Until 1953 James Dean was often difficult to locate: He rented a dozen hotel rooms in midtown, none of them for more than a few weeks at a time. His flighty behavior was an attempt at remaining elusive, as his private life was often unconventional and messy. At last however, he settled into a cheap fifth-floor walk-up at 19 West 68th Street, a tiny room with only enough space for a daybed, a built-in desk and a hot plate; there was no kitchen, and the common bath was down the hallway. Guests invariably found his room cluttered with empty bottles of liquor, left-over cartons of food, unsleaved records and dog-eared books.
When the Hollywood icon chose to leave his apartment for an afternoon, he was often seen drinking a beer at Louie's Tavern in Sheridan Square, over a cheap plate of spaghetti at Jerry's Bar and Restaurant on Fifty-fourth Street or lapping up chicken soup at Riker's on Fifty-seventh.