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Welcome back, my friends, to the "Battle" that never ends.
We're so glad you could attend. Come inside! Come inside!
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This is 'BATTLE OF THE BANDS' ('BOTB') where you listen to different recordings and vote for the one you like best. A new Battle gets posted on the 1st of each month and on the 7th, I place my own vote, tally 'em all up and announce the winner.
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Friend? Foe? Stranger? No matter, ALL are welcome. So pull up a chair, pour yourself 24 oz. of DOG BITE High Gravity Lager (or the poison of your choice) and turn it up to Eleven!
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[NOTE: Links to the first year of 'BOTB' (#1 - #24) can be found at the very bottom of this page.]

Saturday, October 9, 2021

BOTB RESULTS: OCT. 1, 2021 (Or, THE EAGLES VS. JOHN 'COUGAR' MELLENCAMP)

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Part 2 of my 3-Part James Dean 'Battle Of The Bands' series took place HERE, and it was one heckuva blowout!

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The songs battling it out were 'JAMES DEAN' (The Eagles) and 'JACK & DIANE' (John 'Cougar' Mellencamp). The turnout was good and the conversation was fun, as usual. What wasn't so good was the competition: Yes, I was pretty sure that 'Jack & Diane' would beat 'James Dean' - after all, it *WAS* two against one - but I didn't expect that level of a beat-down. 'Jack & Diane' had 5 votes recorded before The Eagles even got on the scoreboard! And The Eagles fortunes didn't improve much after that, either. It isn't often that The Eagles are dogs - I mean, "underdogs". Well, they were this time, and they got BIT!

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The Final Tally:

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The Eagles = 3 votes

John 'Cougar' Mellencamp = 12 votes

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My vote? Yeah, I went along with the majority. It's rare that I can be counted amongst the majority, rather than being a loud voice in the minority, but it happens once in a Chartreuse Moon.

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Why the Cougar rather than the Eagle? Well, I simply like the song better and find it more interesting, even though 'Jack & Diane' merely mentions James Dean while 'James Dean' is ABOUT... well, James Dean. Aside from the neat 'Rebel Without A Cause' reference in the line "Well, then, there, Diane", I can really relate to the lyric "Life goes on, long after the thrill of living is gone". That line didn't particularly resonate with me back in 1982, when this song was a radio hit, but today I consider it one of the most profound observations ever sung in a song!

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Not that I'm complaining about my life, mind you. But I'm tired, and "there is nothing new under the sun"

There is a season (turn, turn, turn)

And a time to every purpose, under Heaven

A time to be born, a time to die

A time to plant, a time to reap

A time to kill, a time to heal

A time to laugh, a time to weep

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And unfortunately, I've reached the stage in my life where everything I do is something I've previously done. It may be fun, but it's been dun.

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There is a time to be young, energetic and full of life; 

and a time to be bored and ready to go Home (capital H).

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However, below is a picture of me in my bedroom (circa 1983), when life was still wild and full of spirit (and spirits!) One of my drinking buddies, Cranium, has passed out on my floor, a can of Colt .45 malt liquor is just beyond his reach. My gesture for the camera seems to say, "You see what I have to put up with?" Right over my shoulder, you can see a red-jacketed 'Rebel Without A Cause' James Dean cardboard stand-up next to my bookcase.

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By 1988, the acting dream had burned out, or faded away. Truth be told, I had really begun to find my own true self, and the idea of pretending to be other characters didn't really thrill me. I guess "the thrill was gone", and I was now focusing more on writing. ("Writing is your forte, STMcC", my Pa told me a thousand and 3.5 times. Coincidentally, my Pa had actually been enrolled in the same California elementary school as James Dean. Although Pa didn't recall Dean, we did the math and it's a fact that they were in the same school at the same time.)

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I still believed that James Dean was the most naturally gifted actor of all time, and in October of '88, some of my fellow Dean fans and good friends whom I had met at the 1980 James Dean festival in Fairmount, Indiana, came out to Los Angeles where I escorted them to some of the important Dean-related sites in the area:

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[Left to Right: Russ Hodson, Larry Minor, Ed Lane, me, Bob Pulley --photo by Carole Redus]

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[Left to Right: Larry Minor, Sally Hinton, Mary Alice Rodes, Bob Pulley, Carole Redus, Russ Hodson, and me.]

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Those were some pretty big names in the world of James Dean Fandom in '88. Bob Pulley was one of Dean's friends and classmates in high school and he was the last surviving pall bearer from James Dean's funeral.

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The pictures were taken at Santa Monica High School, which is the school I attended and graduated from, and which also played the role of "Dawson High School" in the movie 'Rebel Without A Cause'. In that first photo, we're gathered around the very spot where Jim Stark (James Dean) accidentally stepped on the school seal on his first day at Dawson High and caught hell for doing so. Even in 1974-1977, when I went to "SAMOHI", there was an unwritten rule that you weren't supposed to step on the school seal.

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The photo above, also from October of 1988, was taken when Kenneth Kendall's bust of James Dean was first unveiled at the Griffith Observatory in L.A. That was Sylvia Bongiovanni, president of the We Remember Dean International Fan Club, posing with the artist.

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Once again, I thank EACH AND EVERY ONE OF YOU who took the time to visit my blog, listen to the songs & cast a vote.

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On November 1st, the Super Bowl of my 'James Dean BOTB' series will appear here. Part 3 will be the finale, where the winner from Round 1, 'ROCK ON' by David Essex, will go up against the winner of Round 2, John 'Cougar' Mellencamp's 'JACK & DIANE'. I hope all y'all will return to help determine the ultimate winner. I'll be yakking a bit and showing pictures of my years on M*A*S*H in Part 3. See ya then (I hope)!

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~ Stephen T. McCarthy

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Thursday, September 30, 2021

2021, OCT. 1: BATTLE OF THE BANDS - James Dean Series, #2 of 3 (Or, THE EAGLES VS. JOHN 'COUGAR' MELLENCAMP)

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[Above photo by The Wonderful & Terribly missed Russ Hodson!]

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This blog bit series is dedicated to three persons: 

1: My Ma ('East Of Eden'), who first made me aware of James Dean.

2: My great friend and publicity photographer, Kelly "Andy" Anderson ('Rebel Without A Cause'), who committed suicide in 1986.

3: My great friend and professional acting buddy, Marty "Party" Brumer ('Giant'), who was killed by a car thief in Los Angeles in 1989.

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Yes, it's time once again for Battle Of The Bands (BOTB).

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Alright, let's get on it. Let's get ON this thing!...

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This is Part 2 of 3. Part 1 was HERE, and the Results post for Part 1 was HERE.

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For years, I continued to work in Hollyweird - doing daily 'Background' work on movies, commercials and TV shows to pay the bills; scoring many 'silent bits'; and occasionally getting a bit part with a few lines of dialogue (primarily on 'M*A*S*H' and on a really awful TV show called 'Hill Street Blues').

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The second 8" x 10" publicity photo I used was also taken by my dear friend Kelly "Andy" Anderson. In this picture (shot in the alley behind Kelly's apartment in "Dogtown"), I wore my red James Dean jacket, but since the pic was black & white, it looks grey:

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You can't really see it too well in the photo, but that's my gold hangman's noose charm hanging from a chain around my neck! That hangman's noose hanging around my neck got A LOT of attention from girls, and some of the other 666 genders, also. (Oh, wait!! We only had 2 genders back then. My boo-boo!) The noose made girls curious to find out more about this dark, macabre character. 

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Another publicity photo of me, taken by Kelly Anderson, underneath the Santa Monica Pier:

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I was going more for the 'hopelessly romantic, vagabond singer-songwriter poet' look in that picture. A Saint Christopher medal around my neck instead of the more traditional hangman's noose was meant to convey the idea that I'm dishwasher safe and that I "Play Well With Others". It's also sometimes called "acting"Ha!-Ha! 😉

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For many years, I always gave a name to every trip / vacation I went on. During 'The Family Affair Of 1984' (subtitled: 'The General & Us'), my family traveled together to see Cincinnati, Ohio, where my Ma had grown up. During that June trip, we travelled through several other states as well: Kentucky, Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, and Indiana. And while in Indiana, I got to visit James Dean's gravesite in Fairmount for a second time, and my Ma got to see it for the first time.

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On Dean's tombstone, I left a copy of another poem I had written in 1980. Unlike 'September At Fairmount', today, 'A Chance At Heaven' makes me cringe quite a bit. In 1980, I was still 14 years away from becoming a "(Maverick) Christian" and now I can see that I idolized James Dean in an unhealthy, un-Spiritual way. Only one Man deserves the kind of intense respect that I had for Dean back then, but in 1980, I had no real understanding of what Christ Yeshua had done and what His Life & Death really meant. So, this poem(?) is now kind of embarrassing to me, but it certainly illustrates my intense, youthful admiration for Dean and the art of Acting:

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A CHANCE AT HEAVEN -  8-23-1980

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While I sit alone, reels of film play in my head 

Flashing on the screen a reality  

To all I have said

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There was a time when my words spoke my belief 

But now the thought of each statement 

Only brings grief

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For I am older but still the clocks tick away 

And tomorrow is here 

Before I've lived today

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And now in the dwindling days of my youth 

I have chosen you 

As my symbol of truth

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Because I know where you were, I can feel your doubt 

And like you, I am searching 

To find a way out

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I live in my mind, in a world of seclusion 

For I can't find a way 

To transcend the confusion 

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Mislaid in this land, a lifetime to roam 

Safety in loneliness 

The place we call home 

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To exhibit a vision with your rise to fame 

This too is something 

That I'd like to claim 

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Breaking through all boundaries imposed by time 

Yet I'm held back by a fear 

Of attempting the climb 

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And though people argue I have nothing to lose 

What becomes of the dreams 

That I might abuse?

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I guess the heroes are those who gambled that thought 

Got up from the ground 

And persistently fought 

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This is my time to try the chance that I clutch 

To ascend to the heavens 

Beyond everyone's touch 

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And now I am ready to act the ultimate scene 

To reach immortality 

Just like James Dean

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OK, enough of this crap! Let's get on with the music Battle!! Please vote for whichever of these two songs you enjoy hearing most, regardless of the James Dean references. The winner of this Round 2 will go up against David Essex's song 'Rock On' in the third and final installment of this James Dean BOTB series.

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In 1974, The Eagles and their high-speed, Punky guitars really did justice to the legend of Jimmy Dean! The lyric "along came a Spyder, picked up a rider..." is a reference to the Porsche Spyder automobile that Dean died in at the age of 24. 

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"I know my life would look alright - I can see it on the silver screen"

WOW! What a great line! For 67 years, millions upon millions of us have agreed with that!!

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JAMES DEAN (1974) -- The Eagles

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q1Syd7kRIuk

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Next up is 'Jack & Diane' by John 'Cougar' Mellencamp

"Jackie sits back, collects his thoughts for a moment; scratches his head and does his best James Dean"...

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James Dean doing his best "James Dean" :

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Me (on my 22nd birthday) doing my best "James Dean" :

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One thing I like about this song is the line, "Well, then, there, Diane..." It proves that Mellencamp really did know about James Dean, and he wasn't just name-dropping. He was actually quoting Jim Stark (James Dean). Check out these pictures I took recently while watching 'Rebel Without A Cause' for the godzillionth time...

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Dean also said the line in a slightly different way in 'Rebel...'. Why? Because... he was the greatest actor of all time, and like a world-class Jazz musician, he was always improvising 'in the moment'. (Don't worry. If you're not attempting to be a world-class professional actor, then the expression "in the moment" is not particularly important to ya.)

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JACK & DIANE (1982) -- John 'Cougar' Mellencamp

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zjMwrXGk4xU

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I will post this Battle's Results on this blog on October 8th (if I'm not late because I'm too busy improvising my way through life and refusing to be restricted by deadlines and other nonsense). And in my BOTB Results post, I will tell a couple more stories about my former James Dean-infused persona. Maybe we'll finally get to 'M*A*S*H' and 'HELL Street Blues'.

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Thanks for voting! And please spread the word! All voters (and Porsche Spyder riders) are welcome!

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~ Stephen T. McCarthy

Saturday, September 11, 2021

BOTB RESULTS: SEPT. 1, 2021 (Or, DAVID ESSEX VS. DON McLEAN)

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Hokey-Smoke & Hoo-Wee! I sure dropped the ball on this 'Battle Of The Bands' Results page, didn't I? It's a full three days late! {*Hangs head with great shame... unlike some shameless punks... who shall *STILL* remain shameless *AND* nameless.*} I dropped an easy fly ball in right field which allowed three SanCramcisco Giants runners to score and tie the game. Looks like I picked the wrong week to trade Duke Snider, Wally Moon, and Willie "Three-Dog" Davis! (And this is the LAST time I'll play right field!!)

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My first in the 'BOTB James Dean' series took place [link> HERE and it turned out to be fantastic!!


The first four votes all went to David Essex and his big hit 'ROCK ON'. At that point, I pretty much threw in the towel on Don McLean's 'AMERICAN PIE'

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But then a phunny thing happened on the way to the finish line: Don started collecting votes like baseball cards and the next thing I knew, the Battle was over and it was tied 6 to 6.

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That means MY vote is going to determine the winner of this first James Dean BOTB installment. (I LOVE this kind of ending!!!)

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Well, first I want to say that I love BOTH of these songs. Yes, 'American Pie' got played to death (like 'Black Water', 'Hotel California', and 'Stairway To Hellven'), but it's a truly great song, which is one reason it got played to death. So, with NO lack of respect toward McLean's 'American Pie', I cast my winning vote for 'ROCK ON' by David Essex.

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'ROCK ON' will now meet the winner of Round 2 of 'BOTB James Dean', which will appear here on this blog on October 1st. So please turn out to vote then like you did now.

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'ROCK ON' -- I will elaborate a bit more on my thoughts about this song in a later 'BOTB James Dean' installment, but for now I just want to say that one of the things I find so appealing about this song is that it is amazingly original in sound. Off the top of my head, I can't think of ANY other song, before or since, that resembles 'ROCK ON'. I would describe it as a super-duper-slowed-down James Brown 'FUNK' song with big-bumping bass, and orchestral strings added for sweetening. Plus, there's those percussion touches to emphasize the underlying "punch!" It may be slow, but it's serious! (Don't underestimate this Bad Boy!)

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What *other* song can match that description? None that I've ever heard. And that's just for starters. Later, I will say a bit more about why I love 'ROCK ON' like I do.

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I very, Very, VERY sincerely appreciate each and every one of you who voted in this contest. (And the comment section "badinage" was fun, as always.)

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FINAL TALLY:

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David Essex = 7 votes

Don McLean = 6 votes

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It doesn't get any better'n that, as far as I'm aware of.

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James Dean died in an automobile accident on September 30, 1955. In 1980, my Ma showed me a brief newspaper mention that in Dean's hometown of Fairmount, Indiana, they were planning a 25-year celebration of his life that September. I decided to attend this event. I was 21 years old at the time. I flew from Los Angeles to Indianapolis, rented a car and then a motel room in Marion, and attended the James Dean festivities in Fairmount. I was completely alone and didn't know a soul in Indiana. But like any good Method actor would, I purchased some overalls to get into the James Dean farm boy mood.

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At this point, I should probably mention that, due to many odd coincidences - even before I went to Indiana - I thought there was a real possibility that I was James Dean reincarnated. And although I never really think about it anymore, I still believe it's a possibility. As a [Maverick] Christian today, I don't care one way or the other, but... "it could be true".

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At James Dean's high school, where they were having a ceremony, Dean's old high school Drama teacher, who had never seen or heard of me before, walked up to me and asked if I would hand out flyers to people who showed up. So, I did, like any good student would. (It was in handing out flyers at James Dean's high school that I met Inga and her sister who had driven down from Wisconsin to attend the celebration. As a result, Inga and I had a kind of... sort of long-distance "thing"... and she later flew to L.A. to meet me there.)

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I met a great old guy named Russ Hodson from Indianapolis, and we immediately clicked. And through him, I met Carole Redus from Alabama. They were both long-time James Dean fans and (unbeknownst to me) "insiders". 

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I'd read in a newspaper that Martin Sheen was going to attend the celebration. So, when Russ asked me if I wanted to go with him and Carole "to pick up Martin at the airport in Indianapolis", I said I would. On the way to the airport, I discovered that "Martin" was NOT Martin Sheen but Martin Noakes, who was flying in from England.

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But it turned out great, because I really liked this "Martin". (Sadly, Russ passed on many years ago, but I'm still in contact with Carole and Martin.) Russ & Carole & Martin had so many connections that I found myself invited to go to the farmhouse where James Dean was raised, to meet Ortense Winslow, the Aunt who raised him when his mother died. I got to go into Dean's childhood bedroom, see his black leather jacket, see his childhood artwork hanging on the walls of his bedroom, tap his bongo drums, and see his handprint in the farm's barn. Yeah, things like that happen all the time, by coincidence, when you're all alone in a state where you know no one and have never been before:

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[Me, in 1980, at the farmhouse where James Dean was raised. Carole Redus saying Goodbye to Dean's Aunt in the background.]

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[Me, in 1980, in James Dean's childhood bedroom, with my hand on one of his bongo drums.]

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[Me, in 1980, in the barn where James Dean's hand print is still remembered by very old cement.]

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Having been born and raised in Los Angeles, the small town country atmosphere of Fairmount, Indiana, made quite an impression on me, and shortly after returning to L.A., I wrote a poem about it:

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SEPTEMBER AT FAIRMOUNT -- 10/4/1980

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In soft, willowy grass you can lie down 

At a sun-spotted place under a tree 

Listening only to the breeze as it dances over you 

In a little park resting from activity

In September at Fairmount

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Walking past the grandest of houses 

Containing people who are real 

Barefoot in the small and quiet streets 

Of a town with great appeal

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Scuffling down tree-lined railroad tracks 

Until the horizon has taken you in 

These lazy days of sun bring to mind 

'The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn'

In September at Fairmount

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You can stop to watch the birds 

And the squirrels that abound 

Or catch a glimpse of painted leaves 

As they spiral toward the ground

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And of all the peaceful things to keep you occupied 

These are just a few 

But then again 

There ain't nothin' that you have to do 

In September at Fairmount

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[My shoes, in 1980, "at a sun-spotted place under a tree, in a little park resting from activity", in September at Fairmount.]

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I intend to be back with another 'BOTB James Dean' installment on October 1st. We'll do a Round 2 in this contest, and I will tell some more stories about Dean 'n' me. I thank All Y'all again for participating in this Round 1.

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~ Stephen T. McCarthy