BEST OBSERVATORY OF INNER TORTURE - 2009
You could always take one of those Hollywood tours past James Dean's L.A. haunts, but one of the most beautiful and enjoyable ways to commune with the spirit of the young actor who died too soon is to drive to the Griffith Observatory in Griffith Park, which was an important location for Dean's best and most influential film, Rebel Without a Cause. The homage is a three-parter. First, as you walk toward the famed observatory and look to the right, you'll see a white slab of concrete with a bust of James Dean sitting on it. The actor commissioned artist Kenneth Kendall to create the sculpture just before his death, and Kendall coincidentally began work on the piece the September 30, 1955, night Dean fatally crashed his Porsche 550 Spyder in Northern California. The bust depicts the inner torture Dean's characters often endured, and it's situated away from the observatory crowds so you can have a moment of silence with your thoughts. From there, walk to the front, eastern side of the observatory, where you'll see a small parking lot. Against a white wall, with a beautiful view of downtown L.A., is where Dean's character, Jim Stark, took part in the famous knife-fight scene in Rebel. No plaque dedicates the site to the actor, but movie history happened exactly at this spot. Few people make it over here, so again, it's quiet and uncrowded. Finally, head into the observatory itself, where Dean's Rebel alter ego actually watched the planetarium show in the 1955 film. Griffith Observatory, Griffith Park. Tues.-Fri., noon-10 p.m.; weekends, 10 a.m.-10 p.m.
—Patrick Range McDonald