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What Makes a Fan a Fan?

Dean by Marina Savich    Image copyright ©1997 by Marina Savic

In June of 1997, Magdalin Leonardo, email magdalin@webfields.com of New York wrote to me. She's writing a book about Dean fans. She asked whether I'm a major fan.

That is an interesting idea. Am I a major fan? I have pondered this for a long time.


I'm not sure I qualify. Here are some of the reasons why:

  1. I won't buy or even read a book about Dean if it has nasty things in it about him. Therefore my collection is incomplete.

  2. If my house were on fire, there are things I would save before I'd save my Deanabilia. (You asked what, and the answer is my family pictures and my record collection.)

  3. I don't watch and rewatch his movies. I love Rebel Without a Cause, but I haven't memorized it. I think I may have seen all of East of Eden but it seemed an unpleasant and improbable story. As for Giant, I never had any particular interest in it either, other than James Dean's role. I'm glad he got paid for making them and all, but only Rebel really grabs me. I identify with the outsider and the rebel image.

  4. I can't remember details the way a real fan does. I know all the basics and pass quizzes by other fans who want to see if I do know anything, but there are still things I don't know. I can't name every credit in each of his movies. I can't name all the TV shows he appeared on, and list the casts from memory. And that doesn't bother me.
    I've enough trouble getting through a day without being bothered by what I don't know.

  5. I even had the church name wrong, for his funeral. I assumed it was Back Creek Friends Church, but it was the other Friends Meeting in downtown Fairmount.

  6. And the worst of all, I don't have any James Dean tattoos. (Or any other tattoos, sis.)

But on the other hand....

  1. But I made all these pages and loved doing it.
  2. And I buy more and more Deanabilia.
  3. And I bought a sand-cast bronze belt buckle of Dean made by Kenneth Kendall. It was $75.00, so I now know I will part with money for the right Dean collector item. I'm not in the big leagues but I'm a player.
  4. And I only hang out with people who are respectful of James Dean and his memory.
  5. And I expect to go to the birthday dance and the festival every year forever.
  6. And I wear a Mark Kinnaman denim jacket with James Dean painted on it whenever weather permits.
  7. And I always carry silk flowers in my car (for Jimmy's grave) in case I get near Fairmount.
  8. And I learn more Dean lore every day.

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How did I come to have a web site then? It happened like this....

I had been writing about where I live, Bluffton Indiana on the web in 1996. I decided to add a side-trip section on day trips to take from Bluffton. I wrote about Fairmount because I have relatives there, and we all know a lot about James Dean by osmosis. Then people began writing me with questions. As I answered each one, I added it to the web site. It grew, and grew, and grew, and I remembered more and more things of interest.

Friends I made via email sent me pictures. Everyone was so nice!

Then for the first time, in September 1996, I went to the James Dean Festival and also for the first time I entered the wonderful James Dean Gallery. (I had always wanted to go, but the festival fell on the same weekend when I had to man the booth for the Humane Society here at the Bluffton Street Fair.) I also joined WRDI which I just learned of in 1996.

I looked at everything in Fairmount as if I were from Japan or Europe. I wrote about what I'd want to know if I couldn't get there in person.
That's why my site is about James Dean's Fairmount, and has little else about him.

And to know Dean Archivist David Loehr and Lenny Prussack at the James Dean Memorial Gallery is to love them. I love to write about what they are doing. David promotes dances and he has the great Rockabilly Rebel Weekend with its James Dean theme. How could I not write about that!

So I believe I am just a geographically-limited fan! Not a partial fan, but an incomplete fan. Yes, I do keep a big picture of James Dean over our mantle in the living room, and I have lots of books, pictures, some life-size cut-outs, many posters and Dean calendars about the house, but I have some family photographs too, so I am not as dedicated a fan as some people. I have only been collecting Deanabilia since 1989.

When I heard that someone was researching Dean fans, I wondered how I would measure up. I still don't know. What makes a fan? It's a good question.


Magdalin Leonardo, email magdalin@webfields.com wants to hear from you. Please contact her by email. Describe what makes you a fan. You'll probably end up in her book! Or visit with her at David Loehr's Fourth of July Fan Weekend in Fairmount!

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