BH: How do you account for your youthful appearance?
SM: Good genes, I guess. . . . Genes- G-E-N-E-S- by the way!
BH: Does approaching middle age bother you?
SM: As Mae West said, does it bother you? (laughs.)
BH: Or will middle age mean you can finally get away from playing the
SM: Good question. I'm only thirty-three- I hope you don't think of that as
being middle-aged! It's all in your mind, anyway. Remember when Marilyn Monroe
turned thirty-six and she said she looked pretty good for someone her age? That
was sad. . . . Maybe you don't remember that.
BH: I certainly remember Marilyn. I'll never forget the morning I found out
she was dead. I was in second or third grade, and my family was in L.A. That
morning, when we came down into the lobby, the first thing I saw was the
headline in the newspaper. It was very sad. It affected me much more than
President Kennedy's death.
SM: How come?
BH: Age. To a third-grader, a president, any president, was just some guy in
Washington. But Marilyn was the first movie star I knew, and she was so pretty-
after she died, I wished I could have been her friend. Probably everybody's felt
that way.... How did her death affect you, Sal?
SM: I cried. She was a nice kid, a good kid. I met her, of course. But we
never worked together. How about you- did you cry?
BH: No. Not when she died. Afterward, when we were visiting some friends of
my parents, and these people were making very disparaging remarks about her. I
cried then. I couldn't understand why they'd want to do that.
SM: Everyone forgets- fortunately, I guess- that Marilyn was not only a sex
symbol, she was real controversial. Especially when she started out. I remember,
because movie people were split fifty-fifty for and against her.
BH: The double standard: since she was a sexy woman, she was looked on as
some kind of prostitute, by some.
SM: And then as she grew more celebrated or whatever, some of the people
who'd liked her turned on her. Because she'd be notoriously late on the set-
man, I could never get away with that. But I never thought less of her for it. .
. . Did you ever cry after Kennedy died?
BH: Did you?
SM: Yeah. But I cry easy. Comes from being a wop.
BH: Well, as I said, I came to appreciate President Kennedy after reading
about him. At the time, when I saw the coverage on TV, what amazed and kind of
pleased me was how all those grown people were crying, even men. I didn't
believe most grown-ups had the tenderness to be able to cry.
SM: Nice discovery. . . . Well, like you say, as I get older, the range of
roles for me will hopefully open up. But I'm sick of waiting, and they still
think of me like I only did a couple of roles, and the rest of my career was all
BH: Still the Switchblade Kid, huh?
SM: (Smiles.) That's right! Still the best pal to the lead. (Shakes
head.) Hollywood don't flex its muscle-brain.
BH: How do you mean?
SM: What you start out as is pretty much how you wind up. I mean, you get
typed in the first thing that clicks, then they don't give you no more fuckin'
BH: It's harder for those who begin very young, isn't it?
SM: Everyone knows that. Almost no kid star ever becomes an adult star- the
ones that do are all girls.
BH: Your first film was?
SM: Six Bridges to Cross. God, don't remind me. Jeez... They should
have titled it Six Bridges to Burn. But I was lucky, 'cause then came
BH: So much has been said and written about that film.
SM: You're telling me. . . . Why don't you ask me about that later? I get
these interviewers who just want to ask about Dean and Rebel, and they go
on and on, like they were writing a book!
BH: Do you ever think that, if you hadn't been in Rebel, you might
have become a bigger star?
SM: You mean I might've had the lead. When I started in films I was
fifteen, sixteen, and I had this baby face that made me look like a wheat-flour
dumpling or something. And the name didn't exactly help.
BH: That's true. . . . Come to think of it, you're almost the only
Italian-American actor who was allowed to keep his surname. Did you put up a big
fight to retain it?
SM: Damn right, man. I'm proud of being a wop.
BH: First time I heard "wop," I thought it was a kind of little fish- like a
SM: Pollywop's an Italian parrot. . . . Yeah, I was unique. They made all the
guys change names and half of them had to have nose jobs, like Dean Martin,
alias Dino Crocetti. And the girls: Anne Bancroft's real name was Italiano- and
Paula Prentiss' was Ragusa, I think.
BH: What did they think they were accomplishing by doing that, I wonder?
Particularly since most of the studio heads weren't WASPs.
BH: Easier to control people when you can keep them fitting into molds, I
SM: Hell, not just that, they didn't want the world to know there was an
Italian heritage. Or that you could look all kinds of ways and be Italian. We
ain't all olive-skinned. Look at Connie Stevens or what's-her-name . . .
BH: And look at Virna Lisi, fresh from the old country.
SM: You are making me horny.
BH: Who are those two girls you mentioned, for a double date?
SM: (Laughs.) Are you kidding? I got a girl in every port- and a
couple of guys in every port, too.
BH: Do you think rumors about being bi have hurt you in your career?
SM: Maybe. . . Nah, I doubt it. Everyone's got those rumors following him
around, whether it's true or not. Everyone's supposed to be bi, starting way
back with Gary Cooper and on through Brando and Clift and Dean and Newman and .
. . you want me to stop?
BH: Did you resent the rumors?
SM: Well, no. Because what's wrong with being bi? Maybe most people are, deep
BH: Shirley MacLaine has publicly said that.
SM: I think she's right- got a good noodle, Shirl does. But anyhow, the rumor
about me, from what I hear, was usually that I'm gay. Where, like, with Monty
Clift or Brando, the rumor was that they're bi. [Brando later publicly admitted
BH: There was also a rumor that you once hustled. ...
SM: Hustled? Me? No. I never charged no one in my life- and I could
have, too. But I tell you this: some of my relatives, over in Sicily, are
ragazzi di vita.
BH: "Boys of life?"
SM: Yeah- means hustlers. (Shrugs.) A lot more of that goes on than
people think, especially in poor places.
BH: What about Hollywood's male casting couch?
SM: What about it? There's always been a casting couch- gay, bi, straight,
BH: Even women behind the casting couch now, I hear.
SM: Yeah, but not much. They gotta keep more careful about their reps than
men do. Anyway, if you want to know if I've been on the couch, unh-unh.
BH: Careers can't be built on couches, right?
SM: You got it. I mean, a chick or a guy can get some tiny part or get put in
front of a crowd, maybe. But that's it. And it's blackmail- you gotta
keep playing the guy's game. It wouldn't be worth it. And it would mean you
can't get by on your talent.
BH: Have you felt being stereotyped limited your talent?
SM: No one ever said movies are for developing your range. Hardly anyone gets
that opportunity. Which is why I think the stage is so good. It's less bread,
but you can play different types, and you can initiate your own projects.
BH: Have you given up on movies?
SM: I've never given up completely. It's hard to let go. Maybe if I had, if
I'd gone and become some top-notch stage actor, then they'd have rediscovered
me. That can happen.
BH: Escape from the Planet of the Apes was a hit. Will you do more of
SM: Eh, sequels . . . I'll bet you didn't exactly recognize me in it. I doubt
I'll do another; it's pretty thankless. Frankly, I did it for the bread.
BH: You didn't become a millionaire with all those movies?
SM: Not many did. It's just that you keep hearing about the ones who did. And
now they earn obscene kinds of bread, and there's a bigger difference now
between what a big star earns and a... lesser star. Who says it's a democratic
BH: You've also spent quite a bit on your family?
SM: You read that? (Smiles.) Where'd you read that?
BH: Years back, I guess. About how you bought your mom a home and provided
for your sister and brother-
SM: Brothers. Yeah, well, we wops stick together. Least I could do.
BH: Now, you know, what I remember you best from was Exodus. My
parents took us to see it when it came out, and it made a big impression
SM: What part did you like best?
BH: Well, not a part, or even all the fine actors in it, but the
story, the drama about reestablishing Israel, and what they had to go through to
do it. The shocking part, to me, was how unfair the British were- up till then,
I'd always thought they were more civilized.
SM: It's a terrific story, and Otto Preminger made it more than just a movie,
but you know what shocked a lot of people then? My part: where Dov Landau
confesses that the Nazis used him "like a woman." The word homosexual had
hardly been mentioned in anything then, and when I said that ... the speech, you
could hear the shock.
BH: It must've shocked the Academy into nominating you for an Oscar.
SM: It sure helped. Sympathy. For the character, who died in the end-
pardon the pun. He had to die, even though he was straight and in love
with this blond girl, because he was, shall we say, tainted. In the censors'
BH: Hollywood morality ... The funny thing is, when I saw it at the cinema,
the rape part went right past me. Kids don't get that. Later, when I saw
it on TV, years ago, already, it was like hearing that part of the movie for the
SM: Was the first time you heard it. Yeah, Preminger had a lot of
guts. He was real anti-censor, 'cause he was so pro-liberty, and years before
Exodus he was testing the censors with his subject matter. He was the
first one to prove you didn't need the god-damned Seal [the Production Code Seal
of Approval] for commercial success. He helped end movie censorship.
BH: A remarkable man. Who won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar that year?
SM: Mr. Peter Ustinov. Spartacus- guys who didn't like Kirk Douglas
called it Sparagus. But Peter's okay- a good actor. He won
two Oscars. I guess that proves he's good.
BH: Who won when you were nominated for Rebel? Then we'll get off this
SM: Ta-da: Jack Lemmon, in Mister Roberts. I knew he'd win.
BH: Coincidentally- or not -your character, Plato, was killed off in
SM: Makes sense: he was, in a way, the first gay teenager in films. You watch
it now, you know he had the hots for James Dean. You watch it now, and
everyone knows about Jimmy, so it's like he had the hots for Natalie
[Wood] and me. Ergo, I had to be bumped off, out of the way.
BH: Straight critics and audiences would mostly see that Plato was looking
for a father figure, since he comes from a broken home.
SM: The brokenest! So what's the point?
BH: I think people tend to see what they want to see. Plato's feelings may be
a mixture of seeking the missing father and idolizing or adoring Jim, but
straights will see only the one aspect and gays will see only the other. What do
SM: Does that mean only bisexuals see both aspects?
BH: Could be....
SM: I do think Rebel's one of those superflicks that are all things to
all people. It has so many levels.
BH: So in a sense, your career began at the top...
SM: And I've been working my way down ever since.
BH: I didn't mean that. But people who peak early- like you, with your Oscar
nominations within five or six years of each other- often find it difficult to
live up to the early promise, right?
SM: Don't I know. . . . No, you're absolutely right. You only get a
Rebel or an Exodus once in a few years, and if you can work up to
that, people see you as developing. If it starts out that way, they see you as,
well, regressing. Those are maybe my most famous flicks, and I played fucked-up
teens in them, so guess what they kept offering me?
BH: I found Dino very touching- the best thing I've ever seen on
juvenile delinquency and the vicious circle of reform schools.
SM: It was pretty decent. But you know what I liked? The Gene Krupa
Story. I loved those drums, man!
BH: I haven't seen that. I almost saw one of yours called Tonka.
Didn't have any idea what it was about, but I used to play with Tonka trucks
when I was a kid, so...
SM: Why didn't you see it?
BH: I went out on a date that night.
SM: So tell me.
BH: I had a date with this girl on Saturday night, but she wanted to change
it to Friday, because of a family visit. But I'm sure I'll catch up with
SM: Eh, don't bother. If you've got a heavy date, go with it, man. Or her, or
him, or whatever.
BH: Do you think bisexuality is the true norm?
SM: You mean do I think everyone's bi? Yeah. . . if they'd be honest about
it, or try it. How about you?
BH: I don't think one can generalize about people that way.
SM: How about you personally?
BH: I've been attracted to both. . . . Now, back to your career. Did you
think of yourself as a sex symbol?
SM: An SS? (laughs.) Not after I made Exodus. You know, Otto
sounds like a Nazi, and he's a tough buzzard, but he's got a great heart.
Nice man. . . . What were we talking about? Oh, yeah. Did or do I
consider myself sexy?
BH: Do you consider yourself a sex symbol?
SM: Only when I'm alone and lonely... if you know what I mean.
BH: Who doesn't?
SM: Oh, I know a few devout Sicilians who don't. . .
SM: Are you kidding? Nuns. Priests do it right and left- there's more
gay priests than you can figure. Why do you think the Church is so down on
SM: Yeah, that and the clothes they wear. Anyway, I don't want to offend
BH: Well, speaking of headgear, anyway, you did Escape from Zahrain
with Yul Brynner. I think he kept that hood on his head through the whole movie!
What's the story?
SM: That flick was not made in the shade, man. Desert heat, and then some. I
don't think Yul wanted to bother shaving two, three times a day.
BH: You're right- he had a beard, too.
SM: Mostly I think he wanted to look exotic.
BH: I don't think he could help that.
SM: And it was a scene-stealing thing: everyone kept wondering if he'd ever
remove the friggin' hood.
BH: What was it like working with Paul Newman in Somebody Up There Likes
SM: You didn't even comment that I did two flicks with Escape in the
title. (Smiles.) Paul was pretty new then. Like me. Only, he was taller
and he had blue eyes, and being half-Gentile, he could get into leading-man
parts just like that. (Snaps fingers.)
BH: He certainly had the required look.
SM: And then some. And don't think he didn't know it. Well, the truth is, we
didn't get along that great.
BH: That sort of parallels the fact that Rock Hudson and James Dean didn't
get along on Giant. Older man/younger man rivalry?
SM: Maybe. But Paul- I gotta be fair to the man- he had a heavy part, with
makeup and cauliflower ears and all, so he had lots to worry about. Plus he was
runnin' sorta scared, with one big bomb behind him. We were all impressed out of
our wits- I came from the stage, and Hollywood was it. I'd have done
anything they wanted.
BH: Was Newman approachable? I've heard he has a considerable ego.
SM: We all have that. But yeah, he was on kind of a star trip. He could
afford to be. Leading men can survive a few flops. Me, if I'd had a few flops
back then, I'd have been demoted to bit parts or stuck in some crowd scene.
BH: I once came across a color picture in a movie book of you and Barbara
Eden and other actors and actresses, all in swimsuits, posing for a cheesecake
or beefcake shot. Your arms were all linked, and-
SM: Jesus, that was long ago! I haven't seen that picture in, God, I don't
know how long. We were all on this artificial beach set. I have to admit, I
looked pretty cool, even back then.
BH: You're one of those people who look better, the older they get.
SM: Thanks. Yeah, so far. But did you get a load of Eden's hips?
BH: Her hair was darker, too, and she wasn't at all as attractive as she is
now. What happened?
SM: They go to work on the dames the moment they set foot in the studio gate.
They starve them, they set these fag beauty experts on them, and they tell them
to get gorgeous or else no dice.
BH: Anything comparable for the men?
SM: Lose the weight- but not too much. I've never had any real weight
problem. Wait till your mid-twenties, then you'll know. Something happens
around twenty-five, and you can never eat the same way again. Or if you do, the
weight starts creeping up on you, faster and faster- according to my friends.
BH: They must have shaved your chest in that beach shot.
SM: Hair is- was- "vulgah ."
BH: They didn't try to change your New York accent?
SM: They tried to change everything except my fuckin' gender! But they
finally figured out that maybe what I had worked. And it did, for the kind of
things I did at first, and kept on doing.
BH: Some more titles of your movies: The Longest Day, Crime in the
Streets, The Young Don't Cry. . . Rather grim titles. Anything you want to
say about any of them?
SM: Just watch them, if you like. They're self-explained. Most of them are
BH: Krakatoa, East of Java. Probably a disaster film ahead of its
SM: Nobody remembered Krakatoa- sounded like a voodoo flick to most people.
BH: I did see The Greatest Story Ever Told.
SM: You Catholic, too?
BH: My mother is. Why?
SM: It could've broken even if all the Catholics and their families had seen
BH: I did my part- I saw it twice.
SM: Once for the plot and once for the scenery?
I played Uriah; it was an all-star thing. Everyone was in it. And it offended
just about everyone- either that, or they just didn't give a damn.
BH: It was a 1965 film. I guess Biblical pictures were completely out of
favor by then. Prophets became losses.
SM: Very good! (Both laugh.)
BH: It's not mine- someone told me that one. But George Stevens, of
Giant, directed Story.
SM: What was he like to work with? Well, I didn't exactly have a starring
role. That was Max von Sydow, who's a nice guy. A lot nicer than the last guy
who'd played Jesus...
BH: Jeffrey Hunter, in King of Kings.
SM: Yeah, young blue-eyes. Gorgeous. A creep.
BH: He was bisexual, wasn't he?
SM: Yeah. Anyway, Stevens was good- I mean, a good director. But a tough old
buzzard. The best directors are usually tough nuts to crack, but the result's
usually worth it, after.
BH: Pat Boone was in Story, and so was Charlton Heston and...
SM: I just said: everyone was in it. Heston, he has an ego the size of
Texas and a talent the size of South Dakota.
BH: Why not North Dakota?
SM: We won't go into that. Anyhow, Boone, well, everyone knows what a bigot
he's turned out to be. . . . Who else was in that? Let's see: Victor Buono- I
forget what he played, but he's cool; real fat, so he looks twice his age.
Angela Lansbury- real nice lady, nothing like her bitchy [movie] image. Not that
I worked with hardly any of these guys, but I've at least met them all. Of
course, Roddy McDowall was in it- you know Roddy?
BH: I just know of him.
SM: Everyone knows of him . . . (Smiles.) Carroll Baker was in
it- the obligatory sex symbol, right? She played, uh, Veronica... They even got
Sidney Poitier into it. I ought to see it again some time, for laughs.
Everybody's in it; it would probably become a cult movie, if it weren't
BH: Are you religious?
SM: Privately, yeah. I'm sure no stickler for all those Catholic rules,
BH: Briefly getting back to Rebel Without a Cause.
SM: Oh, no . . . (Groans, then laughs.) In my case, Rebel Without a
Pause. Well, what?
BH: Do you agree with the statement that the characters played by you and
Dean and Natalie Wood were forming your own nuclear family in Rebel,
since they all came from broken homes?
SM: That's a good concept, but I don't know that it was what [Nicholas] Ray
and everyone intended.
BH: Because Dean and Wood were about the same age, and you were younger,
looking up to him...
SM: One thing, though: if it's some nuclear unit or whatever, the son gets
BH: Homophobia, I suppose. You'd prove a rival to Natalie for Jimmy. And the
idea is that they live happily ever after, meaning that they'll reproduce and
have their own kids.
SM: Yeah, so how's that make it a nuclear family unit?
BH: It could as easily be seen as a triangle. But when it was made, there
were no homosexual characters, ever.
SM: If there had been, I might've been called a name!
BH: That's what eventually happened; it went from invisibility on the screen
to name-calling and vituperation. If Plato had been an actually gay role, would
you have accepted it?
SM: Probably. . . . Listen, I'd have done anything to get into movies and
stay there. And if it's a big-budget flick with top names, you take anything in
it- unless you're a big star.
BH: Don't you think a lot of gay actors totally shy away from gay roles?
SM: You know they do. Rock Hudson, X, Y, Z . . . Not me- not anymore, if I
ever did. Dov was not a gay role. ...
BH: Even though he was sacrificed to homophobia. . . . What do you think of
recent gay films like The Boys in the Band or Myra Breckinridge?
SM: Myra ain't gay. That was transsexual stuff, and it was mostly
BH: And Myron- Rex Reed- was more like her boyfriend than her prior self.
SM: Right. But Mae West was a hoot in it. I got friends who go up and see
her- gay guys, jocks.
BH: Gay jocks?
SM: Yeah. They adore her, so she gets the reaction she wants out of them.
Most straight guys would gross out if she made a move on them. But Boys in
the Band was fun. It was kind of negative, because it was one of the first
movies like that- or plays. I think we'll see more and more of the gay stuff up
on the screen, because people are curious, and gays go to see anything about
themselves- especially if it's funny or sexy.
BH: You, of course, produced another stage version of Fortune and Men's
Eyes, and it was a hit.
SM: Like I said, sexy- we put in nudity and everything. I mean, that's what
they want. You don't do a thing about men behind bars and hold back on the sex
and the raunch. They know what they're expecting to see- the audiences, I mean.
BH: You had nothing to do with the movie version. What did you think of the
SM: Flop time. Unh-unh. Nothin' like my play- my version. Less integrity.
BH: Were you approached to costar in it?
SM: Dino Grows Up- the Hard Way! (Both laugh.) Well, they knew I did
the play, and I'd want some input. The producers of the flick-flop flop-flick
knew exactly what they wanted. It sure wasn't what audiences wanted.
BH: By doing FaME, you were virtually announcing your sexuality to the
public. Did you worry about that?
SM: It wasn't like producing or directing a gay movie- it got a lot less
publicity. The public hardly ever knows anything about that; if they see me kiss
a girl in a movie, that's what they remember, and that's what they assume.
BH: But more importantly, you were letting Hollywood know that you didn't
care who knew. Wouldn't that rob you of future movie roles?
SM: Sure. Once I did FaME, I probably lost half my future chances. But
that'll change- it's already changing. I think it's only going to change in a
big way- in the future, I mean- if gay actors and stars and directors come
out. That'll show the guys in charge that we're here, and we're gonna stick
around and not keep playing bury-the-queer-in-the-fairy-tale. You know what I'm
BH: Yes, I do. Do you like directing as well as acting?
SM: I like not being bossed around all the time. I'll never be Nick Ray or
George Stevens, but I'd like to direct some good pictures. It doesn't matter if
I'm in them. FaME was a great experience, and I liked working with actors
instead of just competing with them. Yeah, I want to do lots more of that. Even
if I never act again, though I'd hate not having a choice.
BH: Having a choice- isn't that what your being involved with gay themes is
about? Or, for that matter, being bisexual?
SM: I think so. I don't like having to just do straight parts, or gay parts,
and I don't like to be told I can only love a woman- or a guy.
BH: Why do you think so many gay men are turned off by bisexual men?
SM: Listen, they ain't turned off by them sexually. Maybe politically.
Because half the gays in Hollywood pretend they're bi. And I guess so far that's
a matter of survival. Some don't even have the guts to say they're bi.
BH: By the same token, some straight men, mostly younger, trendy ones, like
to say they're bisexual.
SM: That's cool. Even if it ain't true, some of them try it, once or twice,
and that's healthy. It lets them find out if they really got no taste for men,
or if they're really bi or gay, but they've been fooling themselves- like the
"straight" guy in Boys in the Band.
BH: Do you believe in trying everything once?
SM: You mean drugs, don't you? (Shrugs.) Why not? Once, anyway. I'm
not into heavy drugs. You can't be, and still work. And I like working.
It lets you show what you're made of, and it's a challenge. I mean, fuckin'
Hollywood has its faults, but I love being part of the entertainment industry.
No way I'd want to try something else- I know, from my relatives. Hardly
any of them are happy at what they're doing.
BH: Somebody in L.A. told me you'd wanted to be in Midnight Cowboy?
SM: I was, once, interested in buying the rights. Did you ever read that
novel? James Leo Herlihy- nice guy. The book's fuckin' fantastic, man. Even
better than the movie. Anyway, I'd wanted to play Ratso.
BH: Why not the Jon Voight part?
SM: Do you see blond hair on this head, huh? It's a WASP part, and Ratso's a
wop or a Jew. That ain't just my opinion, that's how Hollywood works.
BH: What was your childhood like in New York?
SM: My childhood in New York was one long Bronx cheer. Okay?
BH: You're probably a lot more interesting now. . . Was Paul Newman any nicer
SM: Everyone has a Paul Newman thing, man. (Shakes head.) He's a
great-looking ice cube. Leave it at that.
BH: You played Broadway, didn't you? A prince in The King and I?
SM: You're from the East, you do 'theatah," eventually you hit Broadway. It
ain't as exciting as it sounds.
BH: Maybe this isn't as exciting as it sounds, but in the switchblade
fight scene with Dean in Rebel, your reaction while he fights is terror,
for him, and. . . love. Were you in love with James Dean?
SM: He was a shitheel, sometimes. He liked being that way. But everybody had
moments when they loved him- one way or another. I did, too. Did we have an
affair, you mean?
BH: Then, or perhaps later . . . ?
SM: I might tell you some people I had affairs with- maybe. But Jimmy was
special, so I don't want to say.
BH: It's rare that a star has an affair with a star, isn't it?
SM: It is, for the most part. Why do you think?
BH: Why? Egos, I guess. It's easier to seduce or impress a fan than a
SM: You got it, kid. Also, there's that competitive thing: Who's the bigger
star, the top man? A pun, again. (laughs.)
BH: Do you prefer fans or stars or starlets of either gender?
SM: What do I prefer. . . Not stars, whatever that is. I mean, most people
say I'm a star, but I know I'm not a superstar. Doesn't matter. I like real
people, men who are happy being what they are, even if they don't earn a lot. I
like English guys, because they got good manners and they're not so star-struck.
BH: Blond Englishmen, huh?
SM: Not necessarily blond, and not necessarily English. I like them all- men,
I mean. And a few chicks, now and then.
BH: Are you of a monogamous nature?
SM: Make that polygamous, and you got it, kid. (Smiles.)
BH: James Dean and Nick Adams were roommates, as I'm sure you know. Were they
SM: I didn't hear it from Jimmy, who was sort of awesome to me when we did
Rebel. But Nick told me they had a big affair- I don't know if it was
while they were living together or not. But there's always the roomie thing in
Hollywood- Brando and Wally Cox, Brando and Tony Curtis, Cary Grant and Randolph
Scott- and there are always rumors about them, even if they aren't true. I think
Hollywood secretly wants to think it's true.
SM: To some straight guys- straight execs, anyway- it's a way of tearing a
star down to size. Envying him but despising him; that kind of thing- real
BH: You said earlier you'd mention an affair you had with someone famous. For
SM: For instance? How about Peter
BH: Bi, right? How about Peter
SM: Yeah. (Smiles.) How about Peter Lawford. That's enough
name-dropping for now. And I don't go much for groupies, either. Stars- big
stars- or groupies; I like someone I can relate to like a kind of equal, you
BH: So your ego has its limits?
SM: Yeah. I'm basically a good guy. (Smiles.)
BH: Was your bisexuality a problem, as far as your family was concerned, Sal?
SM: As long as you don't wear a dress or sound like Marilyn Monroe, there's
no problem that can't be worked out. One time, when my Ma wondered how come I
turned out gay, I asked her, "Ma, how come my brothers didn't?" You get
BH: Yeah- it's there to begin with.
SM: You're catching on. Besides, when you're successful, you're okay,
you know? Moms love success.
BH: She must be proud you didn't change your name to Sal Miller or something.
SM: She is. Imagine me, Sal Maynard- someone did suggest that.
BH: Reminds me of Maynard G. Krebs.
SM: (Both laugh.) He looked more like Maynard G. Crabs.
BH: What about doing more television?
SM: I did TV, way back when, and much more recently, and I could go that
route. Only, how many shows can you guest on? I wouldn't mind my own show, but
I'm not old or craggy enough to play a detective. Not yet. I'll probably do more
of it, though.
BH: What about directing TV?
SM: Closed shop, pretty much. And no controversy allowed. I could play maybe
a priest. . . . You know something? TV's so fuckin' old-fashioned and scared,
but it's TV that got movies more liberal. TV and some gutsy guys like Preminger.
To compete with TV, movies had to get more sexy and provocative, so TV made
movies like Rebel possible. And that started the whole ball rolling. But
TV itself is still for a kiddie version of the average working man.
BH: You ought to go in there and stir things up.
SM: Man, I'd like to stir things up.