Mark Kinnaman is the current vice president of the James Dean Remembered Fan Club as well as an organizer at Back Creek Friends Church in Fairmount, Indiana, and shipping manager at Daddy-0’s.
Can you tell us a little about yourself? Where are you from? What do you love most about that place?
I was raised outside of Frankton ,Indiana just 18 miles from Fairmount in Madison County. I watched East of Eden on a rainy Sunday afternoon in April of 1969. I never had a movie or an actor affect me like that. I was mesmerized from the very first of prowling thru the streets until the very emotional ending. It still affects me every time that I watch it.
When did you first learn of James Dean and his various works? What did it feel like?
My father told me that James Dean was from Fairmount and the next Sunday, he took me to Fairmount and we saw the school and the cemetery and drove down Main Street. That was all there was back then. There was no Historical Museum or James Dean Gallery and we didn’t know anyone to ask.
What is it about him that drew you in initially?
Sometime later I saw Rebel without a Cause and a year later I saw Giant. Eden is still my favorite. Years later, when I got to know Adeline Nall, Jimmie’s Drama teacher in high school, she told me, “If you want to see how Jimmie was in real life, look at East of Eden, so many of his natural little quirks, nuances, and how he carried himself is right up there on that screen.”
Why do you think he is still so well loved today?
Every person goes thru this awkward phase called adolescence. When someone tries crossing the threshold from childhood to adulthood. they search around for someone to identify with. Their eyes are naturally drawn to the original rebel, our own James Dean. Everybody wants to be cool. It is so important at that age to be looked up to or accepted, and almost everyone feels like an outsider or just doesn’t fit in in some way. No one expressed that feeling better than Jimmie. Rebel without a Cause was so important because it showed teenagers being real teenagers. Not the adult view of what teens were like , but from the teen view of how teens saw each other and themselves. To this day, teens strive for the same ideals, same goals, and some are fortunate to find Jimmie as a source of inspiration and someone that they can identify with.
From all you have learned about him, what things do you find most admirable?
In that era 60 years ago, it was all so much more conservative and restricted than today. You conducted yourself and dressed a certain way. He showed that you still could be free and interesting and just be yourself no matter what others thought. That just because others went down that broad highway, it was cool to just go your own way, strike out on your own path, and not care what anyone else thought. You have to do what is good for you. I believe that he was pointing the way to happiness thru being yourself, and doing what made you happy so that you can show happiness to others.
What was it that led you to relocate yourself to Fairmount? Why did you choose to live there? What do you love most about the town?
In July of 1989, I met Dave Loehr & Lenny Prussak at the James Dean Gallery. Although I had met Helen Kirkpatrick from the Historical Museum earlier, I had made friends with these two and had visited with them often thru the years. By the time I made the move to Fairmount in 2001, I had many friends in town, and it was the best move of my life. Every day I am glad that I live here. I may have moved here for Jimmie, but I love the people, the history, the town itself. The main advantage of moving to Fairmount when I did, was the fact that I got to know people who actually knew Jimmie. His friends, family, kids he went to school with, teachers, I got stories and information that the average writer, documentary filmmaker, who breeze into to town for 3 days, and blow out claiming that they know the real James Dean can’t get. Coming from the next county over, I grew up knowing how these small town Hoosiers think & feel about basic things that these people from LA & New York can’t conceive of. Speaking to the old folks around town, they tell me memories and remembrances that they wouldn’t share with “outsiders”.
How did you become vice president of The James Dean Remembered Fan Club? Do you consider it an honor to be working along with so many others to maintain the memory he left behind? Do you ever worry that future generations might forget?
I became Vice President of the James Dean Remembered Fan Club last September when President Pam Crawford & Vice President Sue Lyon stepped down. They had ran the club for many years and wanted a change. Chad Hanna took over as President and I became the current Vice President. It is a lot more work than I anticipated.I am seeing more young people finding out who Jimmie is. He is paraded thru modern pop culture, in songs, references on TV and in movies, even TV commercials. I don’t see our beloved James Dean becoming obscure or even waning in popularity.
Do you have anything further you’d like to say?
If you can, come visit Fairmount and see the real American small town, greet the people, come see what grew this true, one of a kind, phenomenon named James Dean.