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Valencia’s very own rebel without a cause

Local resident cultivates the look and attitude of one of the biggest film stars of the 1950s

Posted: March 14, 2009 1:26 a.m.
Updated: March 14, 2009 4:55 a.m.

James Dean look-alike Scott Brimigion poses for the camera in a Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren at the Mercedes Benz dealership where he works. Brimigion has been a self-promoted look-alike for over 10 years.

The flipped-up collar, the cleft chin, the white T-shirts and the faded jeans leads people who see Scott Brimigion to do a double-take.

"He's the closest thing you'll ever see to James Dean," said Lenny Sage, owner of Mercedes Benz of Valencia, where Brimigion works.

But it isn't just Brimigion's looks that remind people of James Dean. Brimigion has the attitude.

Everything about Scott Brimigion screams 1950s "cool" - from his pompadour haircut to the tortured looks he gives photographers.

But the Valencia resident wasn't always Mr. Cool or a Dean look-alike.

Brimigion grew up in White Plains, N.Y. He was born two years after Dean was killed in a 1955 car accident in Cholame, California.

"I wasn't really into James Dean and never watched his movies," Brimigion said.

Fate changed that. Brimigion was stricken with an illness in college that confined him to bed for six months. He lost weight and emerged with high cheek bones and a cleft chin.

Brimigion's transformation into James Dean was almost complete.

After his recovery, Brimigion began dating Jeanine Barnes, who modeled for Wilhelmina Modeling agency. Her contract took her to Europe and Brimigion tagged along.

"I got to live in the most beautiful cities in the world," he said. Brimigion also started modeling.

A photographer told Brimigion that he looked like James Dean and asked him to pose as the legendary actor.

When Brimigion returned to the U.S. he watched Dean's three movies, "Giant," "East of Eden" and "Rebel Without A Cause," dozens of times. He changed his hairstyle and put together three outfits. His favorite is the red windbreaker with the collar flipped up that

Dean popularized in "Rebel Without a Cause."

In 1992, Brimigion won a James Dean look-alike contest in New York City. The contest organizers told him if he really wanted to study Dean he needed to go to the actor's home town in Fairmont, Ind., and compete in an international James Dean look-alike contest.

During the trip Brimigion met Bill Beck, a classmate of Dean's from Fairmont High School.

"(Beck) told me that Jimmy (Dean) carved his name into the stage of the old high school," Brimigion said.

The look-alike contestant broke into the old high school, which had been abandoned. "We had to pry plywood off the back of the building to sneak in," he said.

He's glad he did.

"I got to stand on the same stage that James Dean stood on as a young actor," he said.

Brimigion settled in California in 1996, meeting and marrying his wife, Melissa, in the same year. The were engaged on the set of the independent film "Johnny's Always Running" by Michael Nash.

"I was on set watching a scene when the director told me they needed someone to sit off-camera for Scott to focus on during the shot," Melissa Brimigion said. "Then he proposed to me. (The crew) got the whole thing on film."

Being married to a James Dean look-alike is a blast, Melissa Brimigion said. "It's funny to see the look he gets and people ask who he is, and I get to say, ‘my husband,'" she said.

Brimigion's cool look pays dividends in his job at Valencia Mercedes Benz. "It's always great to have something to talk with the customers about beside cars," Sage said. "And people love James Dean because he's an American icon."


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