I’ve long been obsessed with James Dean. He possessed an artsy-like coolness that is rare in Hollywood-types. The only other actors who possessed this same coolness in my opinion were River Phoenix and Jon Eric Hexum. This morning, while viewing A.O.Scott‘s critique of East of Eden (http://tinyurl.com/4q2dq8h), I am reminded of another cool guy who, perhaps not as well-known to the masses, was very well-known to James Dean.
William Bast, writer was not as well-known as his friend, James Dean. After Dean’s untimely death, Bast became the unofficial biographer of his life. Because of the social ills of those times, I suppose Bast was limited in what he could disclose regarding his friendship with Dean but it has been widely accepted that the two were, for at least a time, lovers as well as friends. After Dean’s death Bast was asked on several occasions to write about his friendship with Dean. In my opinion, he answered that call very well and did great justice to the friendship. On his blog Blast writes of the “amazing time” he spent with Dean during those years between scarce work and utter stardom. In the end though, their friendship, at times tumultuous, was cut short by Dean’s untimely death, perhaps forever ensuring Dean’s fame and Blast’s undue obscurity. The Dean-Blast friendship caused me to wonder. What remains when a friendship has ended by death, distance, or circumstance?
My best friend and I became friends as adolescents. We both shared a love of art, music, NYC, and Interview magazine. However, the stuff of life separated us far too soon and as young adults, we lost touch. The strange thing is, I became lost in the idea of finding him. It was as if Phorest was a missing person. You can’t mourn the lost; they are not dead. But at the same time, you can’t find them and you want to. Much like Bast, no one wants to hear your feelings regarding the friendship unless it fits into a category familiar to them. You’re often labeled foolish for looking for a friend who seemingly, is not looking for you. Granted, the technological advances of today, Facebook, Google, etc., were not as readily available a decade ago but I recall being in NYC, sitting at a table at Viand, willing Phorest to appear. Convinced by my imagination he was in NYC, I wanted to find him.
Who’s responsible for what remains when a friendship has ended abruptly? What do you tell people when asked, “what ever happened to . . .,”? Does one friend, as in Bast’s case, have the right to creative control over the telling of the friendship story? Is it possible that each friend is left to ponder the answer to that question? Even if the friendship is rediscovered, what is to be said about the lost years?
- ArtsBeat: Critics’ Picks Video: ‘East of Eden’ (artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com)