James Dean's Last Meal Was Hauntingly American

There are a few things that can be considered archetypically American, no matter where they originated – there's apple pie, of course, and there are roadside diners, and there is also (to veer off the topic of food for a moment), the motion picture industry. Yes, movies are a global phenomenon, but the very first series of photos strung together to create a moving image was filmed in Palo Alto, California back in 1878 and within the next few decades Hollywood would become a world capital for filmmaking.

By the mid-20th century, movie-going was a way of life for most Americans and our country had birthed some of history's most iconic movie stars including luminaries such as Marlon Brando, Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe, and James Dean. While Brando and Taylor both survived to see the new millennium, Monroe and Dean died lamentably young. She succumbed in 1962 to a drug overdose that launched a thousand conspiracy theories, while he met his end in 1955 in a quintessentially American way: dying in a road accident. Before Dean died, however, he was able to enjoy one last taste of Americana in the form of the aforementioned apple pie.

Dean's final pitstop was at a roadside diner

On the last day of James Dean's life, he and mechanic Rolf Wuetherich were on their way to Salinas in Dean's new race car, a Porsche 550 Spyder nicknamed "Little Bastard." Their destination was a car race that Dean intended to enter – his driving skills were apparently good enough for him to aspire to a second career and he dreamed of competing in the Indy 500. As even a driver (and mechanic) need to fuel up every now and then, though, Dean and Wuetherich made a pitstop in the town of Castaic Junction at a place called Tip's Coffee Shop.

The very last meal Dean ever ordered was a slice of apple pie with a glass of milk. The waitress who served him as he sat at the counter was a woman named Althea McGuinness, and she may well have been the last friendly face he saw apart from Wuetherich's. A few hours later and a few hundred miles up the road, Dean would swerve into a ditch in Cholame to avoid another driver. In doing so, he wrecked his car, lost his life, and achieved the kind of sad immortality that can only be preceded by tragedy.