5-minute interview with ……………………….Dean Ghaffari

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Photo by Tom Waters
Dean Ghaffari as Sal Mineo

1. What made you decide to write about Mr. Mineo?

I first became acquainted with Sal Mineo in high school, when I took a film class. I saw Rebel Without A Cause for the first time and, although the teacher kept referencing James Dean, I remember I kept thinking there was something rather interesting about Dean’s counterpart. I recall saying to my teacher, “Who is the guy with James Dean?” She replied, “That’s Sal Mineo, who was actually murdered!” His performance as Plato Crawford to me was ambiguous, there was an uncertainty and mystery that compelled me.

Years later, in my early 20’s, I took an acting class with an instructor who was very instrumental for me, who encouraged us to always try and find an historical figure we thought we may resemble, and to try and create an opportunity to play them, as this was a time when biopics were really hot. One day on the street some random person came up to me and said, “Excuse me, has anybody told you that you look like an actor from way before your time named Sal Mineo?” The name, of course, struck a familiar chord with me, and I remembered him from that film I saw way back in high school. I went up to my acting teacher and asked, “Do you think I can play Sal Mineo?” The next day he brought me a bio on Sal Mineo. And that was what kicked it off for me.

2. Were you able to contact friends or family in your research and what did you find out?

I had the honor to speak with Sal’s sister Serena over the phone for about an hour we had a very candid conversation at one point she told me a story about a time when James Dean called the house, and she had hung up on him thinking it was a prank caller. Being the film buff that I am in aww cause James Dean was such a mythical figure to me, and to actually speak with someone that had a moment with him gave me goosebumps. That call will be forever be one of the greatest highlights of my life. I was also able to spend some time with one of his old girlfriend’s Susan Ladin whom lived with Sal for several years, she was able to provide a great deal of intimate details in which I found to be very instructive to the development for the play.

3. At the time of his death, where was he in his career?

To my knowledge he had a film that was in a kind of pre production stage he that he was planning on directing called ‘’Fallen Dove’’. He also was about to open a play in L.A called ‘’P.S Your Cat Is Dead’’ and there was a lot of talk around town that this was a role that going to revitalize Sal’s career. And from what I was able to gather Sal thought so too.

4. Because he was open about his sexuality, do you think that hurt or not affect his career?

It’s hard to tell those were very different times, It was certainly taboo in those days and it was apparent that many studios would protect their stars from that kind of stigma. I think it was combination of the homosexuality and the fact that he was this child star/teen idol that had some difficulty out growing his roles, and a time when you had this new crop actors coming up in 70’s. Sal unfortunately was unable to break through. I do think had he lived long enough he would have found his place. He was a guy truly ahead of his time a Rebel.

5. Why is his story important to tell?

I think is comes down to identification and being true to yourself and that its okay to be different despite what society says. As I have been undertaking this project I’ve come too appreciate Sal along the way, I would like to restore his legacy and expose people from all walks of life that Sal Mineo bares significance and that he truly is a Rebel with A Cause.