FAIRMOUNT — Fairmount, Ind., may not seem the likeliest spot for an East Coast guy to wind up. David Loehr grew up in Massachusetts and worked on the business end of the clothing design industry in New York City. The lure of James Dean, however, eventually drew Loehr to completely uproot, relocate and found a gallery.
Loehr first read Dean’s biography, "James Dean: The Mutant King," by David Dalton, in 1974. Later, during a trip to California, Loehr took in Dean's blockbuster movies on the big screen.
“I was just kind of knocked out by his performance,” said Loehr. “He was just so different. You couldn’t really see him acting. Very vulnerable and down to earth.”Loehr paid his first visit to Fairmount in 1979, came to the James Dean Festival in 1980 and subsequently visited a number of times. Ultimately, he moved there in 1986.
"It's just a nice town," observed Loehr.
Loehr opened the James Dean Gallery on Sept. 22, 1988, in a restored 1890 Victorian house on Main Street. Since then, more than 200,000 people have visited Loehr's extensive James Dean collection. Loehr said that many people make a sort of pilgrimage to Fairmount because of Dean."A lot of people make the trip especially to come here," said Loehr. "(Dean's) very charismatic. People kind of identify with him." One visitor this year came from Israel, realizing a dream she had held for 40 years.
“People come from all over the world all the time,” said Loehr.
He noted that even today's young people become fans. “There’s always new fans coming along.”
The gallery is celebrating its 25th anniversary with an open house Thursday, Sept. 26, at 6 p.m. Elvis entertainer Brandon Howard will perform on the front porch. Expect free admission and souvenirs that night, along with drawings for prizes, including a 12-hour boxed set of James Dean DVDs.
The gallery is located at 425 N. Main St. in Fairmount.
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If you go: What: James Dean Gallery 25th anniversary open house When: Thursday, Sept. 26, 6 p.m. Where: 425 N. Main St., Fairmount More info: Elvis impersonator Brandon Howard performs. The gallery will be open throughout the weekend of the 38th annual James Dean Festival. Visit the website at www.jamesdeangallery.com.