Saturday, June 12, 2010

James Dean's Final Ride

James Dean

On September 30, 1955 James Dean would take his final ride. After completing filming on his last film Giant, Dean was preparing to leave Hollywood for Salinas, California to enter a racing competition. Of course, he never made it to the races. Dean died in a major car crash on his way there. Here are some of the places Dean was on that final day.

James Dean's Home in Sherman Oaks

Prior to his death, James Dean was living in a log cabin house at 14611 Sutton Street, in Sherman Oaks, California. He rented the home from Nicco Romanos, the maitre d' at the Villa Capri, Dean's favorite restaurant, for $250 a/month plus utilities. The house had no bedroom, only a second floor loft. Guns belonging to Romanos decorated the place, along with Dean's bongos and bull fighting paraphernalia. Dean had a fascination with matadors, collecting bull horns and posters of bull fighters.

The morning of September 30, Romanos paid Dean a visit at 7:20a.m. Romanos made Dean coffee and got him going for the day. By 7:45a.m. Dean was leaving his home to pick up his friend and fellow car enthusiast Bill Hickman

14611 Sutton Street, Sherman Oaks as it appears today.
Dean's log cabin home has been replaced by this house.

Dean drove his Ford station wagon which towed his Porsche Spyder race car, over to Bill's home. After picking up Bill, the two drove down Sunset Boulevard and turned onto Vine Street, arriving at Competition Motors. The Spyder needed some final adjustments in order to be race-ready, so Dean left the car with the German mechanic Rolf Weutherich.

By 9:45a.m. Sanford Roth, a photographer, arrived at CompetitionRoth had been following Dean for several days as part of  a photo essay he was doing for Collier's magazine. Roth was to continue his essay by taking photos of Dean up at the races.

1219 N. Vine Street, Hollywood, California
(former site of Competition Motors, now a banquet hall)

Shortly after Roth arrived at Competition Motors, Dean's father and uncle came to visit. While Dean, his friends and family waited for the race car to be finished, the group walked a couple blocks down the street to the Hollywood Ranch Market where they had doughnuts and coffee. This market no longer exists and is not to be confused with the Fairfax Farmer's Market which still exists over on Fairfax and 3rd Streets.

Hollywood Ranch Market
(photo from

Former site of the Hollywood Ranch Market on Vine Street

Dean's Porsche Spyder after the crash.

By around 1:30p.m. Dean and his entourage were headed for Salinas. Dean drove his Porsche Spyder, with his mechanic, Weutherich, as his passenger. Hickman and Sanford followed in the station wagon.  Of course, Dean never made it to the races. Dean had a major collision with a 1954 Ford Tudor which hit head on. The accident was at the intersection of Highways 46 and 41, not too far from Paso Robles, in Cholame, California.

No comments:

Post a Comment