NICK ADAMS, American actor (d. 1968); born Nicholas Adamschock, Nick Adams was a diminutive, blond actor who usually played neurotic or aggressive types and sometimes comic sidekicks (as Andy Griffith’s bespectacled pal, Ben, in No Time For Sergeants). He has been noted for his supporting roles in successful films during the 1950s and 1960s along with his starring role in the ABC television series, The Rebel. His story is a virtual template of mid-century Hollywood closeted life. And in the classic Gay character movie of the time, Adams died by his own hand at age thirty-six in 1968.
Hollywood rumor had it that, since big things come in small packages. Adams was a successful hustler while he and his roommate, James Dean were trying to break into acting. (In some versions of the story, it was actually Dean himself out hustling as well.) It is uncertain whether James Dean and Adams met before his service in the US Coast Guard (1952-1955) and subsequent role in Rebel Without a Cause (1955). In his 1985 gossip book about Gay Hollywood, Conversations With My Elders, Boze Hadleigh claimed actor Sal Mineo told him in 1972, “I didn’t hear it from Jimmy (James Dean), who was sort of awesome to me when we did Rebel. But Nick told me they had a big affair.” John Gregory Dunne confirms that “James Dean was bisexual, as were Nick Adams and Sal Mineo.”
In his book Elvis (1981) Albert Goldman wrote, “Nick Adams ingratiated himself with James Dean precisely as he would do a year or so later with Elvis. He offered himself to the shy, emotionally contorted and rebellious Dean, as a friend, a guide, a boon companion, a homosexual lover — whatever role or service Dean required.”
In 2005 Byron Raphael and Presley biographer Alanna Nash claim Adams may have “swung both ways” like “Adams’ good pal (and Elvis’ idol) James Dean. Tongues wagged that Elvis and Adams were getting it on.”
Earl Greenwood, author and biographer David Bret, and Adams’ former fan mail secretary Bill Dakota made similar statements. Following James Dean’s 1955 death in an automobile accident, Adams overdubbed some of Dean’s lines for the film Giant (these are in Jett Rink’s speech at the hotel) and dated co-star Natalie Wood (sort of the equivalent to being “a good friend of Liz Taylor’s” or “marrying Liza Minnelli”). At the time of his death Nick Adams was the lover of a movie actor rumored to have been Robert Conrad.