Posted by: Jerry Garrett | February 25, 2010

Where is “Valentine’s Day” Celebrity Cemetery?

Hollywood will never die, although its celebrities continually do. (Jerry Garrett Photo)

HOLLYWOOD, California

A pivotal scene near the end of the movie “Valentine’s Day” (2010)

Movie poster

has a crowd gathering at the “Celebrity Cemetery” in Hollywood in a supposedly annual ritual to watch movies among the graves, on a night devoted to love.

This scene raised three questions:

Does the “Celebrity Cemetery” really exist?

Do real, live people line up to get into cemeteries – at night! – to watch movies?

Is there really an annual get-together in Celebrity Cemetery on Valentine’s Day?

The answers?

The evening of Valentine’s Day in Hollywood is not a time for outdoor activities. It is a time for hypothermia. While it is true that southern California has a very mild winter, compared to most other parts of North America, it does get cold here. In fact, Valentine’s Day 2009 experienced a low of 40 degrees! February is also one of the wetter months in this otherwise dry climate; so the odds of getting rained on are not in your favor.

So, any Valentine’s Day gathering in a cemetery, much less at night, to watch movies, just isn’t going to happen.

But there is a cemetery here that does host outdoor movie nights, on weekends during the summer months. And this is the cemetery, now known as the “Hollywood Forever Cemetery”, which the scene in the movie is based upon – and where it was filmed. People do line up by the hundreds, with beach chairs, blankets and picnic baskets, to watch movies projected on the side of a funeral home building. Please don’t trip over the graves.

In real estate, they say location is everything. As cemeteries go, you can’t top Hollywood Forever’s location. It is right out behind Paramount Studios.

Paramount's iconic studio site

Expiring celebrities can literally go from the back lot to the back plot.

Actually the studio is on old cemetery property, so the Fates of each are eternally intertwined. The cemetery was founded in 1899 on 100 acres, and called the Hollywood Memorial Park Cemetery. In 1920, Paramount Pictures (known as Famous Players-Lasky Corp. then) purchased 40 acres of the cemetery land, upon which to build its studios.

The remaining 60 acres continued on as a cemetery, and is now listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. But the cemetery fell into disrepair in the late 20th Century, and the State of California barred the owners from selling any more plots. Forever Enterprises bought the site in 1998 (for just $375,000!), cleaned it up, refurbished it and successfully petitioned the state to allow resumption of burials there. The new owners also changed its name to Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

The cemetery actually lies about a half a block outside Hollywood’s formal boundaries, in the City of Los Angeles. But it is in the heart of the Hollywood district (indeed, Paramount is considered the last studio “in Hollywood”). It is near landmarks such as Sunset & Vine, and Hollywood Boulevard. Its address is on Historic Route 66 (fitting then, that band leader Nelson Riddle, known for the “Theme from Route 66”, is among those buried here).

You can't beat the view

And the Hollywood Hills, with its famed “HOLLYWOOD” sign, loom overhead.

Oddly enough, if you ask locals where the “celebrity cemetery” is, they might direct you to a different cemetery. Hollywood has several. And they all vie for recognition for which offers the best selection of dead celebrities.

Hollywood Forever is the final resting place of such notables as Douglas Fairbanks Sr. and Jr., Cecil B. DeMille, Tyrone Power and Rudolf Valentino. Mr. Valentino’s death in 1927 started the tradition of the “Woman in Black”, who came to put flowers on his grave every year on the anniversary of his death. She is no longer “mysterious”; women now audition for the role, and the chosen ones serve as tour guides for visitors to the cemetery.

But the cemetery often referred to as the “celebrity cemetery” around here is Westwood Village Memorial Park. This tiny cemetery, hidden in the middle of a block behind a library, some homes, a parking garage and several office buildings, is where Marilyn Monroe is buried. And yes, fresh flowers continue to be placed on her crypt,

Fresh flowers always adorn her grave

as her former husband Joe DiMaggio, the famed baseball player, once decreed. (He is buried in San Francisco; the crypt next to Ms. Monroe’s is still available!)

Others buried in this cemetery include the recently interred Farrah Fawcett, Dean Martin, Merv Griffin, Rodney Dangerfield, Karl Malden, Walther Matthau, Roy Orbison and Carl Wilson of the Beach Boys.

Just a few miles away is Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, final resting place of the likes of Bing Crosby, John Ford, Rita Hayworth, Lawrence Welk, Sharon Tate, Loretta Young, racing driver Barney Oldfield and Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley.

A little farther afield are the several well-known Forest Lawn cemeteries, including Hollywood Hills and Glendale – the latter featuring the graves of Errol Flynn, Jimmy Stewart, Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy, Nat King Cole, Humphrey Bogart, W.C. Fields

On the whole, not in Philly

(not in Philadelphia, after all, despite what you might have heard).

That’s a round-about way of answering: No, there’s no one place named the “Celebrity Cemetery” in Hollywood. But the “celebrity cemetery” in Hollywood is no myth. They are legendary. Just don’t go there to catch a movie on Valentine’s Day.

Jerry Garrett

February 25, 2010


Responses

  1. Great post!

  2. I don’t think I could watch movies, much less bring a picnic basket to the cemetery. But, if picnicking at the cemetery is your thing, check this out – http://parapetsafety.wordpress.com/2009/06/28/family-picnic-anyone/


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