Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Westwood Village Memorial Park, Los Angeles

 Last week, I went to Los Angeles for a few days to be a groomsman at the wedding of my own best man, Markos, and my wife's maid of honor, Megan.  I arrived in the mid-afternoon on Thursday, which was a "down day" (the wedding rehearsal was the following day, and I wasn't about to risk driving down to LA on a Friday).  I had actually never been to the Westwood section of LA, so I stopped by the Westwood Village Memorial Park (one of the key resting places of the Hollywood elite) as well as the nearby Armand Hammer Museum of Art @ UCLA, before heading over to my brother-in-law's for the night.  Here are the first batch of photos.

To say I "enjoy" visiting cemeteries is probably the wrong way of phrasing it, but I find it healthy to reflect upon one's mortality from time to time.  As this cemetery in particular proves, even the richest and flashiest of people have a habit of dying!

The cemetery is tucked in from Wilshire Boulevard, behind tall buildings.  It was nearly empty when I went, which was surprising given its key location within Westwood.  I should also note that, like pretty much all cemeteries, the Westwood Village Memorial Park is free to visit... which is more than I can say for the nearby parking lots.

Right off the bat, I stumbled upon the grave of Don Knotts.

This was actually the most colorful grave of the day (it was all downhill from here!).

Behind Knotts' grave was the grave of Armand Hammer, the president and CEO of Occidental Petroleum.

Fun fact = Armand Hammer was named by his socialist father after the symbol of the Socialist Labor Party of America (an arm and hammer).  Another fun fact = while Hammer owned stock in Church and Dwight, which produces Arm & Hammer baking soda, the latter's name existed from the 1860s and is NOT named for the man.  Funny coincidence, nevertheless.

Film director John Cassavetes, on the same plot of grass as the Armand Hammer mausoleum.

Eva Gabor, the youngest of her sisters but the first to die.  Her grave is in the same row as Cassavetes.

Mega-agent Irving Lazar, against the bushes near Hammer's mausoleum.

Jazz composer Mel Torme, in the same patch of grass as all of the above celebrities.

Writer Truman Capote, entombed in the wall facing the above patch of grass.

I then made my way along the perimeter of the cemetery.  Most of the famous people are actually buried or entombed in the perimeter, and not the large center grass area.  This is, I believe, the "Sanctuary of Tenderness" (or something like that).

The same.

Note the large buildings behind, which ring the cemetery, sheltering it from the view (and noise) of Wilshire Blvd.

The large center grass area.

The cemetery is perhaps most famous for being the resting place of Marilyn Monroe.

Immediately to the left of Monroe's spot is an unmarked area.  This has been reserved for Playboy founder Hugh Hefner.  

Note how the spots appear side by side.

As I mentioned, there weren't many people there that day, but the few besides myself all found their way to Marilyn's grave.

Nearby - Dean Martin.

On the opposite side of the lawn from Marilyn Monroe's resting place are large individual lawn graves (which are still part of the perimeter and not the huge lawn).  This is actor Karl Malden's grave.

Walter Matthau's grave.  There are also many blank tombstones in this area; apparently the one directly to the left of Matthau's grave (or maybe two spots over) is that of George C. Scott.  Other celebrities with unmarked graves inside the cemetery include Frank Zappa and Roy Orbison.

Merv Griffin had a sense of humor in writing his epitaph = "I will NOT be right back after this message."

Farah Fawcett's otherwise blank tombstone.

Toss up!  Who has the funniest tombstone = Rodney Dangerfield...

...or Jack Lemmon?

Billy Wilder gets an honorable mention.

As does Billy's wife, Audrey!

Peter Falk easily wins the "tear-jerker" award.

The author Ray Bradbury is buried near the above actors.

James Coburn and his wife are buried next to a fountain in the same general section as the above celebrities.

"Go Bravely On..."  Solid advice.

A general view of the specific plot of land where Ray Bradbury is buried.

Time to tackle the main grass area, where I wasn't very fortunate in finding people.  I saw people ooing and awing at Burt Lancaster's grave, but if it wasn't for them, there would be no way I would ever track it down, considering it's sandwiched among the masses.

I also had trouble finding Natalie Wood's grave.  Note the Orthodox cross (she was Russian American).

Someone pointed this out to me as I was about to leave = Heather O'Rourke was the little girl in Poltergeist, who died at the age of 12.  She's entombed in the same wall as Truman Capote.

Death is the end of life, and art is an imitation of life.  Time to see some art at the Armand Hammer Museum, across the street and down the block on Wilshire Blvd.  Stay tuned.

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