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Writing the Celebrity Memoir

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With William Bast, author of Surviving James Dean

William Bast today, left; in 1956, right.

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“Have you ever had the feeling that it’s not in your hands?” he started, then paused again, as if grasping for the words, as if looking for a way to express something he’d never given voice to before, but had held, closely guarded, in his heart. “Do you ever just know you’ve got something to do and you have no control over it? See, all I know is, I’ve got to do something. I don’t know exactly what it is yet, but when the time comes, I’ll know. I’ve got to keep trying until I hit the right button. See what I mean?

It’s like, I know I want to be an actor, but that isn’t it. That’s not all. Just being an actor or a director, even a good one, isn’t enough. There’s got to be more than just that.”

–From Surviving James Dean, by William Bast

In the fascinating Surviving James Dean, William Bast recounts his five-year relationship with the legendary actor. In 1956, shortly after Dean’s death, Bast wrote his first memoir of their friendship, but in that puritanical time, he wasn’t able to tell the whole story, and the homosexual aspect of their association was never mentioned.

Now, Bast has rewritten the story, this time candidly but delicately discussing the sexual nature of their relationship as well as their close friendship. As Turner Classic Movies says in Movie News, 2006, “Surviving James Dean divulges the truth of Dean’s existence, years after his story was distorted by peripheral figures, and is told by a man who has survived the evolving myth surrounding Dean since his death.”

William Bast is an author and writer-producer for film and television. Born and raised in Milwaukee, he was educated at the University of Wisconsin and UCLA. He has written James Dean: A Biography, “The Myth Makers”–a television drama inspired by the hoopla surrounding Dean’s funeral, more than 200 hours of television drama in the U.S. and the UK, and three feature films. He lives in Los Angeles with his longtime partner, Paul Huson.

Join William and host Paula B. for a fascinating talk about writing the memoir, including:

  • Why he wrote the book
  • How he was able to bring out the contradictions in Dean’s personality
  • How he was able to capture 50-year-old conversations and moments with such clarity
  • Why it was so important to reveal himself to the reader while telling Dean’s story
  • How he’s able to deal with the wrenching feelings the book has dredged up
  • How he feels about saying uncomplimentary things about people he’s known
  • How much he thinks people are entitled to know about public figures.

Interviewee: William Bast
Host: Paula B.
Date: March 19, 2007
Running time: 45:51
File size: 28 megabytes
Rating: PG
William Bast’s Web site: William Bast

 

Purchase Surviving James Dean at Barnes and Noble:

Surviving James Dean
Surviving James Dean