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Touched by a Legend: Marfa's Living Legacy, Part Two

by Magdalin Leonardo

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All text and images © 1998 Magdalin Leonardo.

Not all of Marfa's female fans got THAT close to Jimmy...but many of them were lucky enough to meet him. Lucie and Ofelia, two cousins who spent a lot of time at the El Paisano Hotel, not only watched the filming of many Dean scenes, they even got to hang out with Jimmy. (And they've got the pictures to prove it!)

scrapbook lady b/w

lady with picture   Here is Lucie.

Lucie and Ofelia have dozens of precious photographs between them, each one more remarkable than the next. There were smiling shots of Jimmy with co-star Dennis Hopper, a surprised Jimmy eating breakfast at the El Paisano, even a shirtless Jimmy relaxing between scenes! The most memorable of all was a shot of Jimmy with Lucie, Ofelia and several cast members in front of the El Paisano Hotel.

Dean at coffee shop, smaller

Both cousins had entire photo albums filled with these tiny, black and white treasures; each one was smaller than a credit card. In addition to her photo album, Ofelia also had a huge scrapbook on Jimmy, with newspaper and magazine clippings galore.

mask b/w     One of my favorites touted a life-like James Dean mask.

Dean in briefs     Ofelia's favorite was a black and white shot of Jimmy in his underwear. "He wasn't skinny," she said as she admired the picture, "He had nice legs." Looking at the photo (which I don't ever recall seeing before), I had to agree!

Yet even as I stared at these photos, it was (and still is) absolutely unbelievable to me that a star of Jimmy's caliber would stop to pose with fans. I've read about Jimmy's moodiness in countless biographies, but Lucie was adamant about Jimmy's generous spirit. "He was VERY friendly," Lucie says. "Liz (Taylor) and Rock (Hudson) would never pose for pictures, but Jimmy was always doing it. He even gave out autographs."

Jimmy also didn't seem to mind that fans followed him around wherever he went. "We'd go to the El Paisano every night," Lucie said with a smile. "He talked a lot about his childhood."

When I asked Lucie what her most precious memory of Jimmy was, she didn't hesitate one bit. "He had the sexiest giggle," she says. "It made us melt every time!"

Those lucky Marfans! Is there a woman alive who wouldn't kill for the chance to see this legend up close? Well...a lady I met named Lee may very well be one of those women. Lee was married back in '55 and she and her husband were used as extras in "Giant." The couple appeared in two scenes: the unforgettable "My well came in, Bick" scene (my absolute favorite--I'm SO jealous!) and the famous barbeque scene where Liz Taylor (a.k.a. Leslie Benedict) faints.

house    Lee was nice enough to show me the house that Jimmy stayed in with Rock Hudson and Chill Wills during "Giant's" filming. Despite local rumors that Jimmy stayed at the El Paisano, Lee would prove to be a credible source: the home had been in her family at the time.

ONE FINAL NOTE: Darlyne, Lucie, Ofelia and Lee are just a handful of the people I met in Marfa who played a part in "Giant's" living legacy; I couldn't possibly name them all here. Yet they all opened up their hearts and homes to me, and for this I am forever grateful. As both a writer and Dean fan, the biggest thrill for me is meeting those who knew and/or worked with Jimmy. It's always a privilege to hear their stories firsthand, and I want to thank you all for making my trip to Marfa one I will cherish forever!

All text and images © 1998 Magdalin Leonardo, email

NEXT: Part Three of Faces and Places

Continue Your Voyage:

  1. Overview: Where the heck is Marfa?
  2. Getting There
  3. The Arcón Inn
  4. Part one, Reata Ruins
  5. Part two, The Ruins of Reata
  6. Little Reata
  7. El Paisano Hotel
  8. Borunda’s Bar and Grill
  9. Faces and Places, Part One
  10. Part Two, Faces and Places
  11. Part Three of Faces and Places
  12. “Jimmy Beans”
  13. Reata Restaurant, Alpine
  14. Reata Restaurant, Alpine
  15. About the Author

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