Archive for Dead Man’s Curve

(The Real) Dead Man’s Curve

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on September 9, 2009 by 30daysout

Gentlemen ... start your engines!

Editor’s Note: This was written by our L.A. correspondent Randy Fuller, who just happens to be the afternoon traffic guy on Los Angeles powerhouse AM station KABC.  Thanks, Randy!

The town I grew up in, Port Arthur, Texas, had a “Dead Man’s Curve.” It was a microscopic piece of blacktop that bent 90 degrees around a house situated very close to the road.   It was extremely hard to see the oncoming traffic, and there wasn’t much room to swerve out of harm’s way.   On the other hand, it was almost impossible to take the turn at more than 10 mph, so it’s highly doubtful that anyone actually died there, unless it was from boredom.

It made for a catchy name, though.  That’s due in large part to the 1964 Jan and Dean hit of the same name, written by Jan Berry and Roger Christian.  The lyrics describe a fictional drag race right down one of the biggest streets in the city that has been my home for nearly 20 years, Los Angeles, California.


Look who has a star on Vine - just north of Sunset!

The song is believed by some to have foretold the 1966 car accident that nearly killed Berry.  Digging around a bit shows that the smart money believes the Dead Man’s Curve of the song is not the place where Berry crashed his Stingray, although it was rather close by.  It does appear, however, to be the same place where actor and voiceover genius Mel Blanc was nearly killed in an accident.  It is that incident that is believed to be the true inspiration for the song.  Apparently Christian wanted the race in the song to end in a tie, but Berry insisted on a melodramatic, fiery, tire screechin’, glass bustin’ death crash.

The actual Dead Man’s Curve in Los Angeles is a stretch of Sunset Boulevard near Bel Air, just north of the UCLA campus, with a series of hairpin turns.  In my experience with it, I can see how it got the name.  That part of Sunset looks almost rural due to the tree-shrouded property there.  Drivers encounter few cross streets and fewer traffic signals, so the speeds are generally close to 60 mph.  It’s too fast for the situation, but the alternative is usually a BMW pushing you along so the driver can get to his/her drug deal/pilates class/studio screening on time.

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