Friday, September 30, 2016


James in "Rebel"
Well, on this day, in 1955, James Dean died in a tragic car crash. Pop culture-ologists proclaim that James Dean was the inventor of "being cool".

After celebrities die, sometimes, they become bigger than life.  Like Elvis. Like Marilyn. Like Jim and Janis. His face is recognized in mass marketing, more now, 60 years after his death. Not bad for a guy who only made three movies.  Three. That's it. Two of them released after his death.

In two of the movies he played a character, very close to his own personality. He was unloved by his father, or so he thought. "Rebel Without A Cause" is thought to be the first major movie about teens, for teens. In that movie he wore a red jacket, not the black leather jacket we tend to associate with Dean. Watch the clip - check out the nagging wife!

Indiana - the marker has since changed.
In "East of Eden" there's a fabulous scene of Dean playing the son, trying to bless his father with money he earned, that his father won't accept. Classic, tormented scene, recreated very well when James Franco played the role.

In "Giant", I love the classic scene is of Dean striking oil and watching the oil geyser spray into the air and soak him, drop by drop.

Then, in 1955, he drove his Spyder racing car into another driver, killing himself. He was 24.

I've visited the James Dean Museum in Indiana. I've been to his very modest gravesite and last summer - 2016 - I visited the crash site in Cholame, California, at the junction of Route 46 and 41.

The junction - from my vantage on the side of the road.
It wasn't marked well. It's not preserved for any organization, so you're on your own to find it. But having researched the location I knew alot about it and I knew what I was looking for.

The highway was extremely busy with speeding transport trucks that made it difficult to cross to get to the exact location. The fact that James was killed in traffic made the whole experience a bit creepy.

I was travelling with my family in an RV - we pulled over to the side of the road on a busy interstate. I got out and walked around in search of the fence with the plaque.

A humble memorial - not sure who
maintains it.
I crossed the busy interstate and spotted a small American flag draped over the fence and ran over to get a selfie. I wasn't there more than 30 seconds but it was dangerous to leave the RV parked at the side of the road.

I ventured across the first two lanes of northbound traffic. I peeked to see oncoming traffic and WHOOOOSH!  A car raced right passed by my nose!  Man, that was close! I almost got killed on the same road as James Dean!

Well, now my James Dean journey is complete. From movie location, to gravesite to crash site.

If any of this has you curious, rent the movie "James Dean" starring James Franco. Franco is amazing in the role.

Today, September 30, is the anniversary of the death of James Dean - and the beginning of "cool".

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