excerpted from The New York Times, October 2, 2005
In this transient city, where the hunt for new digs can consume more time and energy than the quest for romance, apartment dwellers often wonder who occupied their units before them. New Yorkers like to think that the famous or infamous walked the same creaky old staircase or sat on the same concrete stoop, and chances are, they’re right. But few ever really know for sure.
Mr. [Russell] Aaronson has no doubt. His address has been beamed around the world, in [James] Dean biographies and Internet sites and in city guidebooks. Dean was photographed on several occasions inside and outside the apartment, goofing around on the stoop with Martin Landau and – in one popular image – strolling down the middle of the street directly outside the building, his hands resting casually in his pockets.
Much has been said about James Dean the actor, the sex symbol. But as the anniversary of his death was marked, a few remembered another side of the movie star often overlooked: James Dean, the New Yorker.
Dean lived in Manhattan off and on for about four years, moving here in 1951 on the advice of his drama coach, James Whitmore. He moved around frequently as he landed roles in television dramas and in Broadway shows, including “The Immoralist.”
Kip Brown, a Dean researcher in Sherman Oaks, Calif., said that among the many places he lived in New York, Dean stayed for a time at the Y.M.C.A. at 5 West 63rd Street, the Iroquois Hotel at 49 West 44th Street and at a building at 13 West 89th Street. Dean lived in the apartment that Mr. Aaronson now occupies for roughly two years, from 1953 until his death in September 1955, Mr. Brown said. He said Dean kept the apartment even after he moved to California to begin filming “East of Eden,” and returned to New York periodically through February 1955.