Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Travel Tales: Visiting Hollywood Cemeteries

Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills
Many vacationers who come to the Los Angeles area visit the cemeteries to look for celebrity graves. I have visited three of the local cemeteries, so I will give as much of an overview of them as I can. One important thing to realize when looking for celebrity graves is that cemetery personnel will not tell anyone where particular people are buried. Do not waste time asking about this. However, this information is available online, so it is important to research each cemetery before visiting it.

Forest Lawn has several locations in the area. One was within walking distance of where I was staying one year, so I would walk around the property once a month for exercise. Each Forest Lawn is unique in its personality and the one at Hollywood Hills has many exhibits and monuments dedicated to American History. A replica of Boston's Old North Church is located on the grounds. Hollywood legends such as Stan Laurel, Bette Davis and Liberace are buried here.

Forest Lawn Glendale

Another Forest Lawn is located in Glendale on a beautiful property which has amazing views of the San Gabriel Mountains. Walt Disney and Jimmy Stewart are buried here, but they are not the main attraction. In the Great Mausoleum are buried Michael Jackson and Elizabeth Taylor. These graves are in a guarded section that is not open to the public. One time I was there and I noticed some people just sitting on the lawn and staring. I did not know why they were in deep meditation. Later when I came back to the area, they were gone, but I noticed a shrine to Michael Jackson. To find this, go to the exhibit for The Last Supper mosaic. When leaving the entrance to that building, notice the arch to the right and walk under it. Keep going with the building on your left. When you see a patio-type area, you will notice candles and flowers. He is inside that building which is locked at all times. Only family can visit the grave.

The last cemetery is Westwood Village Memorial Park which is located by UCLA. This place is difficult to find since it is surrounded by tall buildings. Visitors think they are driving into a parking deck and have to turn right just before the deck to enter the property. Westwood is smaller than Forest Lawn, but its size makes it easy to walk around the property. Traffic in the area can be a problem at some times, so avoid visiting near rush hour. One thing I like about this cemetery is the sense of humor displayed on some of the gravestones. For example, Billy Wilder's says, "I'm a writer but then nobody's perfect." Rodney Dangerfield's warns, "There goes the neighborhood." My favorite one is Merv Griffin's which states, "I will not be right back after this message."

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