This past Sunday some of my fellow tour guides and I met at the Pig ‘n Whistle on Hollywood Boulevard for lunch (see blog post here). We then carpooled over to Hollywood Forever Cemetery. The photo above is looking north to the entrance on Santa Monica Boulevard. If you squint, just to the right of the left hand palm tree you can see the Hollywood Sign stretched across the mountain in the distance.
A closeup view of the Hollywood Sign.
Our group beginning the tour. It was a warm, muggy day. The weird weather continues. There has been rain in parts of our vast city but not in my neighborhood. The skies have been overcast which has cooled the temperatures a little but locks in the humidity.
From the website: Hollywood Forever is a cemetery unlike any other in the world. One of the world’s most fascinating landmarks, Hollywood Forever Cemetery is the final resting place to more of Hollywood’s founders and stars than anywhere else on earth. Founded in 1899, the cemetery was an integral part of the growth of early Hollywood. Paramount Studios was built on the back half of the original Hollywood Cemetery, where the studio is still in operation today. The cemetery of choice for most of the founders of Hollywood’s great studios, as well as writers, directors, and, performers, Hollywood Forever Cemetery is now listed on the National Register of Historic Sites. Visitors come from all over the world to pay respects to Johnny Ramone, Cecil B. DeMille, Jayne Mansfield, Rudolph Valentino, Douglas Fairbanks, and hundreds more of Hollywood’s greatest stars.
I love walking around cemeteries and I’ve wanted to visit this one for years. What sets Hollywood Forever apart from many others is that any kind of tombstone seems to go. Other cemeteries around Los Angeles are much more strict with the kind of grave marker you can have. So this is a creative mishmash. Of course that makes mowing the lawn a lot harder which may account for the unruliness of the grass.
Karie Bible was our cemetery tour guide. The tour website mentions that she gives the tour in vintage gowns from her collection that spans the 1920s through the 1950s.
Yes, I know you are wondering when you will see the headstones of those movie stars. The cemetery is not only for celebrities. In fact I was surprised that some of the more elaborate grave sites belonged to “ordinary” folk and some of the more modest graves were the final resting place for Hollywood “royalty.”
The Grecian tomb seeming to float in the lake belongs to William C. Clark, founder of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Karie told us it was not open to the public because the interior is filled with exquisite mosaics. If you know me, you know how much I love mosaics so I was salivating at the thought. I’ll have to do some more research on this subject.
We entered the Mausoleum. I was immediately attracted to these beautiful light fixtures. I am so predictable!
A friend told me recently that she and her husband had purchased niches in the mausoleum for the final resting place of their ashes. I couldn’t quite grasp what she was telling me but now I’ve seen the niches myself I understand.
You can have your urn and other personal belongings placed in these niches behind glass doors. I like that idea. But I’ve decided to have my ashes strewn around one of my favorite areas for walking. I don’t want to be cooped up indoors for eternity… or under the ground for that matter.
Okay, now for the serious stuff. As you can see, people (women) still come to Rudolf Valentino’s grave in the Mausoleum to leave a kiss. I expected to see a much more elaborate grave than this. Valentino left his native Italy to seek his fortune in the US. Unfortunately, fortune didn’t smile for long and he died at the age of 31 of peritonitis. His birthname was Rodolfo Alfonzo Raffaello Pierre Filibert Guglielmi di Valentina d’Antonguolla… a little too much for the grave marker.
Born Frederick George Peter Ingle Finch in London, he won an Academy Award posthumously for best actor in the film “Network.”
Peter Lorre was born László Loewenstein in Austria-Hungary. Our guide mentioned that he was about to divorce his third wife but it didn’t happen in time to preclude her from being buried next to him. I can only hope they have since reconciled!
Mickey Rooney was 93 when he died in 2014. He rose to great heights in Hollywood but in stature only made it to 5 ft 2 inches (157 cm).
This is the view he gazes at for eternity… can you make out the Hollwood sign in the middle of the photo trying to peek through the branches? As his gravestone says, Hollywood will always be his home.
This is a memorial to Toto (Terry) from “The Wizard of Oz.” She is actually buried north of this location in Studio City. If you can read the inscription it tells the sad story that her resting place was destroyed by the construction of the Ventura Freeway in 1958. Terry had 16 total film appearances in her eleven years of life.
Douglas Fairbanks, otherwise known as the husband of Mary Pickford (although he had other wives before and after), has pretty nice accomodations for his final resting place. Passing in 1939 he was only 56. He was one of the founders of United Artists.
Another memorial is for Hattie McDaniel, famous for “Gone With the Wind” and the first African American to win an Academy Award. A very accomplished lady, she was also a professional singer-songwriter, comedian, stage actress, radio performer and television star. She passed in 1952.
In the middle of the photo at the top of the mountain is the Griffith Observatory.
I think this may be my favorite grave in the cemetery. I can’t say I was particularly a fan of the Ramones but I love the way Johnny Ramone is shown as he was in life. He will be forever playing his guitar. It doesn’t get much better than that! He died from prostate cancer at the age of 55.
The koi were enjoying themselves.
According to our tour guide, Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, modeled herself after Vampira but never paid tribute to her. Vampira died pretty much penniless and I read that at one time she even sold linoleum.
Mr. Blackwell, probably still criticizing, er, critiquing the fashions of the angels.
Darren McGavin, one of my favorite actors because of his TV show Kolchak: The Night Stalker. One of my fellow tour guides noted that he had grown up with this show, acting out like he was the star, and it had a great influence on him. Not many people have even heard of that show, so it was great to meet a fellow fan.
Cecil B. DeMille is credited with being one of the founding fathers of the Hollywood movie industry. Much of his family is also buried around him.
I was surprised to discover that Jayne Mansfield was only 34 when she died in a car crash. Don’t get your calculators in a twist, she was actually born in 1933…. Hollywood magic at work. I think most people know her daughter is Mariska Hargitay known for the Law and Order franchise.
Don Adams. This is so cool that he is depicted as his best known role of Maxwell Smart talking on his shoe phone. This made me chuckle. Hard to believe he passed away ten years ago.
Marion Davies, actress and mistress of William Randolph Hearst, is buried within the Douras Mausoleum.
Tyrone Power has a nice lakeside spot. He died at the age of 44 of a massive heart attack while involved in a dueling scene for a movie he was making in Spain. His son, Tyrone Power IV, was born two months after his death.
This obelisk commemorates Griffith J. Griffith. In 1896 he donated over 3,000 acres to the City of Los Angeles which subsequently became Griffith Park. The Griffith Observatory (within Griffith Park) can be seen just to the right of his monument. Mr. Griffith has an interesting story that you can read here.
At Forever Hollywood you can practice whatever religion you choose in the afterlife, unlike some other cemeteries that are religion-specific (only Jewish or only Catholic, etc). “The Man of a Thousand Voices,” some of Mel Blanc’s work was done in a full body cast while recovering from an auto accident.
Estelle Getty, who played Bea Arthur’s mother in “The Golden Girls,” was really only a couple of years older than her. She won both an Emmy and Golden Globe award for that role. She passed away from Dementia with Lewy Bodies in 2008.
So I was very happy to finally get to visit Forever Hollywood. Most of the information for this post is a combination of what I remember from the tour and Wikipedia so don’t blame our lovely tour guide, Karie Bible, for anything I got wrong. But as always, I enjoyed doing the research for this post. However, I highly recommend going on one of Ms. Bible’s tours as I learned a lot and her personality made the two-hour tour seem too short.
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