Rebel without a home Icon: A life-size poster of '50s heartthrob James Dean that promotes a new stamp has postal patrons vying to make him their own.

June 28, 1996|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,SUN STAFF

The star of "East of Eden" is causing a stir west of Towson.

Ever since promotion of the new James Dean stamp started at the Riderwood post office last week, patrons have been asking for the life-size poster of the '50s teen idol that stands in the post office lobby.

"I've always liked James Dean and I thought it would be fun to remind me of the good ol' days," said Gillian Willard of Ruxton.

The poster has been so popular that Riderwood Postmaster Vivian Cottingham decided to have a drawing for it when the James Dean commemorative stamp sale ends this summer. About 100 people have dropped their names in a cardboard box in hopes of winning.

Willard, one of the first to sign up, said that if she wins, she'll display the poster in her sun room. "I thought he was a great actor with a sad end," she said.

Dean starred in just three films -- "East of Eden," "Rebel Without a Cause" and "Giant" -- before he died in a car wreck in 1955 at age 24. He nevertheless became a film legend and is the second Hollywood star to be honored in the Postal Service's Legends of Hollywood series.

Barbara Bass, a Towson State University English teacher who dropped her name into the box yesterday, was young when Dean died but has seen all his movies. "I loved 'East of Eden,' " she said.

Sally Murray, a Homewood artist, described Dean as "one of the icons of my age." If she wins the raffle, Murray plans to put the poster in her studio. "Having James Dean in my art room would be company for me and inspiration for my painting," she said.

Usually, commemorative stamps are promoted with small posters and brochures, but for the James Dean stamp the Postal Service also issued life-size posters. They shows the brooding, tousled Dean wearing wrinkled pants, a turtleneck and blazer.

The poster, which went up in the Riderwood office a week before stamp sales began Monday, has helped generate enthusiasm for the commemorative, Cotting- ham said. Her post office has sold about 2,000 of the stamps.

"We've had more inquiries and comments on James Dean than we had on Elvis," Cottingham said, recalling the 1992 stamp honoring rock-'n'-roll legend Elvis Presley.

Marilyn Monroe -- the first in the Legends of Hollywood series -- appealed primarily to Riderwood's male customers. Dean appears to be generating more interest among the women.

"The women have been flocking to him and rubbing his face," she said. "I think it was his rebellious nature and the fact that he's good-looking."

Added Lisa Dotterweich, a postal clerk who wasn't even born when Dean was alive: "It's not hard to stand here looking at him all day."

The Dean stamps will remain on sale for two or three months. Meanwhile, the late actor is adding to his following. "I was never really a James Dean fan," Cottingham said. "But I think I'm becoming one."

Pub Date: 6/28/96

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