A Lawrence man left Friday to take part in the 40th anniversary of James Dean's death.
When John Howland was 12, he saw "Rebel Without a Cause" at a St. Joseph, Mo., movie house -- and it changed his life.
Not that Howland sports a ducktail, wears a red-leather jacket or drives a suped-up speedster. But he did take a fancy to the teen-age rebel James Dean and is now the owner of more than 300 items commemorating the actor's brief career and ill-fated life.
Howland, a social sciences instructor at Haskell Indian Nations University, left Lawrence on Friday to drive to Fairmount, Ind., a town of about 3,000, north of Indianapolis, that hosts the annual James Dean celebration.
This year is special -- it's the 40th anniversary of Dean's death, and about 30,000 people are expected to take part in the festival's sock-hop, parade, James Dean look-alike contest, carnival and car shows.
Howland, who has been to past celebrations and is a member of the We Remember Dean International fan club, will be spending time with some of Dean's old friends and Marcus Winslow Jr., who resides on his parents' homestead in Fairmount, where Dean came to live at age 9 after his mother's death.
Howland also will get a chance to meet Kenneth Kendall, an oil painter and sculptor who has devoted most of his career to capturing Dean's likeness. He and Kendall have been corresponding for years, but have never met face-to-face.
Kendall created the 3-foot bronze bust of Dean that will be unveiled this weekend at a Fairmount park that will be named after the actor. The monument is identical to one at Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, where Dean had a knife fight with gang members in "Rebel Without a Cause."
Howland has been collecting Dean memorabilia for seven years.
"I stick to the pre-1960s stuff," he said.
Items in his collection include:
- Two pages of a language homework assignment completed by Dean when he was in the third grade. The youngster, who was studying the difference between the words "babbler" and "baffle," signed his name on the lined-notebook paper seven times.
- An 1949 Fairmount High School yearbook, signed by Dean, who graduated that year.
- Authentic paint chips and glass fragments from the Porsche Spyder that Dean was driving when he crashed into another car and died on Sept. 30, 1955.
- Original movie stills from "East of Eden," "Rebel Without a Cause" and "Giant," the only movies made during Dean's six-month film career. "Rebel" premiered a month after his death; "Giant," a year later.
Howland said James Dean collectors need to be aware of bogus memorabilia. For example, one man called offering to sell him a rare "Giant" poster with Dean's signature.
His response: "I told him it was unbelievably rare because Jimmy had died before the poster was even printed."