James Dean Visual Tour: “Jimmy Was Here,” an interview with Lee Raskin

James Dean at Bank on Czech mc #1 (1)

James Dean riding his Czech CZ 125cc motorcycle in front of the Citizens Exchange Bank at 102 S. Main Street, circa 1947. Photo: Nelva Jean Thomas / Fairmount Historical Museum.

 

JAMES DEAN VISUAL TOUR

”Jimmy Dean Was Here”

In the hope of educating and inspiring both residents and visitors to Fairmount, Indiana for years to come, biographer and author Lee Raskin is planning to debut the “James Dean Visual Tour” during the 2019 Fairmount Museum Days’ James Dean Festival.

Co-sponsored by Main Street Fairmount, the Fairmount Historical Museum, and the historic Citizens Exchange Bank branch of the First Farmers Bank & Trust…the visual walking tour will feature legendary photos along with brief captions pertaining to James Dean as a teenage student at the Fairmount High School, as well as during his final visit to Fairmount in February 1955.

Can you tell us a little about how this project came into being? What was it like to realize that there is a younger generation of residents who aren’t fully aware of the legacy left by James Dean?

I have been visiting Fairmount during the James Dean Festival since 2005. Looking back, I had noticed for many years that residents, especially a younger generation, was unaware that James Dean had actually been photographed while walking, talking, and even acting at various Fairmount locations.

I felt this was an exciting opportunity to replicate a part of James Dean’s legacy for the benefit of everyone to enjoy while experiencing Fairmount today — and for years to come.

JD on Main Street #2

James Dean is standing next to long-time friend, Bill Beck, twelve-year old cousin Marcus Winslow, Jr., and Everett Hiatt in front of Corn Auctioneers (now Fairmount Helping Hands) at 119 N. Main Street, as Bill’s wife, Roma walks along Main Street to greet them all. Photo: Dennis Stock / Magnum Photos, February 1955.

What has it been like to work with the individuals involved in bringing this project to life?

I first mentioned this project concept with James Dean’s cousin, Mark Winslow, who has been a close friend of mine for over 30 years. He liked the idea and suggested I convey it to Jim Hayes who was head of Main Street Fairmount. Mark introduced me to Jim and the association’s President, Alissa Meyer during the James Dean memorial service in 2018. I then submitted my initial ideas and worked with Alissa to formulate an exciting plan that grew to become the James Dean Visual Tour. In addition, I also got to work with Tate Powell, Jessica Rolph, and Debbie Shrout of the First Farmers Bank and Trust; as well as with several proprietors of Fairmount businesses where the James Dean Visual Tour signs would be displayed.

Why do you feel that the work carried on at The Fairmount Historical Museum as well as the James Dean Gallery is important to the keeping the town vital and thriving?

The Fairmount Historical Museum and the James Dean Gallery are the primary destinations for visitors throughout the year beyond the annual James Dean Festival. Today, the Museum and Gallery creatively utilize social media as a dynamic vehicle to promote their respective attractions and future events for James Dean fans and future visitors. Many thanks go out to the Museum’s Christy Pulley and Dorothy Schultz who have been very supportive while assisting with this project.

James Dean walking on Washington St. #3

James Dean is walking along East Washington Street…with the Citizens Exchange Bank’s golden dome in the background. Photo: Dennis Stock / Magnum Photos, February 1955.

Do you feel honored to have the chance to further educate the world on the life of James Dean?

Yes, I do. As a biographer and author, I feel obligated to promote the James Dean legacy and to provide James Dean fans and devotees with the most relevant history, especially with respect to Jimmy’s passion for motorsports and his ownership of two Porsche sports and racing cars.

Interestingly, of the published authors who have written about James Dean, I take pride in being one of the few who continues to update my James Dean publications and documentaries with new factual changes and stories substantiated by first-hand research and attribution. I feel it is important to educate Jimmy’s fans to keep his legacy bright and untarnished from embellished and untruthful stories.

JD Goon #4

James Dean acting in the play “Goon with the Wind,” a parody on the story of Frankenstein. Jimmy played the dual role of “The Creature” & the Villain in this Halloween play on this same Fairmount High stage in 1948. Photo: Courtesy of David Nall / Fairmount Historical Museum.

How do you hope this endeavor benefits the residents and the town of Fairmount itself in years to come?

The James Dean Visual Tour —”Jimmy Dean Was Here” establishes a sense of reality where Jimmy’s presence in Fairmount was very special for not just him, but for his friends, and his family. He was truly an easy going and fun-loving individual.

How do you think James Dean himself would have felt about the impact he has had on the town over the years?

I believe that Jimmy would have a huge grin on his face…in disbelief that he had become a real American Icon growing up in Fairmount’s rural environment. Unlike portraying the older and richer Jett Rink in Giant, Jimmy would most likely have been a very humbled individual…having much compassion and gratitude for being a Fairmount Hoosier.’

JD Visual Tour FHS #5

James Dean is visiting Fairmount High and reflecting upon his performances as a young actor on this same stage. Photo: Dennis Stock / Magnum Photos, February 1955.

Can you tell our readers a little more about what to expect from the Visual Tour?

The visual tour will allow everyone to stand in Jimmy’s footprints — to recapture some of these historical moments — with a posed photograph and/or with their own ‘selfie.’ Additionally, Main Street Fairmount, the Fairmount Historical Museum, David Loehr’s James Dean Gallery, Fairmount Helping Hands, and the First Farmers Bank and Trust will have ‘hand-out’ tour maps to provide visitors with the exact location of the five ‘Visual Tour’ displays along the Main Street area and at the Playacres Park Pavilion.

JD Visual Tour Map 091519

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

I have always enjoyed the opportunity and excitement to be part of Fairmount as a visitor and a long-time contributing James Dean biographer / author. I hope that I can continue to make these small contributions in furtherance of James Dean’s wonderful and deserving legacy.

Lee Raskin, JD

Baltimore, Maryland

 

JD Festival Lee and Salinas book

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