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Dizzy and Jimmy: My Life with James Dean: A Love Story

Dizzy and Jimmy: My Life with James Dean: A Love Story

4.5 2
by Liz Sheridan

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A long time ago, when I was a young dancer in New York City, I fell in love with Jimmy Dean and he fell in love with me.

So begins this beguiling memoir of Liz "Dizzy" Sheridan's passionate yet ill-fated romance with the young, magnetic, soon-to-be-supernova James Dean. The year was 1951. Dean had recently arrived in Manhattan in search of


A long time ago, when I was a young dancer in New York City, I fell in love with Jimmy Dean and he fell in love with me.

So begins this beguiling memoir of Liz "Dizzy" Sheridan's passionate yet ill-fated romance with the young, magnetic, soon-to-be-supernova James Dean. The year was 1951. Dean had recently arrived in Manhattan in search of Broadway stardom. Sheridan was a tall, graceful aspiring dancer. They met one rainy afternoon in the parlor of the Rehearsal Club, a chaperoned boardinghouse for young actresses — and before long Dizzy and Jimmy were inseparable. Together they hunted for jobs, haunted all-night bars and diners, and gloried in the innocent rebellion of early-'50s bohemian New York. Dizzy Sheridan and James Dean were lovers; they lived together; as even ardent Dean fans may be surprised to learn, they were engaged to be married. But when Dean began to find success on the Broadway stage and then was lured to Hollywood, the couple parted amid tears and broken dreams — dreams that would be dashed forever when Dean died in a car crash in 1955, not long after seeing Dizzy for the last time.

Dizzy & Jimmy marks the first time Liz Sheridan has written about this joyous yet ill-starred romance. She brings us closer than we have ever been to the vibrant young actor before he became a Hollywood icon, capturing his unstudied charm, his complicated psyche, the spontaneous delight he took from the world around him, and the passion he invested in his work and life. It is a journey that takes in many locales, from Dean's boyhood home in Fairmount, Indiana, to Sheridan's recuperative travels through the Caribbean after their breakup. But at its heart Dizzy & Jimmy is the story of a love affair with Manhattan — of nights spent stealing kisses in Times Square, sharing a walkup in the Hargrave Hotel, dancing after hours beneath the stars in Grand Central Station. And in Sheridan's bittersweet, embraceable telling, it becomes a story no reader, Dean fan or otherwise, will soon forget.

Editorial Reviews

Chicago Tribune
A precious clue for anyone who has wondered at the staying power of the Dean myth.
Buffalo News
Details lovingly rendered, keep �Dizzy & Jimmy' from being just another celebrity tell-all.
Washington Post
Charming...told with bittersweet affection.
New York Post
Genuinely rendered. Should appeal...to the most incurable romantic.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Sheridan, best known as Jerry Seinfeld's TV mother, reveals her love affair with James Dean in a brief book replete with moony dialogue, prescient remarks about Dean's driving habits and a 1950s New York setting. The effervescent Sheridan, known as Dizzy, was a dancer living in a theater district residence hall for aspiring actresses when she met the 21-year-old Dean, an Indiana farm boy who had come to New York via Hollywood. Their instant attraction was soon consummated. Sheridan portrays Dean as a sometimes corny romantic, who immediately began talking about being "together forever" and who needed "always to touch and be touched." While Dizzy managed to work, dancing in nightclubs all over New York or in summer stock musicals, Jimmy was either more unlucky or more choosy, and brooded over his disappointments. Though she touches on Dean's moody episodes and regular, unexplained disappearances, as well as his disclosure of a homosexual liaison with a California producer helpful to his career, Sheridan doesn't claim that her memoir is a complete account of Dean's New York years. (For example, there's no mention of his acceptance into the Actors Studio in November 1951.) When Dean was cast in a bound-for-Broadway production, he moved easily away from Sheridan. Dean got enthusiastic notices in See the Jaguar, although the play closed in a few days, and the affair never rekindled. Sheridan's feelings for Dean, her pain upon their separation and on his untimely death a few years later, are sweetly rendered and seem genuine, although the details are filtered though a romanticized lens. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Two love stories. One funny and sweet. One curious but poignant. Both authors linked by a coincidence: they were both characters on the TV sitcom Seinfeld. Before Stiller played George Costanza's father on Seinfeld, he was one half of the comedy team Stiller and Meara, a successful collaboration, in part because Anne Meara was his wife. This is not only the story of Stiller's rise from poverty to become a successful actor and comedian but also the story of a "showbiz" marriage, the unlikely pairing of a Jewish boy and an Irish girl who struggled to stay together for over 30 years. It's a very straightforward memoir with lots of insider, "showbizzy" anecdotes. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
1 ED
Product dimensions:
5.25(w) x 7.50(h) x 1.01(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

It was the fall of 1951. I awoke on one of those iron gray mornings when the blues tugged at me like a bad memory rolling around in my thoughts, refusing to fade. It had been raining off and on since the night before. I never wake up singing, but on this morning I was positively glum and a little frayed around the edges. I felt like staying in bed all day.

I thought I heard someone at the door. I was still a little groggy with sleep, trying to pull myself awake. What's that noise? I finally realized that what I heard wasn't at the door but at the window. Across the room rain was splattering against the glass panes. A torrent of rain. Hard and heavy. Crawling out from under the covers, I padded over to take a look, only to stub my toe on the foot of the bed.

"Ouch. Son of — God damn it!"

I grabbed my foot and began hopping around, trying to get my balance. The noise woke up Larri, who was trying to sleep in after a late night.

"SHUT UP, DIZZY!" she yelled.

That woke up Ann, who always slept late. She made a noise — some sort of mumblelogue — rolled over and went back to sleep.

Larri Thomas and Ann Chisholm were my roommates. All of us were dancers, which I suppose is why Miss Carleton placed us together. Larri was blond, stunning, a lot of fun-a true gypsy. She got jobs on Broadway all the time. Ann was very tall, with heavy lips and a strong body. An extreme narcissist. She loved to look into the mirror, pouting and stroking herself slowly. Slowness was her whole style. She chewed slowly, exercised slowly, and spoke slowly. She claimed a slow metabolism, though as far as I could tell she was just an hourand a half behind the rest of us. But she was a hell of a dancer. We all got along well enough to be roommates.

When my toe stopped throbbing, I tiptoed quickly across the room and put my hand up to the window. The pane was cold. As the rain sluiced down just beyond my fingertips, I could feel the dampness go through my entire body. I shivered. Then I threw a coat over my T-shirt and went down the hall to the bathroom, where I stood at the sink, bleary-eyed, staring at myself in the mirror. I pushed back a limp lock of hair, then picked it up and let it fall. No question about it, my hair really needed washing. It was so thick and long that it was always a major deal, and I really didn't feel like bothering, so I tied it in a knot, went back to my room, threw on some clothes, and headed down the huge staircase leading to the main hall of the Club.

The Rehearsal Club — a chaperoned boardinghouse for aspiring actresses, singers, and dancers who dreamed of becoming stars—was located in a double brownstone on Fifty-third Street, between Sixth and Seventh Avenues. My father, a classical pianist who felt I'd be much safer here than out on my own, had made it possible for me to buck the long waiting list to get in by playing a benefit concert for the Theatre Guild. The Club was overseen by the sharp eyes of Miss Kay Carleton, a middle-aged lady of pale demeanor who was firm but understanding, and quite nice under all the reserve. She saw the Club as a little paradise for her girls. To us, it seemed more like a finishing school, with all the advantages of a convent. When I moved in she sat me down, looked into my eyes, and said:

"I want to instill in you the proper behavior for a young lady of virtue." Are you kidding? No, she wasn't.

"Gentlemen are not allowed above the first floor;" she warned me. Okay by me. I don't have a gentleman. I'll never forget clutching my suitcase, focusing on Miss Carleton's rigid back, and following her dutifully upstairs. The higher we got, the lonelier I felt.

Now, as I pushed open the heavy front door of the club, the rain had stopped, but the sky was still gloomy and I could tell the lull wouldn't last. I hit Fifty-third Street and turned toward Sixth Avenue.

I loved my neighborhood. The Museum of Modern Art was just up the street, with its tranquil sculpture garden where I could sit and drink coffee all afternoon and think about beauty and art and life and all the other things that filled me with wonder.

In the other direction, on the corner was Baden's drugstore with its friendly counter, its steaming coffee and fresh doughnuts. A block up the avenue on Fifty-fourth Street was Jerry's, our neighborhood bar. It was warm, dark, and cozy, a place where actors could exchange theater news and gossip, trade information on auditions, and find out who was doing what all over town. Between the drugstore and the saloon was a little French restaurant called Faisan d'Or, where the food was first-rate and cheap and you could get a whiff of Paris from the kitchen.

The wind was blowing along Sixth Avenue that day, making ripples across the puddles; people on the sidewalks were pulling their overcoats tighter as they toughed their way around town through the gusts. I doubled my scarf around my neck but still felt my shoulders hunching up in the cold. I was getting chilled through, though I wasn't ready to go find warmth. Not just yet. I'd started to think about my friend Tony and his teeth.

Tony Marcello and Fabio Diaz were my dancing partners. We called ourselves "The Sheridan Trio" — not very catchy, I suppose, but I thought it had a touch of class. (What the hell-it was a lot better than "The Three Troubadours" or "Two Guys and a Gal.")

Meet the Author

Liz Sheridan is perhaps best known today for her role as Jerry Seinfeld's mother, Helen, on the landmark television series Seinfeld, and as the eccentric neighbor Mrs. Ochmonek on Alf. She is a veteran stage actress with featured roles in eight Broadway shows. Married to jazz musician Dale Wales, Sheridan lives in Studio City, California.

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Dizzy and Jimmy: My Life with James Dean: A Love Story 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was truly a great book that I would recommend to anyone interested in James Dean, Liz Sheridan, or life in New York in the fifties. I couldn't put this book down. It's very straight forward, and she doesn't make it out to be a mushy romance...she tells it like it is.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A nice simple story that is easy to follow and easy to get swept into. How I have wondered of the icon and would like to know more about Jimmy but don't know who to believe. Do people really care about letting people know the true Jimmy or do they just want their names out there? I truly felt that Dizzy was genuine in her recounts of her life with Jimmy. How I hope it was all true. I think because of Dizzy's own fame, I tend to believe more, because what would be her motive? Truly loved it - highly recommend!