Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Waking the Dead: Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills

For many, that first trip to the cemetery is a one-way ticket; once you go in, you go in for good.  Not quite ready to succumb to death's inevitable grasp, I'm already planning my return visit to Forest Lawn Mortuary in Hollywood Hills.  On my most recent grave-hunting expedition, I was kicked out (closing time) before I could see the final resting places of the Nelson Family - Ozzie, Harriet, and Ricky.  "You mean you never heard of him?  Where do you come from, outer space?!!"

Forest Lawn Mortuary - Hollywood Hills, CA

Frankly, I couldn't be more excited to once again haunt the lovely grounds of a cemetery that houses some of Hollywood's most famous spirits.  One in a chain of themed mortuaries, Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills' inspiration is Americana, employing giant statues of the founding fathers and a replica of the Old North Church.  While it may not be as big as its cemetery siblings, what FLHH lacks in size, it more than makes up for in patriotic fervor and A-List clientele.

"Pater Patriae" - Georgaeus Washingtonus

The first grave marker I noticed was that of Horace Heidt, a big band orchestra leader that did not get as much recognition as his contemporaries but who, nonetheless, knew how to swing.

Like many other band leaders of the era, Heidt made appearances in films.  My favorite moment from the Jimmy Stewart/Paulette Goddard vehicle, Pot O' Gold, was a musical number called, "A Knife, a Fork, and a Spoon."

"A Knife, A Fork, and A Spoon" - Horace Heidt & His Musical Knights in Pot O' Gold (1941)

There are plenty more famous music makers in residence at Forest Lawn as well.

Julie London & Bobby Troup
She gained acting fame playing Nurse Dixie with her husband on Emergency!,
but it is the sultry singing of the husky-voiced siren that sets our hearts aglow

The most flamboyant melody man at Forest Lawn dropped the "Wladziu Valentino," choosing to be known by the mononymous moniker, Liberace!

The family tomb is grand but, all things considered,
it is rather understated - even with the signature.

In the end, maybe too much of a good thing
was just too much of a good thing.

It isn't all one big, Hollywood Hills jam session, however.  As irreverent as it seems, there are so many funny men at Forest Lawn that it is a veritable laugh riot as well.

Buster Keaton
An old headstone for the "Old Stone Face"

Marty Feldman
"Walk this way."

Stan Laurel

Morey Amsterdam
With a career spanning eight decades, including vaudeville, 
television, and movies, we best love Morey as Cappy in 
Muscle Beach Party and Buddy Sorrell in The Dick van Dyke Show

John Ritter
Leon Ames
Sure, Ames tackled some tough roles, but my favorite characterizations of his 

This is purported to be the largest historic mosaic in the world.
It's a wonder why more elementary school field trips aren't scheduled for Forest Lawn.

Yes, Forest Lawn has big murals, but it has even bigger stars; some of Hollywood's most celebrated figures invested in this prime Hollywood Hills real estate.

Bette Davis
When it comes right down to it, you can bet that I'm team Bette!

Charles Laughton
I thought it was odd that Elsa Lanchester was not laid to rest in close proximity
to her husband.  As it turns out, she wished her ashes to be scattered at sea.

George Raft
In a way, Humphrey Bogart owes his career to George Raft.
Bogart took all the roles that Raft, at one time the bigger star, turned down.

So this is something of a tease.
The blank marble vault in the center of the photo used to house
the remains of the most famous comedienne in history, namely
Lucille Ball.  A few years after her interment, her children decided 
to move her back to Jamestown, NY and the familty crypt.
Speaking of Lucy, my first introduction to the final few stars we will feature here came via I Love Lucy/The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour!

Clyde Beatty
It would have taken me so much longer to learn about one of the 20th-Century's
greatest circus showmen had Lucy not been such a kleptomaniac!

The appearance of real-life couple, Kovacs and Adams, on The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour would mark the end of the on-and-offscreen pairing of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz; the day after filming was completed, divorce papers were filed.  Adams has said that a pall of sadness hung over the set.  I think it factored in her somewhat-melancholy rendition of the love song "That's All." 

"That's All" - Edie Adams in The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour

That's all.

Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills
6300 Forest Lawn Dr
Los Angeles, CA


Mr. Tiny


  1. Isn't it strange to think someone can have such a presence on earth and then in death they just get a tiny plaque! I'm under the assertion that everyone should have a grande crazy animatronic grave marker.

  2. Thank you, Mr. Tiny. What a wonderful vicarious tour!

  3. I have never walked around a hollywd cemetery. Its fascinating. But is it eerie? I mean it must be very quiet, and yet, can you feel the person's presence at all or is that all silly to think there are spirits? If not, why do we even bother to hold on ---to ashes or bones? I went to Egypt more than 20 years ago. It was beautiful. The tourism is all about royalty that lived 3000 years ago. It was eerie. It just seemed like no matter how much the royals built monuments to themselves, they were still gone and now a huge mystery.

    1. As one of the most un-goth-type people I can think of, I sure do love cemeteries. I don't find them eerie at all; I think they are some of the most quiet and peaceful places to visit. If they have Hollywood connections, all the better! I've never had any ghost experiences which, I think, makes me more likely to believe in loving spirits than tormented souls trapped between this world and the next. Hahaha!!! When I go, I am not interested in a major monument but I am awfully glad other people (particularly famous folks and family members) are. I like having a place to go and visit and remember.