a very potent but slow drip IV, a kind of emotional x-ray of Dean himself that made it impossible for me to watch him and be able to separate actor from role. I felt it in my guts in ’84, that to a huge degree, James Dean emotionally lived the identities of Cal, Jim and to lesser extent, Jett Rink.

What about was it about Jimmy that drew you in as it has?

It was many things, chiefly among them at the beginning were his completely natural manner, both quiet and nonchalant, then erupting into volatile. Dean also had, and has to this day, one of the most charismatic and photogenic images in film history, both in his movies and in the endless trail of still photographs that capture his every nuance. The way he moved and spoke onscreen was something comprising both what I already was, especially the awkwardness and pain, and what I yearned to be. He totally spoke for me in ways that I could not. No one has ever captured the outsider, the misfit and the rebel – the teenager – as perfectly as Jimmy did. He remains the yardstick against which all other rebels, both vulnerable and violently defiant, must be measured.

What about him as a person, as you see it, do you admire about him most?

Emotional honesty culled from his own psychological background, particularly viewed through the roles of Cal and Jim. There are also scattered pieces of that same authenticity to himself throughout his TV work and the young Jett Rink. Beyond that I have nothing but awe, respect and sometimes tearful affection for the one-man, creative integrity war Dean waged with old school established Hollywood and the studio system, and for a short time, won. The historic truth of the matter is, Jimmy Dean was an only child, and he came from America’s heartland, a small Indiana farming community, NOT a savvy, sophisticated showbiz family with loads of experience and connections. He cut his teeth theatrically on the Fairmount, Indiana high school stage, stoked his imagination about art, music and the outside world through his early mentor, the Rev. James DeWeerd, and then left the farm on Jonesboro Pike for the bright lights, trials and tribulations of the big city. To think of the guts and tenacity that had to take for him to, first, secretly defy his stilted and emotionally vacant father’s demands that he enroll in pre-law courses and basketball coaching ideas, then continue to pursue his acting dreams despite Winton’s disapproval, is the stuff of legend, yet truth. Dean basically came from “nothing,” as some have tersely called his background, but with his fractured family history, beginning with his mother’s death to cancer when Jimmy was nine, I’ve often wondered if his feelings of alienation and hurt towards his father may have also included a certain tinge of pain at clashing WITH Winton, because his father was all he had left of his immediate family. According to several who knew Dean and witnessed his behavior with his father, Jimmy was curiously NOT explosive and confrontational. Truthfully, he was overly gentle, polite and considerate to Winton, unlike the fictional over-the-top screaming scene in Franco’s 2001 portrayal, which is otherwise brilliant. As Jimmy’s life played itself out, he kept his most intense and painful feelings about his mother’s death and his father to himself,… until the cameras rolled. “Getting even with him,” (Winton) were his words to a friend about the role of Cal in particular, which biographer David Dalton vividly referred to as Dean’s “purest and most incandescent self portrait.”

 What do you find most interesting and most overlooked when it comes to Jimmy?

There is a collision of meanings, as well as importance, in what is interesting to me personally versus the view of Dean held by others, and what has been perhaps overlooked about Dean. For myself, as I have touched on previously, it’s the real life of Jimmy and how it fueled his cinematic achievements to an enormous extent. The intense drama of how his reckless, devil-may-care meanderings and eccentricities had him careening desperately close to the final abyss, until that grim specter came to take him away, leaving behind his enduring celluloid reflection, has been documented extensively and is my main interest, as are all things related to the dark side of Hollywood. On the other hand, it has been said by the late composer David Diamond, who knew Jimmy in New York, that the films do not preserve certain aspects of who he was, even physically, which I know will be hard for some to believe. In the years following Dean’s death and the rise of his posthumous legend, Diamond was one of several old associates who lamented, “Hollywood has defaced him (JD) completely…” However, others who knew Dean well, such as William Bast and Jimmy’s Fairmount high school drama teacher, Adeline Nall, said that the Jimmy Dean preserved in East of Eden is the true Dean, physically and emotionally, as he was in life. But it’s been noted also by others, especially Jimmy’s high school pals and other Fairmount residents, that some of his sense of good fun and humor have been either lost or ignored altogether. According to close friend Lew Bracker, whom recently published a brilliant memoir of their friendship in the last 16 months of Jimmy’s life, Dean was intensely interested in forming his own production company, with Bracker at the helm, to produce not only a comedy but also something way ahead of its time by at least twenty years, the anti-western. Many years before the wacky and unprecedented antics of Blazing Saddles, Jimmy already had his finger on the pulse of the future of brilliant American film making.

Why do you think there are so many widely varied stories in regards to his memory?

That’s a good question and one that is central to both his appeal and the multifaceted life that he led. It brings to mind the quote from his pal, Sammy Davis Jr., in the mid 70s documentary James Dean: The First American Teenager. (Paraphrased), “It’s very funny, if you bring together four or five people who knew Jimmy to share memories of him, they all have something to say about it. But it will sound like recollections about four or five different individuals…” This is indicative of not only the dynamically varied personality Dean was, but also the near-militant need he had to keep friends and associates in his life completely separate from one another, with few exceptions. I recall, again, biographer Val Holley’s observation that Jimmy compulsively “compartmentalized” people, sometimes to the extent that individuals living in the same city never brushed shoulders with one another, such was the careful almost paranoid efforts of Dean to keep them unaware of each other. Case in point was Dean’s Actor Studio partner, Christine White, and her query of Holley during an interview for Val’s Dean book. About Jimmy’s girlfriend, Barbara Glenn, Christine asked “wasn’t she the one he had on the west coast?” Amazingly, Glenn and White were both in New York and were frequently around Dean during the same period, circa 1952-early ’54, yet they never knew of each other in Dean’s lifetime. Roy Schatt, the famed New York celebrity photographer who took many of the most famous photos of Dean, believed Jimmy “was never a friend to anybody; he simply used people to obtain or learn something he wanted to know, then he dropped them. He was almost constantly in some kind of ‘character,’ as if trying out a scene or personality on you for effect, to see how convincing he could be,” something Bill Bast also remembered. While legions of fans would be drawn to Dean’s onscreen performances and many would be able to identify with his emotional plight, there was, and is, this undeniable and very wide cross section of fans the world over coming from different backgrounds and drawn to Jimmy for a multitude of reasons. But the one constant seems to be a kinship and bond forged with Dean’s sense of emotional pain, loneliness and the rebel/outsider status. It’s been said that there are nearly as many Jimmy Deans as there are fans; each of us taking what appeals to us and leaving that which does not resonate, such as myself and the fact that his bullfighting and race car obsessions do not interest me. Not that I skip over passages in books when those topics pop up, but they are examples of things I cannot relate to. This, again, is linked to the compelling, kaleidoscopic and rich tapestry of varied stories about Jimmy, coming from all those who encountered him, worked with him, briefly passed through his life or maintained a relationship, intimate or not, for a few short years. Some knew each other but most did not. I believe some of the careful separating of relationships in Dean’s life was rooted in the fear and uncertainty born out of the claim which Rogers Brackett had on Jimmy for helping him with contacts, connections, even personal financing in those early years. And like him or loathe him, Rogers Brackett was clearly Jimmy’s mentor and benefactor, after the Rev. DeWeerd. If someone came to him and offered to help out career-wise or whatever, and did so without expecting some kind of payback, Jimmy was okay with that as long as there was no ulterior motive or agenda. But someone, especially Brackett, mentally filing away every single favor for future compensation was a situation Jimmy bristled against. Many of the stories about Jimmy’s darker side do not sit well with some fans of a more conservative and right wing disposition, especially those regarding Brackett. Others that frequently cause offense and usually outright rejection are Dean’s wild and rude antics and sexual experimentation with John Gilmore; the emotional recruitment by Dean of Hollywood fringe nut, Jack Simmons and, of course, the many tales of Dean’s unflinching recklessness and supposed death wish, the last of which I simply do not believe. In the end, what it comes down to is many fans subconsciously projecting their own morality and sensibilities on to Jimmy, and thereby stripping him of the right to have been, in some ways, a person very different from themselves. It is complicated even further by the friends, lovers, and associates of Dean practically falling over one another in efforts to be the only “reliable” source, and completely discredit each other, as Holley observed with great amusement during his own research. Subsequently, one finds that many fans will aline themselves with those Dean friends and family, whose memories of Jimmy dovetail perfectly with their own moral compass. However, just because a multitude continue to speak out against stories of impetuous daredevilry, rude and crass behavior, drunken carousing and bisexual escapades does not mean that none of it ever happened. By the same token, I despise and loath the sadistic and cruel “sport” of bullfighting with a holy passion and always have. I like to think Jimmy, had he lived, would have quickly outgrown that interest and left it behind, because at heart he seemed to love most animals. But just because I hate everything about bullfighting does not mean the stories of Jimmy’s obsession with it never happened.

Do you think he was often misunderstood by his peers?

At times, yes, it seemed chronic and often to the point Jimmy would do or say things off the wall or outrageous just to get a rise out of people, like arguing about a film he never saw, basically saying it couldn’t be as good as someone insisted. It was a get together at Schatt’s place and a girl was raving about The Heiress. Dean continued to push and taunt and be derogatory about the film until finally admitting he hadn’t even seen it. Schatt was amused and noted Dean seemed to enjoy riling people. Like Jimmy disappearing from dinner at Schatt’s place to secretly haul one of Roy’s living room arm chairs out into the busy New York street, where he proceeded to flop down in it and casually smoke a cigarette. The ensuing ruckus from the street outside Roy’s window sent him, Landau, Bob Heller, Billy Gunn and others rushing downstairs to find traffic backed up, and one large angry guy out of his car about to pound the hell out of Jimmy. They quickly pulled Dean out of the chair, dragged it and him to safety, Jimmy comically dissolving into a loose, flopping rag doll the whole way. “Don’t you sons of bitches ever get bored? I mean, before I pulled that stunt there was a herd of nine to fivers going home to their wives like they do every night, the same old routine. Now, they’re all juiced up about it, so are you guys! Hell, they’ll talk about it for years,” exclaimed a grinning Jimmy, as Schatt and the others all asked variations of the same question, “you crazy son of a bitch, have you lost your mind?” On a more cerebral note, Jimmy’s friend Lew Bracker noted in the 1957 film, The James Dean Story, how Dean was, on a very basic level, a very shy young man who took a while to warm up to people and trust them even a little bit. And, judging by the historical record of other similar stories, there had to be a painful number of occasions wherein someone meeting Jimmy for the first time wouldn’t give him any more than a fleeting window of opportunity to open up. Again, Jimmy couldn’t always grant trust in a new person in his life right off the bat, so it was like he didn’t respond in detail or quickly enough, “so they would just write him off,” as Lew remembered. Probably the most consistent area of misunderstandings between Jimmy and others was during production of the films and involving Dean’s co-stars and bit players. This, along with other revelations are rendered beautifully in Bracker’s recent memoir of his friendship with Dean, Jimmy and Me. There seems to be a consistent pattern through the work done on all Dean’s films where he commits and is signed to do the film, proceeds to immerse himself in it completely, to the point that the cast and crew become a sort of family for him. Many of his co-stars and bit players had the mistaken assumption that Jimmy occasionally being warm, joking and gregarious with them, during the months of filming, meant they had a new close friend in Dean, and that they would remain so. With the exception of Giant co-star, Elizabeth Taylor, whom was able to get closer to Jimmy than any cast member of any film, Dean simply moved on and didn’t look back. Nick Adams, from the Rebel gang, took Jimmy’s exit from his life very personally, having attempted ingratiated himself as Jimmy’s “best pal” during shooting, a feeling I do not believe for a second Dean shared. According to what Bracker has written on the Rebel crowd, Jimmy pretty much washed his hands of Adams in particular after Nick’s possessive and public embarrassment of Natalie. Up until Jimmy’s death, Nick was still trying to find his way back into Dean’s life and good graces. As with others, the result of Jimmy leaving his temporary ‘family’ and not maintaining ‘friendships’ was a lot of hurt feelings, even resentment. After Jimmy died, the shameless publicity antics of Nick Adams and Dennis Hopper, especially, in regard to them riding Jimmy’s posthumous fame for how it could benefit them, can be seen as a glaring act of posthumous exploitation and revenge for how Jimmy walked away from the cast of Rebel and joined his new ‘family’ in the Giant production.

“Lovers’ by Kinga Fabo



You are free, said the stranger.
Before I arrived there.
Costume. I had a costume on though.
I was curious: what his reaction might be?

He closed his other eyes.
I’ll send an ego instead of you.
Getting softer, I feel it, he feels it too. Hardly moves. He chokes himself inside me.
Now I must live with another dead man.

It’s not even hopeless.
Not vicious.
Serves the absence.
Delivers the unnecessary.

(Translated by Gabor G. Gyukics)

KF is a Hungarian poet (linguist, essayist). Her latest bilingual Indonesian-English poetry book is Racun/Poison 2015, Jakarta.