Hollywood Forever Cemetery
During my recent trip to California, I didn't have much time to spend in LA, but one of the top destinations on my list was the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Founded in 1899, Hollywood Forever claims to be "the final resting place to more of Hollywood’s founders and stars than anywhere else on Earth." The cemetery is famous not only for its residents, but since 2002 they've hosted outdoor movies featuring DJs, photo booths, picnics and appearances from (living) celebrities and directors.
I was there during the day, but you bet if I lived in LA I'd be a frequent guest on movie nights. Hollywood Forever is one of the oldest cemeteries in Los Angeles, and is the only one actually located within the city of Hollywood. The cemetery is beautiful and obviously well-maintained—I never got over the thrill of seeing palm trees, which is not something I'm used to seeing in cemeteries.
Despite being quite old, the cemetery isn't actually visually interesting in the way I usually prefer for a cemetery—crumbling, creepy and full of traditional stones—so I realized quickly that the best way to see Hollywood Forever would be to track down its famous residents (although this is Hollywood, so some of the non-famous headstones were just as entertaining).
When I inquired about a map, I was directed to the flower shop, where my only option was to purchase a map for $5. It was definitely worth it—the cemetery is huge—but I've never been to a cemetery that charged for a map (and I've been to a lot of cemeteries). I did pass it along to my friend Jim, so at least he won't have to pay when he visits.
Hollywood Forever is by no means the only cemetery filled with celebrities in the Los Angeles area, and while there are a few contemporaries—Chris Cornell and Anton Yelchin were both buried recently—most of the interments are much older. Hattie McDaniel, the first African-American to win an Academy Award (for her performance in Gone With the Wind) wanted to be buried at Hollywood Forever, but was not allowed because at the time of her death in 1952, the cemetery was still segregated. In 1959 the cemetery was finally desegregated, and In 1999 a centotaph was erected in McDaniel's honor.
The map wasn't very easy to follow, but I did manage to track down two Ramones: Dee Dee's kiss-covered headstone and Johnny's guitar-wielding likeness. I also visited Fay Wray (King Kong), Jayne Mansfield, Mickey Rooney and Mel Blanc—the voice of just about every Looney Tunes character you can think of, and owner of one of my favorite epitaphs, "That's All Folks".
The main attraction at Hollywood Forever for me, however, was a fairly new addition. When I visited Ferncliff in September, I was disappointed to learn that Judy Garland's remains had been moved in June of 2017, and reinterred at Hollywood Forever. She was the last one I found during my visit, and the move came with quite the upgrade. She is entirely alone (for now) in her own mausoleum, appropriately named the Judy Garland Pavilion.
Garland's Wizard of Oz co-star, Toto, died toward the end of WWII and the burial ground where he was interred was destroyed during the expansion of the Ventura Freeway. But close to Garland is a stone provided by the Toto Memorial Committee in 2011—allowing you to not only to pay your respects to Dorothy, but to her little dog too.