Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Because my mind works this way....Part 2

I was working late tonight, and like everybody does, I had the radio on. After hearing Nickelback's Something In Your Mouth for the 10,000 time today, I switched over to the "oldies" station. When I did, they were playing Jan&Dean's Deadman's Curve. It made me think of Jan Berry's (the Jan, of Jan&Dean) horrific accident that almost ended his life, and definitely ended the duo's musical career together, at that point and time. The above picture is of Jan's '66 Corvette, in the impound lot after the accident.

On April 12, 1966, Jan Berry's life was going thru some pretty radical events. He had just broken up with his long-time girlfriend Jill, he had just come from his draft board hearing on his draft status (this was Viet Namn time), he was studying hard for his UCLA medical school exam(which would decide his draft status if he wasn't accepted in med school), and he was running late for a meeting to discuss final arrangements for starting his own record label, J&D Records, to be a subsidiary of Dunhill Records.

Whatever Jan Berry's distractions were that afternoon, he turned off of Sunset Blvd., south onto Whittier Dr. in Beverley Hills. With a slow moving vehicle in front of him, running late, and driving fast as was his habit, he pulled out to pass the vehicle, and smashed into the rear end of a gardener's flatbed truck that was parked at the curb. Police estimate that Berry was going between 80-90 MPH at impact with the truck.

When police and the ambulance crews arrived, they thought he was dead. They checked his vital signs, and found out otherwise. They cut Berry from his car, and took him to the UCLA Medical Center a short distance away. He was in and out of a coma for about a month, and had severe head injuries. When he emerged from the coma, he was partially paralyzed on his right side, and he definitely didn't "have all of his marbles in the right drawers" as a result of the collision. They also thought Berry wouldn't ever walk again.

Well, his mental and physical recovery was long and painfull, but Jan Berry indeed learned to walk again, and was able to regain enough mental and physical power to re-enter the recording studios not as a recording artist, but as a very good producer, in the early '70's, something he loved dearly. Not only that, but he recovered enough to reunite with Dean Torrance in '78, and they were able to actively tour as Jan&Dean again all the way up to a few months before Jan Berry died on March 26, 2004 of a massive stroke. Berry was 62 years old when he died.

Wow, talk about guts.

Now, over the years, it's been said that the reason for the crash was that one of the 'Vettes OEM wheel knockoffs had spun loose, sending him into the truck - that wasn't the case. Also, it's been said that his accident was at the same Deadman's Curve on Sunset, where the 1964 Jan&Dean's song of the same name ends in a violent collision. That's also not true.

Most everybody is in agreement that the Deadman's Curve in the Jan&Dean song is the sharp 35 MPH curve at the end of a pretty long downhill section of Sunset Blvd., right above where UCLA's Drake Stadium is located, in Bel-Air Estates. That curve is deceiving, and had been the scene of numerous accidents. That Deadman's Curve is located several miles away from where Jan Berry's accident occurred.

But, one famous person who did have a very serious head-on collision, driving his sports car too fast on that Deadman's Curve on Sunset, was voiceover character actor Mel Blanc. You know his voices - Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, Daffy Duck, etc. Blanc's accident happened in Jan. of '61, at about 9:30pm. Blanc too had to be cut from his car, and he suffered severe head injuries, a broken pelvis, and two broken legs. Blanc was in a coma for weeks, but he pulled thru, and had a long, full career afterwards.

Now, what does all this have to do with motorcycles? Well.......nothing. What does this have to do with a part of my life, growing up in the '60's? Well......quite a bit. Like I said, this is how my mind works sometimes.


mind pill said...

as usual great words........back in 1984 we were heading up to hollywood from the coast to see a show at the whiskey.... well we was all fucked up, passing a tequila bottle, flying up sunset blvd. in my buddies `64 vw bug. he was going faster and faster around the turns and no one was trying to talk him out of it so it was giving him more courage.....we hit dead man`s curve and the centrifigal force pulled us up on two wheels and we all starting howling then it kept going till it landed on it`s side sliding into on coming traffic. once it stopped, we were all freaked out and just waiting for a car to slam into us when i said , `let`s get the fuck out`. we all got out and turned that bug over. people were pulled over everywhere thinking we were gonna all be dead. ucla cops pulled up and told us to take off, they called l.a.p.d. and we`d all be shit when they got there. we all jumped in and that little bastard fired right up and we were gone man......... we all ended up in jail in venice around 3:00 a.m. but that`s another story. that`s MY dead man`s curve story.......

J-Rod said...

I always enjoy your stories, Rich.