HELLO AMERICA!—Recently, I was watching a film on the tube, and one of the characters was a young six-year-old male character. He was speaking to his dad in a very quiet, soft tone. The camera focused on his eyes for a moment, then suddenly he said, “Daddy, let me love you.” Those words, the way he delivered them brought tears to my eyes. This is something that millions of young kids want to say to someone in their family, someone they need to know is there for them. It was a powerful moment!
I could easily relate to this young kid who was desperate for the attention and love from someone known as “dad.” When that influence is not there, a kid experiences emptiness impossible to describe. I know that I did. No matter how much love and care a kid receives from others in a family, the love and attention are an indescribable force, something that can’t be matched by anything else in one’s young life.
As noted in my book “Hollywood Through the Back Door” growing up in a kind of war zone, filled with blood, tears and sounds of danger at every turn destroyed any hope or possibility of knowing what love was all about. It was simply a word, uttered on holidays such as Thanksgiving or Christmas. For me, it was impossible to genuinely relate to that word “love.” As a result, all the attention received from men and women around the neighborhood, even at age six, for me was “love.” There was no other way to interpret their aggressive physical attention to me; as a result, I was growing up not knowing or understanding what real, genuine love was all about or even how it possibly felt. I was simply a body easily available for whomever or whatever purpose necessary.
On one quiet, rather lonely night in Hollywood, James Dean and I spent a few hours in the Griffith Park area of Hollywood quietly discussing some of our deepest most emotional demons which caused us both to want to cry out for “HELP!” We were both wounded, and it felt quite comfortable to let it all hang out — and believe me we did. We both agreed that being a part of the theatre or the arts made it easier to breathe every day. He continually said, “Hey, guy, we can’t fall … just keep movin’ ahead. There’s always a camera, you know!”
There are times, I assure you, when I wonder if life would have taken a different turn if my father had allowed me to love him.