Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sal Mineo

Thank you for all the kind words of support last week. I'll definitely keep you updated on what goes on.

It has been annoying being without internet these days. To keep from being bored, I have been watching a lot of movies.

One of my favorite films since high school has been Rebel Without a Cause.

This is a film you simply have to see at least once. There are no excuses.

While James Dean arguably has the most interesting life story in Hollywood history, I'm going to skip him and focus instead on his co-star, Sal Mineo. Because Sal has quite a disturbing tale of his own.

Sal played the troubled and homosexually-charged best friend to James Dean's character in the film.

Born to Italian casket-makers in The Bronx, he grew up in a rough neighborhood. By the time he was 8-years-old, he was the member of a much-feared street gang. After being arrested for robbery at age 10, his exasperated mother gave him a choice: go to juvie or go to acting school. Obviously, Sal chose the latter.

As a teenager during the 1950s, Sal broke into showbiz and made a few good films. But then Rebel Without a Cause came along. The film changed his life.

Sal soon found himself an international teenage heartthrob. He received more than 2,000 fan letters from adoring teenage girls every day. He basked in his newfound fame and couldn't believe his luck.

He milked his "troubled teen" image and played the same type of character in every movie offered to him. He even released an album of love songs, which did pretty well on the top 40 charts. He spent money like a billionaire, buying extremely lavish gifts for all his friends. He showed up to all the hottest parties with a bevvy of gorgeous starlets on each arm.

It was a dream life. But he was about to wake up.

When the 1960s came along, a grown-up Sal suddenly found himself unwanted. His teenage fans were now in their 20s and they were starting families and pursuing careers, rather than fawning over him. A new crop of teenagers, obsessed with the Beatles, had emerged. The innocence and charm of the 1950s were dead, and Sal was a leftover from a forgotten generation.

In his late 20s, he was no longer famous and completely broke.

He desperately tried to revive his career to no avail. He even camped out on Francis Ford Coppola's front lawn to earn a part in The Godfather, but it didn't work.

In the late 1960s, the bankrupt Sal shocked the world by revealing he was gay. It caused quite a stir, rince coming out in Hollywood was unheard of at the time.

But even that publicity couldn't get him in films again.

In 1971, Sal humbly had his boyfriend call his old Hollywood buddies and beg them to reimburse him for the gifts he so generously gave them during his prime. Luckily for Sal, his friends were more than willing to help out. They gave him money to get back on his feet.

In the mid-70s, Sal began guest-starring on television shows.

He then snagged a role as a bisexual burglar in a stage play in Los Angeles in 1975.

The night before the play was supposed to open, Sal was found stabbed to death in front of his apartment in Hollywood. He was only 37 years old.

The police were baffled when they arrived on the scene, because Sal's wallet was not missing, which indicated he was not mugged. So, the police quickly assumed it had to be a gay thing, because, that's what they do, right?

Sal's murder stunned the world and created a media frenzy. All around the world, tabloids and gossip columnists speculated that Sal had been involved in a drug ring or perhaps rejoined his gang roots or he participated in sadistic homosexual rituals. What else could have led to his demise?

The mystery was so disturbing that even John Lennon put up a $100,000 reward for anyone who captured Sal's killer.

Four years later, the world learned the truth.

After a long investigation, a pizza deliveryman was arrested for the crime in 1979. The man had tried to rob Sal, but panicked when he heard a noise and stabbed him with a knife instead. He had no idea he had murdered a celebrity.

The murderer was given a life sentence but paroled in the early 90s. He was imprisoned again for another crime shortly afterwards.

Coincidentally, I learned that James Franco has directed a biopic about Sal, which is coming out this year.

Will you see it?

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