February 8, 1931 – September 30, 1955
“That guy’s got to stop. . . . He’ll see us.”
This page is developed with gratitude to Warren Beath for sharing his wealth of information on Jimmy with me, throughout the years.
I don’t know what it is about James Dean – sexual charisma? Do people want him as a friend? A bed partner? A messiah? The fact remains that for over 50 years, Jimmy is still an A-lister. I wonder if the people that knew Jimmy, the ones that are left, what they think when they stroll down Hollywood Boulevard and see Jimmy’s face peering out from every single souvenir shop. It’s got to be weird to have known the guy then, and see the legend now. I wonder if they ever shake their heads and say, “He was just A. Guy.” According to several of the gajillion books written about him, he had sexual relationships with lots of people – male and female. I do believe he was probably bi – I’m not sure you can fake sex with guys – but definitely preferred women. I don’t think Jimmy was gay. For one reason, Kenneth Anger said that he was. That’s all I needed. Anger also said Jimmy was into S&M and getting cigarettes put out on him. Honestly. Blah blah blah blah BLECH.
Jimmy was born in Marion, Indiana, and raised by his Aunt and Uncle in a farmhouse
in the nearby city of Fairmount. He attended Fairmount High School
of which I have a piece,
courtesy of my pal Brandon. Brandon sent it to me back in 2002, and it’s a priceless addition to my collection. Jimmy had a drama teacher named Adeline Nall, who became a bit of a celebrity in the Dean world, and she embraced it wholeheartedly. I wrote Ms. Nall once, and got a terrific letter from her.
Ms. Nall passed away in 1996. RIP.
Dean only made 3 films of note, and two of them were not even released at the time of his death. He was not a rich and famous man, when he died. For the last three months of his life, Jimmy was living in Sherman Oaks in a log cabin style home,
with his cat Marcus. Marcus was a gift from Elizabeth Taylor. Find a Death friend Tamalee sent this picture of the interior of the house,
which I believe was owned by the maitre de of the restaurant where Jimmy had his last supper. The house of course, is long gone.
The night before his death, Jimmy dined at the Villa Capri restaurant in Hollywood. Until recently, I thought it was the restaurant recently demolished on Yucca.
This turns out to not be true. The restaurant Jimmy dined on is nicknamed the “little” Villa Capri, about half a block away on McCadden St. I have found no images of this restaurant, because it was torn down. It was located near Don the Beachcomber,
the original Tiki restaurant which is torn down. All that was left for years was a sign in the parking lot,
but since there are now 2 six story condo buildings going up on that street, it became really important to wipe out any sense of history to accommodate the people who can afford an expensive home there. I do know that the Villa Capri belonged to Patsy D’Amore, who introduced the pizza to Los Angeles. His lovely daughter Filomena carries on the tradition at The Farmer’s Market, with Patsy’s Pizza
– which is festooooooned with historical photographs (including Jimmy) and to be honest, the pizza rocks.
On the morning of September 30, 1955, Jimmy picked up his new Porsche Spyder
that he recently purchased,
at Competition Motors on Vine Street, in Hollywood.
It was being serviced here before a race that was to take place in Salinas. According to legend, Alec Guinness saw Jimmy in this Porsche, and told Jimmy he’d be dead in a week if he continued to drive it. I’ll bet Alec was invited to that party at Sharon Tate’s house.
While waiting for his car to be completed, he strolled over to the Hollywood Ranch Market, on Vine St. and Fountain, about a block away, not the Farmer’s Market, or DuPars as a lot of people think. Jimmy had a donut. Of course, the Hollywood Ranch Market is long gone. A much needed El |Pollo Loco and Office Depot have replaced it.
Since the Porsche had less than the required mileage to make it eligible to race, Jimmy opted to drive the car up himself – so he could get comfortable in the vehicle. Riding along, was Competition Motors employee and Jimmy’s mechanic, Rolf Wutherich. Competition Motors was one of my original stops when I started my tour company. It operated regularly till around 2006, and stood empty
before it was completely demolished to make way for this building.
I have bricks.
Before leaving for up north, Jimmy filled up his little car at a gas station on Ventura Boulevard which is amazingly still there, though now a florist.
My friend Brian Baker very amazingly reenacted Jimmy’s last fill up recently.
Coincidentally, this is the gas station where (logically) the Manson Family stopped to make sure the blood was washed off their bodies after killing Sharon Tate + 4. It’s on the way back to the ranch, they definitely stopped and did this, and geographically this would be the most likely spot.
Heading up north, they stopped and had a sandwich and a coke at Tip’s Diner in Castaic. Tips is gone now
to make way for a much needed dirt field.
At 3:30pm, Jimmy was pulled over for speeding
and given a citation for going 65mph in a 55mph zone. This would be the last time Jimmy would ever sign his name.
Around 5pm they stopped at a place called Blackwell’s Corner, which still boasts The Worlds Largest Parking Lot. This would be the last place James Dean’s feet touched soil, with his heart still beating. They purchased apples, and continued to his death. The building that Jimmy knew, is long gone. You can still see the foundation,
near the building that stands now. They’ve made Jimmy an industry there, and they have a fair claim. This awesome portrait of Jimmy now adorns the property.
A short time after continuing on their course, near a town called Cholame,
local 23 year old Donald Turnupseed was heading home from the opposite direction in his 1950 Ford Tudor.
Now this highway has morphed quite a bit over the years, the original road is no longer used, but still visible nearby.
This road is the one Jimmy was actually on, when he made this last turn.
At 5:45pm., Donald chose to make a left turn that would put him in the history books. He didn’t see Jimmy – Jimmy did see him and made an attempt to swerve out of the way, but the impact was unavoidable. This is the intersection then and now.
The Ford broad-sided the Spyder. Jimmy’s car landed near a phone pole,
15 feet off the road. There is now a plaque
commemorating where Jimmy’s car came to rest.
I believe this is the last bit of remaining fence that would have been there, in 1955. Rolf was thrown from the car. He lived. Turnupseed suffered minor injuries, and was able to walk away. Ish. Interestingly, this intersection is called the James Dean Memorial Junction.
I mean, what are the odds?
Jimmy entered eternal hotness at the age of 24.
Jimmy’s body was raced to via ambulance
to Paso Robles War Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.
He was taken to Kuehl’s Funeral Home in Paso Robles,
no doubt brought in through his back door, where he was embalmed by the owner, and made presentable. The left side of his face would be set in the soft cushions of the casket, and so hidden. The relatively undamaged right side would be displayed. A black hearse took Jimmy down Highway 101 to Los Angeles International Airport, and shipped back to Indiana on Tuesday the 4th. Jimmy arrived in Indiana just after 10pm, and was picked up by ambulance, and taken to Vernon Hunt’s funeral home in Indiana.
Correction: Thanks to Wendy, a Dean fan, Jimmy’s funeral was actually held at the Fairmount Friends Church. This can be verified on page 194 of George Perry’s book ‘James Dean’ authorized by the James Dean Estate. at 2:00pm, on Saturday October the 8th. It was attended by 3000 people – more than the entire population of Fairmount. Jimmy’s high school friends were pallbearers. Liz Taylor sent flowers.
Jimmy is buried in Fairmount’s Park Cemetery. A kind Death Hag named Suzy sent in this photograph.
Jimmy’s tombstone was stolen thrice, the third time in July of 1998. Findadeath.com friend Ernestine Burgess kindly donated this photograph of when the stone was stolen.
It was located in September of 1998 – by a deputy that ran over it. Ouch. Thanks so much Ernie!
Rolf Wutherich was killed in a traffic accident in 1981.
An amazing re-creation of the accident took place for a National Geographic television program in 2005. Stunning.
The Cars. After the accident, they were towed to a garage a few hundred yards from the accident scene. The garage was behind the Jack Ranch Cafe,
and is long gone.
The garage, not the cafe. The restaurant sometimes sells really cool Dean stuff, but most of the time they are sold out of anything good, but they do have a few pictures and articles on the walls.
There is a steel memorial
outside the restaurant for Jimmy, but an interesting Dean factoid that I found new – one of the ambulance drivers, Paul Moreno, that picked Jimmy up that evening, put his initials in the steps
on the side of the restaurant.
It was bought back by George Barris, and was displayed in State Fairs – basically putting forth the message that speed kills.
The car is now in an unknown (to me) location, though a piece
was auctioned off recently, as well as a pair of Jimmy’s trousers.
In 2005 there was a reward offered, to find the car that Jimmy was driving. Michael J. Curtis sends this. There are loads of rumors regarding the Porsche and its whereabouts. The nice people at Snopes address these rumors.
Trivia: Uri Geller claims to own a spoon that belonged to James Dean. This spoon was supposedly carried by Dean, and in the accident.
Afterward: My friend Pam back in Chicago, took me on a trip to Fairmount in 1987. One of the oddest experiences of my life. Jimmy’s cousin Mark Winslow and his wife Mary Lou still live in the house where Jimmy spent a lot of his youth. To cut a very long story short, the evening culminated with myself and Pam sitting in the living room of this house, drinking lemonade and watching America’s Funniest Animals. If interested, this short story is made long, here.
Regarding the homo stuff: Findadeath friend Patrick states, “2005 is the fiftieth anniversary of James Dean’s death. “Boulevard of Broken Dreams, The Life, Times, and Legend of James Dean” is a well written biography by Paul Alexander. In the book, Alexander reveals Dean’s many sexual relationships, often with men. The biography makes the shocking revelation that in all likelihood, Dean’s first gay encounter occurred when he was a teen with Reverend James DeWeerd, a local Wesleyan minister. DeWeerd was in his thirties at the time. (See page 44)
There isn’t much of Jimmy left in Los Angeles; places you can actually point out where James Dean visited. This is one place, that was featured in Rebel Without A Cause. Lovin it.
There is at least one source that states that Jimmy and Marilyn Monroe met, and neither was very impressed. Marilyn did serve as a celebrity usher for the benefit premier of East of Eden in February of 1955.
Googies restaurant was a Dean hangout, that was next door to Schwabbs drugstore on Sunset. Martin Landau, Maila Nurmi, Robert Forrester and Shelley Winters… they all hung out there. When Googies closed, the crowd moved to Theodore’s on Santa Monica Boulevard, which is now The Silver Spoon.
Oh the Irony: One of the few remaining Dean locations left in Los Angeles, is a phony building from East of Eden on the Warner backlot.
Of course, there is the Griffith Park Observatory, where Rebel was filmed. That’s fantastically intact. Reopened after a 4 and a half year closure.
It still looks the same,
and even has the bust of Jimmy
(though moved a few feet from it’s original location) that Kenneth Kendall created.
Kendall, now he was an odd duck. He met Dean once, briefly, and (in my opinion) made himself a career creating images of Dean, and other people he probably fancied… DiCaprio, Steve Reeves etc. Every year, on the weekend closest to James Dean’s birthday (February 8) Kendall would host a birthday party for Jimmy, in Kendall’s West Hollywood home. I’ve heard of this gathering for years, and thanks to my friend Dave below (click the artwork link), I was able to attend the very last one, as Kendall would be dead 9 months later. Here are shots I took at the gathering of his living room,
(in the studio) and personal bathroom.
When he met him, Kendall described the look Jimmy gave him as a “whammy”. Which probably just meant sexy as fuck. Kendall painted this image often.
Trivia: Jimmy’s former phone numbers include HO7-5191 and TH2-5752.
Here is a list of Jimmy’s possessions at the time of his death.
Unlike Marilyn Monroe, who really had no family to leave her estate to, the James Dean estate is run by Jimmy’s family. You can get a copy of Jimmy’s probate file here.
James Dean Terror In Wax.
Thanks to Greg Laborde, Brian Baker, Greg Smith and of course, Warren Beath.
Look for Jimmy art here.