Travel: Digging Graves In L.A. Seeing The Departed In Hollywood

Tomb of Bette Davis

Going to Los Angeles can be a Hollywood thrill. You can take tours of the stars homes, or go to the Walk of Fame, or any number of tours to try and catch a glimpse of your favorite celebrity. But what if your interests run to the darker side? Rest in peace, there are still several branches to entice you.

Celebrity graveyards appear all over the city and even out to the further edges of Los Angeles. Many of them are huge adventures, offering several hours of walking (or even hiking) while including an exercise in reading maps and compasses. Others can be easily navigated allowing you to visit the famous in their final resting places without spending all day. One can often go several hours without seeing anyone else (except for groundskeepers) allowing even the most introverted souls time to reflect.

Many of these cemeteries have different rules about what can be left at gravesites and what cannot. Fresh cut flowers are always welcome, and some allow potted plants. Trinkets and toys are usually discouraged, as the caretakers are responsible for clearing away the sites. A few locations will gladly help point out a particular person’s final resting place so a visitor can pay their respects. Others will offer only a general map of the grounds, while a few discourage Grave Hunters at all. There are websites that will help (www.Seeingstars.com or www.Findagrave.com) you through with maps and coordinates for the determined explorer.

Final resting place of Marilyn Monroe (photo by Eric Andrews-Katz)

Final resting place of Marilyn Monroe (photo by Eric Andrews-Katz)

Remember 1): Always be respectful. 2): Check the rules of the cemetery. 3): Be ever mindful of current services happening on the grounds.

Pierce Brothers Westwood Memorial is a small and densely populated with recognizable names. It is ideal for the novice as it is a manageable place having small grounds, offering a final resting place for many celebrities, and friendly workers that will help you locate its inhabitants. Here you will find such names as Marilyn Monroe (where people put on lipstick and kiss the vault), Farrah Faucet, Natalie Wood, and Doris Roberts. Carroll O’Connor, Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, Don Knotts, and Peggy Lee also are laid to rest on the property. Many of them find peace in vaults, while others are lined up in rows among the lush green grass.

Hollywood Forever is located on Santa Monica Boulevard. Its larger grounds are spread out, but it is still a walkable place. The staff here is usually friendly and will point out the sites, if not take you directly there. The newest resident is Judy Garland who, although not recently departed, was moved here in June 2018 and placed in a grand vault. Other interns are: Mickey Rooney, Peter Lorre, Douglas Fairbanks (with a beautiful reflecting pool), Tyrone Powers, Hattie McDaniel, TOTO (the dog, not the band), Joey Ramone, and Rudy Valentino among many other notable names. Peacocks can be found wandering among the grounds.

There are two Forest Lawn cemeteries in Los Angeles. Both are very large (we’re talking 7+ acres of land), and neither is very openly friendly for celebrity grave hunters. To find all the names you may want to visit, you will need to have a car, and you will need to drive from one end of this vast ground to the other. Having the time and determination (and sunscreen) to invest, many recognizable names wait to be found.

Forest Lawn (Hollywood Hills) is vast offering a plethora of names. Bette Davis and Liberace have large, easy to find statues at their graves, as does Black Sabbath frontman Ronnie James Dio. The most recent addition is the duel (and relatively easy to find) gravesite of Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher. Other notable names are Sandra Dee, Brittany Murphy, and John Ritter among many others. Forest Lawn (Glendale) is another sprawling landmark that seems to go on forever. Some of the notable names here are: Walt Disney, Sammy Davis Jr., and L. Frank Baum. Dorothy Dandridge has a vault here, not far from George Burns and Gracie Allen. Humphrey Bogart, Ted Knight, and Jimmy Stewart can be found on the grounds. Michael Jackson and Elizabeth Taylor are both laid to rest, not far from each other.

Final resting place of Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher (photo by Eric Andrews-Katz)

Final resting place of Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher (photo by Eric Andrews-Katz)

Hillside Cemetery is one (Mt. Sinai would be another) of the major Jewish cemeteries to see celebrities. Here Milton Berle, Jack Benny, Eddie Cantor, and George Jessel can be found. Michael Landon has an easily found vault, and Lorne Green, Eddie Gorme Lawrence, Aaron Spelling, and Dinah Shore are buried close.

If hiking around in the beating sun is not for you, try another route. The Dearly Departed Tours (http://dearlydepartedtours.com) will drive you – in complete comfort and air conditioning – around the infamous city pointing out the darker side of Hollywood. With excellent guides, you may choose from one of several interesting tours. Most of these tours are recommended for mid-teens and adults, as some of the content is graphic and may be disturbing to some visitors.
The Helter Skelter Tour* explains the brutal story behind the infamous Manson Murders. Scott Michaels who is one of the leading scholars on the Manson subject hosts this tour and points out key places in the bizarre story, where clues were found, and where the murders actually happened. This tour is more revealing than retelling as it explains details, circumstances and important ties all leading up to those two fateful nights that ended the Summer of Love. *A portion of the admission goes to the Doris Tate Crime Victim Foundation.

For those with more of a rock-n-roll bent, try the LA Rock ‘N’ Roll Circus Tour that shows important places and information about some of the classic rock bands of America. The Doors, The Mamas & Papas, Frank Zappa, Guns N’Roses, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, The Monkees, and many others all wait to have their stories told as you cruise down the Sunset Strip.
Many other interesting tours are mentioned on the website including: the GLBT Hollywood Tour, The Rocky Horror Tour, Divine’s Hollywood Tour, The CarpenTour, and the Nasty Nellie Oleson Tour – which includes co-hosting by Nellie herself, Alison Arngrim.

Visiting celebrity graveyards can be an ordeal of hiking and long walks in the blazing sun. There is very little shade offered at these places, and maps, apps or online assistance will be needed. Paying homage to some of the greatest and most influential people in history also holds its own (eternal) rewards.

Some Interesting Websites To Visit

www.Seeing-stars.com
www.Findagrave.com
www.DearlyDepartedTours.com

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About Eric Andrews-Katz

Eric Andrews-Katz has short stories included in over 10 anthologies. He is the author of the Agent Buck 98 Series (“The Jesus Injection” and “Balls & Chain”), and the author of the Greek myth series beginning with the novel TARTARUS. He has conducted celebrity interviews with some of the biggest and best names on Broadway, Hollywood and in literature. He can be found at: http://www.EricAndrewsKatz.com

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