Hollywood Forever Cemetery, originally called Hollywood Memorial Park Cemetery, is one of the oldest cemeteries in Los Angeles, California. It is located at 6000 Santa Monica Boulevard in the Hollywood district of Los Angeles, adjacent to the north wall, or back, of Paramount Studios. Among those interred or entombed in the cemetery are a number of important personalities and famous persons, including men and women from the entertainment industry and important people in the history of Los Angeles and their relatives. The cemetery is active and regularly hosts community events, including music events and summer movie screenings. In 2011 the cemetery became a co-producer of the American silent movie Silent Life based on the story of the Hollywood idol Rudolph Valentino, who is entombed there.
The cemetery, the first in Hollywood, was founded in 1899 on 100 acres (0.40 km2) as "Hollywood Memorial Park Cemetery" by developer Isaac Lankershim and his son-in-law, Isaac Van Nuys. The cemetery sold off large tracts to Paramount Studios, which, with RKO Studios, bought 40 acres (160,000 m2) by 1920. Part of the land was set aside for the Beth Olam Cemetery, a dedicated Jewish burial ground, where people from Hollywood's Jewish community are buried.
In 1939, Jules Roth, a convicted felon and millionaire, bought a 51% stake in the cemetery. He used the money from the cemetery's operations to pay for personal luxuries while allowing the cemetery and crematory to fall into disrepair. In 1952, despite her expressed wish, Roth would not allow the body of Hattie McDaniel to be buried at Hollywood Memorial. At the time of her death, Hollywood Memorial, like other cemeteries, was segregated (the cemetery was desegregated in 1959). On the 47th anniversary of McDaniel's death, the cemetery's current owners dedicated a cenotaph in her honor at a prime lakeside location. The crematory was shut down in July 1974 after the cremation of singer Cass Elliot. According to the cemetery grounds supervisor Daniel Ugarte, the crematory was in such disrepair that the bricks began falling in around Elliot's body (the crematory was later repaired and reopened in 2002).
By the 1980s, the California Cemetery Board began receiving regular complaints from the families of people interred there. Family members complained that the grounds were not kept up and were disturbed to hear stories about vandalism on the grounds. The heirs of makeup artist Max Factor (who was interred in the Beth Olam Mausoleum in 1938) moved his and other Factor family remains after the mausoleum sustained water damage that discolored the walls. In 1986, a Los Angeles woman and 1,000 other plot owners filed a class action lawsuit against the cemetery for invasion of privacy after they discovered that Roth allowed employees of Paramount Pictures to park in the cemetery's parking lot while the studio's parking structure was undergoing construction. To settle tax bills and furnish his lavish lifestyle, he sold two lawns which ran east and west along Santa Monica Boulevard in the late 1980s. These lawns became strip malls which now house, among other businesses, an auto parts store and a laundromat.
After the 1994 Northridge earthquake, Roth failed to repair the roofs and other damages the earthquake caused to crypts. By this time, Hollywood Memorial was no longer making money and only generated revenue by charging families $500 for disinterments. In 1997, Roth was sick after he fell in his Hollywood Hills home. He had been embroiled in a scandal regarding another cemetery he owned, Lincoln Memorial Park Cemetery, in Carson, California. Several months before his death, Roth was bedridden and disoriented. During this time his will was changed to provide for his business associates and maid, who were the only witnesses to his signature; his relatives were written out. Roth died on January 4, 1998, and was interred next to his wife Virginia, his father, and his mother. The state of California had revoked the cemetery's license to sell its remaining plots. After his death, it was discovered that cemetery's endowment care fund, meant to take care of the cemetery till the end of time, missing about $9 million, according to the current owner.
On the verge of closure in the bankruptcy proceeding, Tyler and Brent Cassity purchased the now 62-acre (250,000 m2) property in 1998 for $375,000. They renamed it "Hollywood Forever" and started restoring, refurbishing and adding to it, investing millions in revitalizing the grounds, offering documentaries about the deceased that are to be played in perpetuity on kiosks and are posted on the Web, and organizing tours to draw visitors. Recently, the mausoleum in which Jules Roth is interred has undergone exterior additions which significantly changed the facade and the classical architecture of the structure.
The cemetery has, since 2002, screened films at a gathering called Cinespia on weekends during the summer and on holidays. The screenings are held on the Fairbanks Lawn and the films are projected onto the white marble west wall of the Cathedral Mausoleum. Music events take place in the cemetery as well. On June 14 and 15, 2011, The Flaming Lips played at the cemetery in a two-night gig billed "Everyone You Know Someday Will Die," a lyric from their 2002 single "Do You Realize??"
In popular culture
Hollywood Forever Cemetery abuts Paramount Studios on its south end.
The award winning film "An Ordinary Couple" was inspired by the building of a Hollywood Forever monument in the Garden of Legends and stars Bernardo Puccio and Orin Kennedy.
A documentary about the cemetery called The Young and the Dead, was made in 2000.
The cemetery is briefly shown in the short Stopover in Hollywood. The television series 90210 featured the cemetery in the episode "Hollywood Forever".
In one scene of the novel Expiration Date by Tim Powers, the main characters are evading the antagonists of the novel by hiding in Hollywood Forever Cemetery. At one point the main hero, Pete Sullivan, remarks at the tomb of Bugsy Siegel that his late Hollywood producer father was friends with Siegel and many of the other celebrities interred at Hollywood Forever. To illustrate, Sullivan knocks the first few beats of "Shave-and-a-Haircut" on the marble slab of Siegel's crypt, and, a moment later, receives the response "Two-Bits" knocked from inside the crypt.
In Episode 'Blues from Laurel Canyon' in Season 2 of Showtime's Californication character Lou Ashby's grave is shown to be located at Hollywood Forever Cemetery.
A scene from the 2010 movie Valentine's Day took place in the cemetery. The movie shown in the cemetery was Hot Spell (1958).
A song entitled "Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings" appears on the Father John Misty album, Fear Fun.
In 2012, Los Angeles heavy metal band L.A. Guns released an album entitled Hollywood Forever (album), which also contains a title track. A music video for one of the albums tracks, "Requiem" featured excerpts filmed on location at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.
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