Located on a side street just off on Central Park West is the former residence of one of the largest cultural icons of all-time—James Dean. In this rather nondescript limestone Rowhouse with bow fronts, Dean once lived in a single-room apartment on the top floor in 1954. The room was said to measure only 1212 feet and had a shared bathroom down the hall. Mind you, Dean lived here prior to moving on to Hollywood and becoming one of the biggest stars of all time.
Dean’s success was not immediate in Hollywood. He began his career in a Coca-Cola commercial where he was seen handing bottles of Coke two teenagers. During this time to subsidize his income, he was also working as a parking lot attendant at the CBS Studios lot.
Dean only appeared in three films during his career, all of which were leading roles. The first was East of Eden (1955), which was the only film actually released while he was alive. His most famous role followed East of Eden in Rebel Without A Cause where he played a rebellious teen named Jim Stark.
While filming his final film in 1956, The Swan, Dean was working with famous actor Alec Guinness, who utilized his Jedi-like powers to ultimately foresee Dean’s death. One day after Dean rode onto the set in his brand new Porsche 550 Spyder, Guinness was overheard warning Dean, “Get rid of that car, or you’ll be dead in a week.”
On September 30, 1955, Dean and a friend were taking his new Porsche to a race in Salinas, California. Seeing as his Porsche was still new, it technically did not qualify for participation in the race since it did have the required minimum mileage. Dean, hence, chose to drive the vehicle in the race himself to ensure the Porsche qualified. Along his route Dean was stopped for speeding at 3:30pm while traveling 65 mph in a 55 mph zone.
Approximately two hours later Dean was driving west along US Route 466 when he noticed a 1950 black and white Ford Custom Tudor coupe coming at him in his lane. Dean apparently turned to his passenger and commented, “That guy’s gotta stop… He’ll see us.” Unfortunately 23-year-old Donald Turnupseed did not see Dean’s vehicle and the two collided head-on.
Dean suffered massive internal injuries including a broken neck and was pronounced dead on arrival at 5:59 p.m. In regards to the individual in the oncoming vehicle, Mr. Turnupseed only maintained minor injuries and survived the impact. Mr. Turnupseed only spoke about the incident once after the accident when he was interviewed by a local newspaper. He refused to be interviewed or speak of the incident ever again after that.