May 30, 2020 The Newspaper Serving LGBT Los Angeles

Sal Mineo Gets His Second Act in “Rebel With a Cause”

The actor Sal Mineo’s life, in many ways, mirrored that of his two-time co-star James Dean. Like Dean, he blasted to fame in 1955’s “Rebel Without a Cause” as a young, sensitive member of the new generation. Like Dean, he had a knack for playing tragic, misunderstood characters. Like Dean, he was bisexual and met an early, tragic death. But unlike Dean, Mineo was murdered, most likely because of his sexuality, in an alley behind his Sunset Strip apartment at the age of 37. That murder defined his legacy and put a definitive stop what was – at the time – looking like a solid comeback for the aging star.

That murder – and the comeback before it – is the subject of “Rebel With a Cause,” Dean Ghaffari’s one-man show about the actor, singer, and gay right’s activists final days.

The Mineo story lends itself to the classic tragic format – humble beginnings (Mineo was the Bronx-born son of coffin-makers) early success, a sharp fall from grace, a return to the spotlight, and a gruesome, mysterious death that cut the actor’s life short before he could return to his former glory, with only $20 to his name at the time of his death. In addition to being an early gay rights advocate, Mineo was also an early critic of the kind of racist typecasting that plagued Hollywood in the ‘50s, putting Mineo in every “othered” role from that of a Sioux warrior to a Jewish soldier returning to his homeland to a doomed Mexican worker on Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor’s estate in “Giant,” the second film he co-starred in with James Dean.

    It’s oddly tempting to say that Mineo was a bit too ahead of his time – that his brand of raw talent, bravery, and activism was just a bit out of step with a world that was just starting to wake up to the thousand cuts of injustice it had suffered over the last few centuries. But that would be too easy. Mineo deserved to live and do his work and pursue the love he wanted. With Ghaffari’s play, we get to see him live again, if only for one more night.

“Rebel With a Cause: The Sal Mineo Story” opens at Promenade Playhouse on August 11.

Related Posts

Q&A: Being Openly Gay at LA Opera

February 3, 2020

February 3, 2020

The scene: Eurydice always imagined that her wedding day would be a day she’d never forget. But after a tragic...

VIDEO: South Coast Chorale’s Tribute to Gay & Civil Rights Activist

January 24, 2020

January 24, 2020

67 years ago, openly gay civil rights activist Bayard Rustin was arrested on a discriminatory, anti-gay “lewd conduct” charge for...

Honoring Gay Rights & Civil Rights Activist Bayard Rustin

January 21, 2020

January 21, 2020

On this day in history 67 years ago, gay civil rights organizer Bayard Rustin was arrested on a discriminatory, anti-gay...

PLAY PREVIEW: A Queer Tribute to Frida Kahlo

January 3, 2020

January 3, 2020

Frida Kahlo was born July 6, 1907 and died July 13, 1954. Her death certificate alleges cause of death as “pulmonary...

TRAVEL REVIEW: LGBTQ+ Family Vacation: Holiday Edition – Las Vegas

December 21, 2019

December 21, 2019

This column is the second in a reoccurring series about LGBTQ+ family travel. For a preview of this travel column,...

THEATRE PREVIEW: “Orry” Dishes Out Hollywood Gossip in Limited Run

October 26, 2019

October 26, 2019

In Gentleman George’s latest production, “Orry,” you’re invited to the funeral of three-time Oscar winner and Hollywood legend, costume designer...

GAY LA: Christine Jorgensen in Los Angeles

September 29, 2019

September 29, 2019

Meet the woman who changed everything. The Chateau Marmont is nothing short of an L.A. institution. Home (at one point...

THEATRE PREVIEW: “A Kid Like Jake”

September 26, 2019

September 26, 2019

IAMA Theatre Company opens its 2019-20 12th anniversary season with an award-winning play about a mother and father trying to do right...

GAY LA – When Drag Was All the Rage (But Queerness Wasn’t)

August 6, 2019

August 6, 2019

Today, it’s not hard to find drag culture wherever you are. From VH1, to Netflix, to Twitter, the language of...

THEATRE PREVIEW: Passions of Lesbian Lovers in the Military in “100 Planes”

July 16, 2019

July 16, 2019

The year is 1997 and hotshot young pilot Lieutenant Kay McClure dreams of being the first to fly a new...

THEATRE PREVIEW: Nancy F***ing Reagan

July 11, 2019

July 11, 2019

A gay high school teacher, who is about to turn 50, needs to be cajoled by his friends to embrace...

Crowning the Kollectin Queen

July 8, 2019

July 8, 2019

By Melanie Camp After finishing her first season on RuPaul’s Drag Race, Gia Ichikawa said she found herself confused. While...

LGBTQ+ Theatre Festival Looks at Intersectionality of Oppression

June 17, 2019

June 17, 2019

After a hugely successful sold out run last year, CASA 0101 Theater is proud to present the fifth season of...

Rogue Machine Returns To Venice For A New Season of Live Entertainment

June 7, 2019

June 7, 2019

Rogue Machine is back on the Westside at the Electric Lodge, located in Venice just off of Abbot Kinney. Planning...

Spillin’ Tea with Willam

May 29, 2019

May 29, 2019

When she’s not on your television or making appearances at DragCon L.A., Willam Belli, the famous Drag Queen, is amping...