Hollywood Forever Cemetery

January 12, 2012 — Celebrity does a lot for a person. Doesn't keep you alive, though. Exhibit A: Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles, CA.

The cemetery is located right in the space where the heart of the district would be if Hollywood had one, at 6000 Santa Monica Boulevard. The 60-acre, 110-year-old cemetery even shares its southern border with Paramount Studios. From just about any point on the grounds, you can see the iconic white water tower with its blue Paramount Studios logo staring balefully over the cemetery like a grandfather that has outlived its grandchildren. Or a like the Eye of Sauron. Depends on one’s mood, I guess.

The Walk of Fame is only a mile away, but Hollywood Forever is a much better place to tread upon the stars. If that Paramount water tower ever bursts, it’ll wash over the remains of some of the most famous names in Hollywood, names that most of us have only seen rolling vertically in white letters on a black screen, names that are now incised in granite and marble.

Now, I’d visit this cemetery if it only held the remains of Peter Lorre, but it also features what’s left of Rudolph Valentino, Cecil B. DeMille, Mel Blanc, Fay Wray, John Huston, some of the Ramones…it’s the cast, crew, and soundtrack of some crazy motion picture that never happened.

The official cemetery site provides plenty of information these days on the stars buried in its turf, as well as an interactive map. I visited the cemetery in May of 2009, and the only person on my itinerary whom I couldn’t find was Maila Nurmi. The 1950s horror hostess known as Vampira had just died the previous year, there wasn’t much information on her grave site online in general, and, most importantly, she still didn’t have a headstone. That’s changed since then thanks to her friends and fans, and she arguably has the coolest corpse weight out there now. Or maybe it looks like this. Confused.

Also with the hindsight of the 2012 Internet, my wife is probably standing on top of Ms. Nurmi while taking that first picture of me.

I’ll never get used to the idea of a cemetery with palm trees, but Hollywood Forever is certainly a beautiful place and well-kept. Even better, it maintains a much more relaxed attitude than most of its peers, treating the place less like sacred ground and more like a venue. It features regular concerts, tours, Halloween and Dia de los Muertos events, and outdoor movie nights where the film is projected on the blank side of one of its mausoleums. Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we’re all going to entertain worms.

I'd like to say that seeing the final resting places of the rich and famous will move one to profound philosophical speculation, but mostly, it'll just make you say, "I've been to his grave" every time Darren McGavin’s scenes come up in A Christmas Story. It’s pretty annoying, and I’m sorry to suggest you put yourself in that situation.

For real, though, I've been to Kolchak: The Night Stalker’s grave.

Rudolph Valentino
Peter Lorre, to add to my collection of grave of horror stars.
Cecil B. DeMille
Fay Wray...I wonder how the cold, icy grip of death
compares to the warm, furry one of King Kong.
There were lots of birds at the cemetery, and I had to chase
these away (i.e., make them chase me) in order to get to the
grave pictured next.
The tragedy of Virginia Rappe and Fatty Arbuckle.
Just a cenotaph for Johnny, but
Dee Dee's buried on the grounds
just across that pond under a custom
Ramones headstone.