It's part of the mythology, which is: The place didn't exist before I got here. Back home, you were Norma Jean. In California, it's Marilyn Monroe. -- Tim Hodson
Certainly, Los Angeles has its flaws. One time, the smoke from the fires kept us inside for three days. Then, there was the permanent Rush Hour - you really do have to see it to believe it. People are flaky and showing up 20 minutes late is the norm -- if people show up at all. And, once, my car was used as a shield, by the police, during a shoot out.
But, Los Angeles is remarkable in ways too. No one cares if you show up in a supermarket in PJs to buy cereal at 9:30 at night. It’s a live and let live attitude. People can become who they were meant to be -- because who’s going to tell Pops back in Bancroft, Iowa what you’re doing? And, nothing can surprise someone in Los Angeles. I once came out of a bar in West Hollywood and saw two men (one dressed as Little Bo Peep) heading towards intimacy on the hood of a car right smack in the middle of Santa Monica Blvd. I turned to my friend to make a bet as to when the car alarm would go off.
And, then there’s Hollywood. We are not referring to Hollywood as a geographic area. Yes, the historic sites are still there, but the studios have long since moved out, leaving behind an area of T-shirt shacks, smokes-for-less shops and terrible restaurants, which even the hookers shun. (I am really going to be fired from the tourism board after this.) Instead, we mean Hollywood as "the biz", those who make images for the screen, and those obsessed with image.
I knew the odds of ‘making it’ were against me, so the very first thing that I did in Hollywood was hunt down the ‘Queen of the Screen’. Who better to bless me than the legend? After a little research (www.findagrave.com) I discovered that she was in Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park. This is not the easiest cemetery to find as skyscrapers and the campus of U.C.L.A. has grown up around it. There are only two entrances, and one is gated (frequently locked). Try entering from the east side, on Glendon Ave.
I located her grave (Corridor of Memories, crypt 24), which was a simple plaque on a crypt wall with only Marilyn Monroe and the years of her life inscribed on it. (You can also look for the flowers which adorn her grave — there are always, always flowers). Nearby is a bench also bearing her name. I said a small prayer, wished her well, and set a quarter on the bench. I asked for as much Hollywoodness as she could lend. Then, I sought out a video store to rent ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’ and ‘Some Like It Hot’.
Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park
1218 Glendon Ave., Westwood.
Notable graves: Eddie Albert, Ray Bradbury, James Coburn, Rodney Dangerfield, Farrah Fawcett, Eva Gabor, Merv Griffin, Don Knotts, Burt Lancaster, Jack Lemmon, Karl Malden, Dean Martin, Walter Matthau, Carroll O’Connor, Roy Orbison, Bettie Page, Donna Reed, Buddy Rich, George C. Scott, Sidney Sheldon, Robert Stack, Mel Torme, Billy Wilder… and the one everyone goes to see, Norma Jean Baker/Marilyn Monroe.
Other cemeteries with stars:
Forest Lawn (Glendale)
1712 South Glendale Ave., Glendale
If you can only see one cemetery, this one has the most Hollywood stars per square foot than any other cemetery. It has 300 acres and attracts over a million visitors a year. Plus, you can — and should — get married here. Just as Ronald Reagan and Jane Wyman did. Dead celebrities not your thing? Check out the sculptures in the gardens, which are decorated with replicas of famous churches and mosaics.
Notable graves: Gracie Allen & George Burns, Humphrey Bogart, Clara Bow, William ‘Hopalong Cassidy’ Boyd, Lon Chaney, Nat King Cole, Sam Cooke, Sammy Davis Jr., Walt Disney (wasn’t he frozen?), W.C. Fields, Larry Fine (of the Three Stooges), Errol Flynn, Clark Gable & Carole Lombard, Samuel Goldwyn, Jean Harlow, Michael Jackson, Ted Knight, Louis L’Amour, Alan Ladd, Harold Lloyd, Jeanette MacDonald, Chico Marx (of the Marx Brothers), Tom Mix, Clayton Moore (The Lone Ranger), Mary Pickford, David O. Selznick, Red Skelton, Jimmy Stewart, Spencer Tracy, Marbeth Wright and Robert Young.
Caution: Employees are complete jerks about pointing out the graves of celebrities here. Don’t ask. Use the FindaGrave.com information.
Forest Lawn (Hollywood Hills)
6300 Forest Lawn Drive, Los Angeles
Appropriately, this cemetery overlooks several movie studios.
Notable graves: Steve Allen, Gene Autry, Lucille Ball (original burial site, remains have been removed), Benji (the dog), David Carradine, Bette Davis, Sandra Dee, Andy Gibb, Gabby Hayes, Buster Keaton, Dorothy Lamour, Charles Laughton, Stan Laurel (of Laurel & Hardy), Liberace, Art Linkletter, the Nelson family (Ozzie, Harriet & Ricky), Lou Rawls, John Ritter, Telly Savalas, Rod Steiger and Jack Webb.
Again, use FindaGrave.com before you go.
6000 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood
This is an older cemetery (established 1899) in which you’ll find Russian and Polish immigrants buried next to yesterday’s biggest stars.
Notable graves: Don Adams, Mel Blanc, Cecil B. DeMille, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Douglas Fairbanks Sr., Estelle Getty, John Huston, Peter Lorre, Hattie McDaniel, Darren McGavin, Tyrone Power Jr., Carl ‘Alfalfa’ Switzer and Rudolph Valentino.
Sidenote: As the funeral service of Rudolph Valentino was carried out on August 24th, 1926, in New York City, fans smashed the windows trying to enter the Frank Campbell funeral home. Over 100,000 fans lined the streets to catch a glimpse of the hearse carrying his coffin. Over the next 24 hours, several fans committed suicide.
5835 West Slauson Ave., Culver City
Another extremely large (Roman Catholic) cemetery. Do some research, prior to your visit, to find any celebrity’s grave. (www.findagrave.com).
Notable graves: Ray Bolger, John Candy, Bing Crosby, Jimmy Durante, Rita Hayworth, Bela Lugosi, Fred MacMurray, Ricardo Montalban, Pat O’Brien, Sharon Tate, Lawrence Welk and Loretta Young.
720 East Florence Ave., Inglewood
A lovely older cemetery with a vast lake, with fewer celebrities than the previous cemeteries.
Notable graves: Ray Charles, Ella Fitzgerald, Betty Grable, Billy Preston, Sugar Ray Robinson, Cesar Romero and William ‘Buckwheat’ Thomas.
Caution: This is not the best area of town. Be careful after dark.
Pierce Brothers Valhalla Memorial Park
10621 Victory Blvd., North Hollywood
Notable graves: Amelia Earhart (memorial) and Oliver Hardy (of Laurel & Hardy)
Mt. Sinai Memorial Park
5950 Forest Lawn Drive, Hollywood Hills
This cemetery bumps up against Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills, and is a Jewish cemetery.
Notable graves: Cass Elliot, Larry Harmon (Bozo the Clown) and Irving Mills.
Hillside Memorial Park
6001 West Centinela Ave., Culver City
Notable graves: Jack Benny, Milton Berle, Eddie Cantor, Lorne Greene, Moe Howard (of the Three Stooges), Al Jolson, Michael Landon, Suzanne Pleshette, Dinah Shore, Aaron Spelling and Shelley Winters.
Oakwood Memorial Cemetery
22600 Lassen Street, Chatsworth
Located out in ‘the valley’ (San Fernando) where you can find peace… so long as you weren’t a celebrity.
Notable graves: Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers
Now for a bit of trivia:
What was the first movie studio?
The Black Maria was built by Thomas Edison in 1893 in West Orange, New Jersey.