On the occasion of late actor and swoonworthy gay icon Sal Mineo’s birthday yesterday (he would have been 71), actor-publicist Mickey Cottrell has passed along this vivid remembrance:
I met Sal Mineo once at the 1971 London Film Fest, following the first screening of Bogdanovich’s John Ford doc. Sal was clearly Peter’s special guest, the biggest name in the room and maybe the most beautiful man I had ever touched.
He glowed, his olive skin clearly more succulent than any Manzanilla and he wore a pale green double breasted suit, maybe Savile Row. He sported a traditional American gold I.D. bracelet, and against that flesh, you imagined in close-up, the hand of an Incan prince or a Donatello model. I introduced myself, looking into his tender, immense, mysterious eyes. His handshake was strong – his flesh soft. I lost my breath and my balance noticeably, grabbing the back of an aisle seat. He smiled, as if this was not an isolated effect. He was amused. I was emblazoned with his beauty. Others came forward for more of the same and I backed away, watching this effect multiply. Then I made my way to a white wine.
In 1969, Sal Mineo produced, directed and starred as young tough, Rocky, in the gay prison drama, “Fortune and Men’s Eyes,” at the Coronet Theater in Los Angeles. Don Johnson played the comely, callow new boy, Smitty, who is graphically raped by Rocky. Michael Greer played Queenie, Smitty’s cellmate. I played Queenie the same year at the Guthrie Theater. I spoke briefly with Sal about the play when we met. He had “great memories of doing it.”
5 years after I met Sal, he was murdered in the alley behind his apartment not far from where I now live in West Hollywood. A local black man was dubiously sentenced. The weapon was a switchblade (one like a 17 year-old Sal saw trust frighteningly in the sun, outside the LA Planetarium when Jimmy Dean’s Jim Stark got cut and blood seeped a bit thru his white shirt). Sal was a firm, young 37, when he was stabbed once thru the heart and bled to death. A few weeks earlier, he had his first hit in years as a gay burglar in a new play, “PS Your Cat is Dead”, in its San Francisco debut. He was coming home from rehearsal for the LA production. His career appeared to be turning around. Calls were coming in. His performance was appreciated by the press and industry.
Sal had admitted to being bisexual in 1972. At the time of his death he had been dating men exclusively for the last few years. He was coming out.