Stars of the Underground: Westwood Memorial Park Cemetery

October 9, 2014 — I’ve been to Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles. To Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York. I’ve seen my share of the places where the famous dead mingle their molecules like their next movie role depended on it. But I’ve never seen a rot yard more packed with stones inscribed with recognizable names than the tiny cemetery that is Westwood Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles. The epitaphs looks like the credits of the biggest ensemble cast in the history of entertainment.

The full, official name of the cemetery has more words than a show dog: the Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park and Mortuary. But it’s had a few other, shorter names over the years since becoming a graveyard sometime in the 1880s. Back then, the area was countryside. Today it’s a business district. The cemetery is completely hemmed in by office buildings and parking garages at 1218 Glendon Avenue, hidden like a secret lunch spot for the Westwood Village’s 9-5ers.

I’m going to say it again. The place is tiny. Like 2.5-acres tiny. But six feet under that mini-acreage is a layer of red carpet so thick the worms need press passes.

I got there close to the early November dusk, not too long before it closed. Which was fine. I was only really there for one grave, Ray Bradbury’s. My secondary reason was because Robert Bloch and Janet Leigh both decomposed there, the author of Psycho and the actress who put victims on the map in Alfred Hitchcock’s movie version of the book, respectively. My third reason might’ve been Don Knotts, whose gravestone might be the most apt I’ve ever seen.

But while I was there, I tried to find as many of Bradbury’s well-known neighbors as I could. Below is that tally in photo form.

However, a quick spin through the list of Westwood Village’s illustrious interred on Wikipedia reveals that I missed a ton of others in the brief minutes I spent there: Dean Martin, Bettie Page, Eva Gabor, Karl Malden, Robert Stack, Carroll O’Connor, Gene Kelly, Burt Lancaster, Truman Capote, Peter Falk, Donna Reed, , Michael Fox (the actor who is the reason Michael J. Fox had to promote his middle initial when joining SAG), Frank Zappa, Roy Orbison, George C. Scott (although the last three have unmarked graves), and so many more. Janis Joplin and Elizabeth Montgomery were cremated here and Hugh Hefner’s future death space is here, too, right next to Marilyn Monroe’s, if a stone niche can even contain a life so lived.

And while that sounds like I missed too many graves, check out the ones I found just by wandering around. I didn’t know one could feel like paparazzi in a cemetery.

Robert Bloch, author of Psycho, is in there somewhere.

Janet Leigh, actress in Psycho