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

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Biter

Almost Famous

Pop goes the culture

By Corinne Asturias

CALL IT A WEEK of almost-good news: A former Mr. Universe might run for governor. After layoffs, the freeways aren't as crowded. Some tech stocks reawaken , squinting into the light and asking for Red Bull. Larry Ellison renews his bid for creep of the year.

Then along comes a copy of a new book, James Dean Died Here, the Locations of America's Pop Culture Landmarks, by Chris Epting, and Biter thinks, "At last, a diversion from all this madness" and hungrily takes in such tidbits as the reputed headquarters of the Grateful Dead (710 Ashbury, San Francisco), where car maker John DeLorean was arrested with his suitcase of cocaine (Room 501, Sheraton Hotel, LAX airport) and even, yes, where James Dean died (Cholame, Calif., about 26 miles east of Paso Robles).

But much to Biter's dismay, out of this whole book, out of a whole country's worth of saucy and sometimes sordid pop trivia, this valley gets scant mention.

Oh, we've got an entry for Hollister, with its Hell's Angels Rally (read: middle-aged white guys on expensive motorcycles). And then we've got the birthplace of Apple Computer, a garage at 2066 Crist Dr., Los Altos, and another garage (367 Addison Ave., Palo Alto), where Hewlett and Packard started out.

Biter was hardly ecstatic that our only claims to pop-culture fame are two suburban garages and a bike rally that the founders wouldn't attend, even if they were still alive.

Of course, the book is teeming with sites in New York. Like the restaurant where Jimmy Hoffa went for lunch on the day he disappeared, the public pool from the film Raging Bull, where Robert De Niro first lays eyes on Cathy Moriarty, and Cafe Wha? (115 Macdougal St.), where Jimi Hendrix was discovered in 1966.

Even little speck-on-the-map places get their strange due: the television studio in Des Moines, Iowa, where homophobic juice chugger Anita Bryant was pied (banana cream) by gay-rights activist Tom Higgins; the 40-foot pine tree at Heavenly Valley Ski Resort that Sony Bono fatally skied into; the school in Bodega Bay where birds attacked Tippi Hedren's head.

At the risk of sounding defensive, Biter made its own local list:

* The 12th Street house in downtown San Jose where the Doobie Brothers lived and hung out; nearby there's another house that was occupied by Fleetwood Mac's Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, also circa '72.

* The house on East Santa Clara Street where Carolyn Cassady shacked up with her husband Neal's friend Jack Kerouac. One of the most famous love triangles in history, right here. (Fittingly, it's now in a neighborhood populated by Sugar's coffee shop and a county mental health facility.)

* The Monte Sereno house where John Steinbeck penned The Grapes of Wrath.

* The birthplace of Chuck Berry: born in San Jose, Oct 18, 1926.

* The location of the first Pong machine, invented by Atari founder Nolan Bushnell, at a bar called Andy Capps in Sunnyvale.

* The room at the San Jose Fairmont where, according to the National Inquirer, tennis legend Andre Agassi rendezvoused with porn actress Jeanna Fine in 1996, the coverage of which was hurriedly followed by his engagement proposal to Brooke Shields.

* The Milpitas site where, in 1981, a group of high school students viewed a corpse that had been raped and murdered by a classmate while neglecting to mention it to the police. The oversight inspired a movie called The River's Edge. Creepy, yes, but we'll take it.

* The location of one of the worst road-rage incidents in the world, where Leo, the ill-fated bichon frisé dog, was hurled into traffic. (If you're going to be a legendary place, you take the bad with the good.)

Beyond that, Biter is open to suggestions. To quote Tom Hanks in Castaway, "Hello? Anybody?"


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From the July 24-30, 2003 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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