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

by Magdalin Leonardo

Marfa pages are:
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All text and images © 1998 Magdalin Leonardo.

Before I even set foot in Marfa, I had done my share of research on the town. But even then, I was only able to contact two people beforehand: Clay Evans and Darlyne Freeman. My interview with Clay was crucial because of the Reata Ruins But my meeting with Darlyne was fascinating from a different point of view: She's one of the only women alive (besides all those Hollywood actresses James Dean dated) to kiss our favorite legend.

I had read about Darlyne's famous rendezvous with Jimmy in a local Texas magazine, and I was just dying to meet her. What female Dean fan wouldn't be? Kissing Jimmy is a fantasy many of us share...but for Darlyne, it was a reality.

lady in blue b/w     Darlyne.

I arrived in Marfa on a Thursday afternoon. Darlyne agreed to meet me the very next day and was nice enough to pick me up from The Arcón Inn, where I was staying. An attractive woman in her late 50s, Darlyne greeted me with a gorgeous smile and made me feel right at ease in her beautiful home. I didn't see any Dean memorabilia anywhere, but as I soon discovered, Jimmy's image is very much alive in her memory.

In 1955, Darlyne was a student at Marfa High School and at 16, she was already a diehard fan. "Jimmy was Drop Dead Gorgeous," Darlyne gushed. "We were in love with him before he even got here!"

The "we" Darlyne refers to is a group of local girls that included herself and five or six other close friends. This tight-knit bunch was bold as well as beautiful, and Darlyne isn't ashamed to admit it. "We were conceited little kids," she says. "We were all good lookin’!"

One look at Darlyne, with her flaming red hair, flawless skin, and sparkling blue eyes, it's not hard to believe. But you don't have to take my word for it. Darlyne was a three-time high school beauty pageant winner, proof positive of the crown-holding beauties Texas is famous for.

In fact, I'm sure that's why Darlyne was cast as an extra in "Giant." And you can see for yourself: she appears very briefly in the scene where the parade welcomes the men back home from the war. You may not recognize her at first; she was a blonde at the time. But look closely at the crowd as the camera pans across the high school band; she's the first baton twirler you see, wearing a purple and white satin uniform.

Darlyne and her friends were eager to spend some quality time with Jimmy. When they invited him over to a hamburger dinner, he was gracious enough to accept their invitation. (Now how many modern-day stars would do that? Leonardo? I don't think so.)

When Jimmy arrived, he had a coke but he didn't want to sit down; he seemed to be the only guy there and it made him uncomfortable. (This was done on purpose, of course.) When Jimmy asked Darlyne about it, she readily admitted that he was in fact, the only male they had invited.

Sensing his growing unease, Darlyne said that Jimmy could leave if he wanted to, but not before "he kissed every last one of us." Amazingly, Jimmy obliged, and each lucky girl got a quick peck on the cheek. Darlyne will never forget it. "He had the softest mouth!" she bragged. (Sigh! If only it had been me!)

All text and images © 1998 Magdalin Leonardo, email magdalin2000@earthlink.net

NEXT: Part Two 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 of Faces and Places
  11. Part Three of Faces and Places
  12. “Jimmy Beans”
  13. Part One, Reata Restaurant, Alpine
  14. Reata Restaurant, Alpine, Part Two
  15. About the Author

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