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James Dean Died Here: The Locations of America's Pop Culture Landmarks, by Chris Epting

James Dean Died Here.

Admit it- the title draws you in. Why? You wonder: wait, where did James Dean die? How did it happen? I remember something about a car crash or Hollywood or something, but what happened? Do they know the exact spot? I mean, yeah, who found him? Why did it happen?

Even if you have no connection to James Dean, or really any desire to know much, it’s a safe bet that some of these things run through your head when you hear the title. Whether you follow up on them or just move on to the next thing you want to think about is of course up to you, but you know, it’s fleetingly interesting.

If you are someone who takes the fleetingly interesting to heart, this book is for you. It’s subtitled: The Locations of America’s Pop Culture Landmarks. This guy, Chris Epting, took the time to put down tourist information for every conceivable pop culture landmark you can think of, where it is, contact information (if applicable), photographs and a short description a la Lonely Planet or something. There are 4 entries about JFK. There are 6 for Marylin Monroe (the restaurant where she was crowned the “Artichoke Queen,” where her nude calendar was shot, the Seven Year Itch grate blowing up her skirt image, the spot where she sand JFK happy birthday, her and JFK’s love nest, and the spot of her suicide). Get the idea?

Things that for one reason or another made their way into our pop culture consciousness are in here. So why get this book?

I bought it while I was working as an outdoor guide. I traveled a lot, especially in California, and I thought I would maybe take some side-trips to some of these places, you know? Check out a little pop culture on the way to the desert or the ocean. I didn’t, but I did a lot of reading about them. It turns out I’m more interested in the ideas than driven by any kind of urge to actually go and see them.

That’s why I like this book- it’s the right amount (like, 2-5 sentences) of information about the stuff- it keeps you interested but doesn’t drag on, you know? We’re talking about things as strange and ranging in interest as the spot where the Roswell incident happened and the SLA bank robbery. Then there is the whole section on death-spots for various celebrities. The garage where Apple was started. Rock and Roll. Sports.

It’s all in there. If it’s your thing, this will have you flipping through like a highlight reel from the National Enquirer. If it’s not your thing, this probably isn’t even something you want for a cupholder. But the fact that a book can be made, and sold, just about the Pop Culture Landmarks of the U.S. goes to show our addiction to the idea of pop culture- and I must say, while I didn’t go to any of the places, I did spend a good amount of time reading about them at highway rest stops…

Photo Credit: Me on my MacBook