Panel discussion to feature authors, other experts on Dean’s
September 30, 1955.
The final day of life for movie star James Dean and the birth date of a Hollywood
legend. On that fateful autumn day, Dean drove from Hollywood
in his new Porsche 550 Spyder to an auto race in Salinas.
He never made it. Just outside of Cholame, Dean's Porsche collided head-on with
another car and he died at the scene. He was only 24 years old.
A couple of hours prior to his death, Dean passed through the Santa Clarita
Valley. Some believe that he even stopped here for his "last meal."
On Saturday, February 28 at 2 p.m..,
the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society and William
S. Hart Park
will be hosting a special joint event entitled "The Life and Death of
James Dean: Tracing His Last Day" as part of their Lecture Series and "Flickers
at the Junction" classic movie series.
The day will begin with a panel discussion on the life and
death of James Dean (including the mystery of his last day in the SCV)
featuring three CHP officers who have first-hand knowledge of the fateful day
in 1955 will speak to the group. They include: Ernest Tripke, a retired CHP
officer who was the chief investigator of James Dean's fatal crash in Cholame;
Ron Nelson, Tripke’s co-investigator and the only person known to have interviewed Donald
Turnupseed, the driver of the other car involved in the crash. Turnupseed who never
spoke publicly about the crash; and Otie Hunter, the retired CHP officer who
stopped Dean in his Porsche Spyder just south of Bakersfield
hours before the crash. Hunter spoke to Dean and gave him a ticket for speeding
65 MPH in a 55 MPH zone. Later that day, Dean crashed and died in Cholame.
Other panelists will include authors Chris Epting ("James
Dean Died Here"), Warren Beath ("The Death of James Dean"), and Tony
Newhall, former publisher of the Newhall Signal. Moderating the discussion will
be Leon Worden, President-CEO of SCVTV.
The discussion will be followed by a screening of James
Dean's classic film "Rebel Without a Cause." The event will be held
at Hart Hall at William S.
24151 Newhall Avenue
(formerly San Fernando Road),
James Dean was born February 8, 1931
in Marion, Indiana,
and began pursuing his acting career after high school. In 1955, Dean made
three films, “East of Eden,” “Rebel Without A Cause,” and “Giant,” which earned
him immediate acclaim and two Academy Award Best Actor nominations.
Two weeks after completing “Giant” Dean left for Salinas
with his 29-year-old mechanic Rolf Wütherich in the Porsche. They drove into
the Santa Clarita Valley along Highway 99 and by some accounts may have stopped
for lunch at a Tip’s Restaurant (the location of which was either the present
day intersection of the Old Road and Henry Mayo Drive at the Junction with
Highway 126, or the current Marie Callender’s site at the corner of the Old
Road and Magic Mountain Parkway). After his purported meal at Tip’s, Dean
proceeded north and met his end at the intersection of California Highways 46
Whatever the course of events on September
30, 1955, the legend of James Dean lives on to this day. The
Historical Society and William S.
are proud to co-host this distinguished panel and movie classic at Hart Hall. The
general public is welcome. Admission will be free for the panel discussion with
a $5 donation suggested for the movie that follows the discussion. For more
information on this and other upcoming programs from the SCVHS, please call Pat
Saletore or Alan Pollack at 661-254-1275. Website: www.scvhs.org.