Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

I've Lit Up for the Last Time; London Leading Light: James Dean Is the Iconic Rebel without a Cause

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

I've Lit Up for the Last Time; London Leading Light: James Dean Is the Iconic Rebel without a Cause

Article excerpt

Byline: SIMON DAVIS

THE first thing I smoked was a cigar. It was a Sunday lunch BBQ at afriend of my parents' house and, like a Fagin scamp, I picked up a smoulderingstub from an ashtray. I will never forget that damp feeling against my lips andthe faint orange glow as I sucked in. I was six. I liked the taste. It was likeliquorice.

The first cigarette was a Benson & Hedges from the little golden box that myfriend Mark pinched from his mum.

We smoked behind the cricket pavilion (there were no bike sheds) and atetoothpaste before returning to the boarding house. I was nine. I inhaled.

There was a brief stint at pipes during my Penguin Classics phasewhen I was 16 and liked Camden Lockfollowed by a sustained Old Holborn rolling-tobacco period when I wanted to bean actor, aged 18, and pretended to understand Brecht. All quite Southbank.

There was a King's Road-focused Sobranie Cocktail phase (the blue one with thegold tip should be in the Design Museum) and a nod to Death cigarettes when Igot into The Smiths and hung out in Clapham (why?).

A brief and with hindsight embarrassing flirtation with pearl-tipped Cartier(they seemed glamorous in Heathrow smoking lounges) followed and a long-termaffair with red Marlborostill to my mind the greatest cigarette of all in the most iconic box.

I consider my soft-pack red Marlboro period (predominantly staged in Soho orWestbourne Grove) to be the zenith of my smoking career. My own little Picassoblue period.

Despite this fascination with smoking, I've never been a slavish addict.

The inhalation of the beige, puffy cloud held no more excitement for me thanthe theatre of smoking its paraphernalia.

My life's chapters have, to a degree, been marked by relationships withtobacco, my personal map of London lit up by the different affairs I've hadwith different smokes.

Just as the taste of a doughnut might recall happy summer holidays or the soundof a song trigger the memory of a kiss, so the sight of a certain cigarettepacket is a touchpaper to a memory. …

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