New Adam by Harold Stevenson
The New Adam Article
Mineo posed for Harold Stevenson's The New Adam,
an oil on canvas in nine sections, 8 feet high by 39 feet long. 1962-63.
(Ed. Note: IN TOUCH writer Jeremy Hughes lunched with Sal Mineo in San Francisco when he took over a leading role in James Kirkwood's "P.S. Your Cat Is Dead." Mineo was to recreate the role in the Los Angeles production and was in rehearsals (it the time of his tragic death.)
Cruising the chiaroseurie back alleys of late Re-naissance 'Rome, Baroque artistMichelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, in search of pretty street boys for models (or whatever), would have found his ideal in an archetypical Sal Mineo: tousled black ringlets, darkly vulnerable eyes, poutily sensual lips, sleekly hairless body.
And the present-day Sal Mineo, delights in this notion, exclaiming " He's one of my favorite artists! I just love his work!"Art is one of Mineo's strongest obsessions, whether as model (Harold Stevenson's gigantic "Reclining Nude," for example) or collector ("I've got about six of Dali's lithos. I would kill for them."). The occasion of his nude modeling for Stevenson makes for an especially interesting aneetode, related exuberantly in his warmly sexy voice:"About ten years ago I was visiting in Paris and I saw this little painting, which I still own, in a gallery. And I just loved it! And I said 'Do you have any more of his work?' And they said
'No, but we'll give you his number and you can call him.' And I did. And I thought he was going to be French, but it turned out he was from Oklahoma, living in Paris, virtually unknown, and we got to be friends and he asked me to pose for him. "At the same time he did the reclining nude of me he also did one for me to own. It's about 5 by 5 1/2 feet, just of my navel and that general area. And they stopped it at customs because some of my pubic hair showed. And it was also at that time I was doing the film Who Killed Teddy Bear? with Juliet Prowse, where I played a telephone freak, and we were having this hassle with the censors. "You see, in some of the shots while I was on the 'phone they wanted to sorta suggest that I was masturbating, but I couldn't be naked - this was '67 or '68. So I was just wearing jockey shorts. It turned out that that was the first American film where a man wore jockey shorts. They always hadda wear boxer shorts on screen. So I got hit with all of this, and I'm laughing about all this controversy about what is considered obscene! Imagine! And only a few years later we've got Deep Throat!"He suddenly recalls another incident in his short-lived modeling career. "You know, I think I'm in Dali's 'Christopher Columbus' painting, too. It's very strange. I met him at a party, and we talked awhile, and he said I must do your eyes. I love your eyes. Could we set up a thing?' And I said 'Of course, I'd love to.' Then I never heard from him.
"Well, a couple of years later I went to Huntington Hartford's Gallery in New York to see his new paintings, and about ten people came up to me and asked me for autographs and said 'We just love what Dali did with you.' And I said 'I don't understand' and they pointed to this painting and said 'That is you, isn't it? And then it dawned on me='Could he have done a, uh, similarity or whatever?' I just don't know for sure. Mineo spun these stories between Sunday performances of James Kirkwood's " P. S. Your Cat Is Dead," in which he was starring as the bisexual burglar/hustler, as we dined at one of San Francisco's superior Italian restaurants. He was obviously a favorite there, his tomato and anchovy salad dressed just ever so, lamb chops a perfect medium rare zucchini still nicely firm, frequent tactful reminders of the hour.The much-interviewed young actor's Sicilian roots and Bronx background are perhaps more familiar than the extent of his early fantasy life. "I'm 37 now, " he freely admits, "and I still fantasize. And it's very bizarre how so much of what's happened in my life I've fantasized way ahead of time as a kid. It jolts me sometimes, how it manifests itself, when it was a seed that I planted as a little kid, y'know?" He pauses a moment. "I'm just so terrified that one day I'll become realistic, and when I do, it'll be all over. "How do you explain when you see yourself in a family picture, a 7, 8-, 9-year-old, your eyes, your mind somewhere else? 'Cause that's what 'little Sal' was. Always off someplace. But nobody ever knew. When I started tap dancing and singing lessons they loved it - 'It's gonna keep him off the streets!' - never imagining what it would all amount.
What it all amounted to, of course, was being cast, at 10, in Tennessee Williams' "The Rose Tattoo," and shortly thereafter as the Crown Prince in "The King and L- His official curriculum vitae mentions major roles in three other Broadway productions, numerous road companies, 23 films, and over 150 TV dramas. He received two Academy
Award nominations (Rebel Without a Cause and Exodus), an Emmy nomination for "Dino" on Studio One, and the Golden Globe Award for Exodus.
He has also directed several stage productions (including "Fortune and Men's Eyes") and, a fulfillment for the opera buff he is, the Menotti opera "The Medium." He produced "The Children's Mass" in New York two years ago, and is now involved in plans to direct a film based on the novel "McCaffery" by Charles Gorham, about a love affair between two prostitutes, one male and one female, which is being produced by William S. Belasco.
Enough for the resume. Now back to the very real human being himself. He knows he is driven, hounded. I don't know where it's from," he admits, well-manicured hands in constant motion, knuckle-covering scarab and silver rings flashing in the light. "It's cliche to say 'Sicilian' and cliche. to say 'Capricorn,' (January 10), but I think if you put the two together there is a passion that won't quit, that never has quit. I just won't be stopped if I want something. It may take years, but it will happen."
An example of this might be the music group Mineo was trying to put together a couple of years ago, inspired by the film Privilege about a British rock star. "His whole act was that he was chained up and all. I wanted to go with that and create a rock singer, really young, and do the whole thing with the cops beating him up, protesting, all of that violent scene, figuring that if a crowd can vent their protests against the police in an auditorium, vicariously, everything would be all right. Well, some day . . ."
Dinner was over, interrupted several times by fans seeking autographs, and excellent coffee served. Emptying two packets of sugar into his steaming cup, stirring thoughtfully, Mineo confesses to being a fan himself. "I miss the mystique that we used to have about movie stars. I think that I'm more movie star-struck than most people. I mean I love all the stories about the old stars. I really get off on that.
"I still fantasize about having fabulous parties. Wouldn't it be great to be able to fly-in really fabulous people and have them in one huge room and just watch them and listen to them and groove With them?" His eyes light up, deeply intense. "I mean really do it up! There are a lot of great minds left to rap with!
"I had a party once when Nureyev came, when he was making his debut in L.A. And it was during the days when the twist was so popular. And he was watching people twisting, and he finally called me on one side and he said 'Teach me what they are doing.' And I said'You're putting me on! You want me to teach you how to dance?' And he said 'I want to learn how to do that!' Well, the scene was that I took a towel" - he demonstrates drying his bottom 11 and it was about 20 minutes later, he was sort of off by himself in the corner, practicing, and he walked out on the dance floor - this was out at the beach - hundreds of people were sitting on the walls watching and he just went out onto the middle of the floor and he started twisting as only Nureyev could!" Mineo lights a Kool Filter King and checks the time. His watch is a golden pendant hanging on a chain around his neck against a chest bared to the depth of three opened buttons of his leather shirt. He then recalls that when he did Rebel Without a Cause with James Dean he had "one of the first really big trips going. I was living alone. I had my own apartment, my own car, bank accounts. I was 16 years old, I was working with people I loved. It was the epitome of a boy's fantasies. But even beyond that. I had such a ball! There wasn't a sad moment. It was incredible!"He now has roots in both L.A. and N.Y.C., but still lives alone. "For a while I tried living with someone, but it doesn't work for me. I guess I've spent too many years of being by myself. But I don't mind it. I cherish that kind of privacy. If at 4 o'clock in the morning I want to get up, have a joint, listen to some music . . . It's not that anybody ever complains, it's just that I know there's a body there, so I don't do it."
Afraid now of being late for his 7:15 call ("They'll be freaking!"), he prepares to slip out of the booth, hesitating to respond to one last question: aware of the many hair raising rumors attending his activities in Hollywood - the seminal rumor factory of the world - I asked if there were any misunderstandings or misconceptions about himself that he'd like IN TOUCH to clear up.
Choosing his words with enormous care, he replied: "Nope. 'Cause I like 'em, if there are any. It's funny. I don't have to lie, in an interview or in a relationship with someone. But sometimes I wonder if not denying a certain fact is the same as lying. Is silence assent?"
Then he shrugged into his long brown leather coat, shook hands warmly, and was gone, followed by many, many eyes.