Solitary Man: HARRY DEAN STANTON
Highlights from Issue 32: Hollywood Lost & Found
Harry Dean Stanton / Los Angeles, CA
Photograph by DAN WINTERS
Monday, October 01, 2007
What follows is an excerpt of the Stop Smiling Interview with Harry Dean Stanton. The interview appears in its entirety in Issue 32: Hollywood Lost & Found
SOLITARY MAN: HARRY DEAN STANTON
Interview and Portrait by Dan Winters
Every time I see Harry Dean Stanton smile, I see what I imagine him to have looked like as a little boy. He seems so vulnerable and filled with a sense of wonderment. It had been several years since I had spent any time with Harry. I had, for a brief period, accompanied him on his evening outings in Los Angeles, which involved sitting and smoking and drinking and talking. We would usually start at Ago and end at Dan Tana’s in Hollywood. Harry would sit down, order a drink, carefully light his ever-present cigarette and sit back and take in the room. In time I began to feel as if l was seated next to a bride at a wedding reception whose sole charge is to unfailingly greet every guest that came by the table. Everybody loves Harry. I met with him this past July at his home on Mulholland Drive. It was in the early evening — the time of day when the city glistens and one wonders why it can't always look that magical.
Stop Smiling: You were born in 1926 in Kentucky. How did the Depression affect your family?
Harry Dean Stanton: We moved to North Carolina during the Depression, or a large part of it, anyway. We had a farm there. We didn’t starve.
SS: Did you go to movies often as a kid?
HDS: No, not often. Later on, yeah.
SS: Did you go to church?
HDS: Oh yeah, we had to go to church. It was the Southern Baptist Bible Belt.
SS: How did that speak to you when you were a kid?
HDS: I went along with it, as you go along with everything when you’re a kid. Until you start growing up.
SS: What are some films you were influenced by early in life?
HDS: The first one I remember my mother took me to was in North Carolina when I was a kid. She took me to a small-town theater — maybe it was in Asheville or a town called Marshall. I remember it was Melvyn Douglas in She Married Her Boss. I remember there’s a little kid in it who sings a song: I don’t want to go to bed / I’m having too much fun.
SS: Were you drafted into the Navy, or did you enlist?
HDS: No, I tried to get into the Merchant Marines, but I was a day too late. Then I was drafted into the Navy. I was just out of high school. It was the first time I left home.
SS: Did you see any action during World War II?
HDS: Yeah, I was in the Battle of Okinawa in the Pacific. I was on an LST ship.
SS: What was your function?
HDS: I was the ship’s cook. It wasn’t my choice, my uncle was a chief petty officer — they have as much power as a staff sergeant in the Army, actually — and he pulled strings not only when I was drafted to get in the Navy, but he told me to be a cook, because it’s the easiest duty. You’re on one day and you’re off one day. He got me on the ship I was on, and not only that, he got me on a ship with a friend of his to watch out for me. That’s how much pull he had. He was a 20-year man, a real veteran. My Uncle Joe.
SS: Did you realize you were a part of a pivotal point in history?
HDS: No, I didn’t give a shit, man. I just wanted to get laid. And you know, I did what I had to do.