Funny Liz Taylor story....and James Dean’s death
They were shooting Cleopatra in Rome while I was out in Beverly Hills working at the post office (after the Army...hanging out with Nick.)
On the way out to LA I had gone through north Texas and exited toward Marfa...where the filmed Giant. It was filmed and released while I was still overseas so I didn’t catch the “James Dean” bug until months after I came home.
I was still in my “Dean” phase and read the first bio by his former roommate... William Bast. Bast was listed in the phonebook so I gave him a call and he was kind enough to invite me over to his place for a chat.
We talked about Dean for awhile...then he showed me a letter he had just gotten from his friend Roddy McDowell who was playing one of the lead parts in Cleopatra.
The scene on the set was intense...Roddy wrote...Taylor & Richard Burton (who was Marc Anthony in the film) were “entangled” in a mad affair. She was still married to singer Eddie Fisher....so it was a huge scandal and tabloid heaven.
McDowell wrote to Bast that everyday they expected the Rome police to show up to arrest both Taylor and Burton! It was a wild time.
A few years later I would have Chill Wills on my show in New Orleans.
Chill Wills was just a delight...old and sharp of mind and he went on and on about the filming of Giant (he had a major role).
He said Dean never took a shower the whole time they were in Marfa...that must have been weeks and weeks. This was contrary to writeups of Liz Taylor mothering Dean on the set. If she did that she would have tossed him in a bath!
I visited the small town in Indiana where he was born and went to high school...Fairmont....also his burial place north of Fairmont near the farm home where he spent his youth. Tourists had already started chipping pieces of the grave stone for souvenirs which I found tasteless and absurd
Yes, I was slightly obsessed for a short time and while in LA...I drove the same highway northward toward Salinas and came to the junction of highways 41 and 46 where the smashup occurred September 30, 1955...a few years earlier. I parked and walked near the highway but at that time was was little to mark the spot. I think a few pots of dead flowers were there placed by Dean fans.
Now there is an official memorial sign so all will know and remember what a significant and short life this young man had and how he impacted almost everyone...in just three films.