I saw a headline yesterday announcing that Corey Allen, who played James Dean’s nemesis Buzz in the classic 1955 film Rebel Without a Cause, passed away on Sunday, just two days shy of his 76th birthday. What struck me about the headline was that it labeled Allen as the “Last of the Rebel Without a Cause cast” to pass away.
I really hoped this was not the case because through my Warner Bros. friend Chris Stone, I am only one degree of separation away from another Rebel actor, his aunt Steffi Splaver. Steffi was only nineteen when she appeared in the landmark teenage-angst film under her stage name Steffi Sidney. She had a supporting role as a girl in Buzz’s gang named Mil.
I called Chris hoping that the article was in error, but sadly, this was not the case. He informed me that Steffi passed away in February after a fall.
Steffi was the daughter of renowned gossip columnist Sidney Skolsky, who is famous for coining the nickname “Oscar” for the Academy Award and for helping to make Marilyn Monroe a star. Steffi had a five-year film career in the 50s, and later set up a PR firm with her husband after she retired from film work.
I never met Steffi and only spoke to her once on the phone last year when I was setting up a panel discussion in Newhall, California about James Dean’s last day. She, like Chris, was incredibly nice and apologized for not being able to attend the panel as she was then living in the Seattle area. She then hooked me up with some other cast members who she was still kept in contact with. Our entire conversation lasted just a few minutes, but she ended it by insisting that I call back if I needed any more help with my show, for more thoughts about James Dean, or to learn more about what it was like to be in Rebel. According to Chris, this was typical of Steffi, as she never displayed a haughty attitude that is found far too often in those with a Hollywood peerage, but was always kind and charitable. I often wanted to call her back, but I never did, fearing that I would be bothering her, even though she insisted that I wouldn’t be.
It’s been a tough year for the fans of Rebel with the loss of the final cast members, including Dennis Hopper, who passed away on May 29. But for Chris and his family, the passing of Aunt Steffi is a personal pain.
And I feel sad knowing that a lady who was once so nice to me on the phone is no longer there to call again.