Hollywood Forever

Side Trip: Hollywood Forever

Paris has its Pere Lachaise, Buenos Aires its La Recoleta and Washington, D. C. its Arlington National. In Los Angeles, it’s the Hollywood Forever Memorial Park.

No cemetery in the world can claim a list of celebrities, song writers, directors and dignitaries quite like this one. From Don Adams (Agent Maxwell Smart on TV’s “Get Smart“) to Harvey Wilcox (credited as the founder of Hollywood), you’ll find them here at this landmark.

Click here for more information about the cemetery.

The DASH bus will get you there. The fare is just 50¢ (25¢ for seniors 65+); have exact change ready. If you arrived downtown L.A. by Metrolink, just show your ticket and your fare is free. Buses run about every 25 minutes.

Click here for information about the DASH service, fares, routes and times. Athough this DASH bus doesn’t operate on weekends, the cemetery does; if you choose to walk the distance figure about a 25-minute hike each way.

–> From the Hollywood/Vine subway station entrance walk east to the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Argyle Avenue.

Locate the “DASH Hollywood/Wilshire” sign and wait for the DASH bus to arrive. It’s a 5-minute run to the cemetery.

–> The bus turns right onto Argyle, passing by the vehicular entrance to the W Hotel, then turns left onto Sunset Boulevard.

A) Hollywood Palladium. After the bus makes its turn, look to the left. Also seen on the “Sunset & Vine Side Trip” on this tour, the Streamline Moderne Hollywood Palladium (1940) was designed by Gordon Kaufman, the same architect who drew up the plans for the Hoover Dam. Tommy Dorsey was the bandleader when the ballroom opened; Frank Sinatra the crooner. Over the years the venue hosted Betty Grable’s USO radio shows, TV’s “The Lawrence Welk Show” and Mr. Welk’s champagne bubbles, performances by Stevie Wonder, and recordings by The Greatful Dead and Bad Religion.

It’s still a busy place.

–> The bus then turns right onto Gower Street.

B) Gower Gulch. The intersection and neighborhood surrounding Sunset and Gower was once a Mecca for movie studios: Christie Studio (on the left, the northwest corner) and Columbia and Republic Studios (running south along Gower). Because of the filming going on and because of the popularity of Westerns, cowboys (some real and some not) hung out on the corner – in their chaps, boots, bandannas and cowboy hats – hoping to find work.

C) De Longpre Avenue. Paul de Longpre, a French artist who loved to paint flowers, arrived in Los Angeles in1889. Evidently his works – and his French accent – impressed the wealthy Daeida Wilcox Beveridge, daughter of Harvey Wilcox, the founder of Hollywood. She presented him a portion of her property on Cahuenga Boulevard upon which he built his house and planted extensive flower gardens. Soon after, his flower gardens became one of Hollywood’s first tourist attractions – years before the first film studio arrived.

This avenue is named for him.

–> The bus continues down Gower Street.

–> Exit the bus at the corner of Gower Street and Santa Monica Boulevard.

— >Walk down Santa Monica Boulevard to the left.

The cemetery is at 6000 Santa Monica Boulevard. You can’t miss it.

As Quoted…”That’s All Folks!” So reads the inscription on the Hollywood Forever Memorial Park tombstone of Mel Blanc, the voice of Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, Yosemite Sam and Daffy Duck.

D) Hollywood Forever Memorial Park. It’s a fairly large cemetery (about 100 acres) so pick up a map before you wander. Don’t neglect the columbarium and mausoleum; they’re where you’ll find Rudolph Valentino, Peter Lorre, and Lana Clarkson – the latter whose 2009 murder trail led to the conviction of Phil Spector.

Founded in 1899 as Hollywood Memorial Park, it soon became the preferred burial place of Tinseltown luminaries. But as Hollywood went, so went the cemetery and by the 1970s its tinsel had tarnished. Tombstones had toppled, the grounds were poorly maintained and the business was literally and figuratively “dying” – going bankrupt.

Enter 30-year-old Tyler Cassity, a member of family whose business specialty was and remains cemeteries and in-cemetery video kiosks. In 1998 he purchased the place for $375,000, renamed it the “Forever Hollywood Memorial Park” and it’s back in fine shape today.

E) Paramount Studios. The large buildings behind the cemetery are part of Paramount Studios. If you’d like, it’s about a 5-minute DASH run or a 15-minute walk around to the famous entrance gates to the studio on Melrose Avenue. You can use the same DASH bus and bus stop that got you to the cemetery; it travels on to the studio. Reboard at the studios for the return back to the subway station. The studio offers tours inside but they’re fairly long and you may want to schedule those for another day. Your choice. But you know where to find them!

It’s a Fact:

Before her death from breast cancer at age 57, Hattie McDaniel, the first African-American (woman or man) to win an Academy Award (Best Supporting Actress in 1939’s “Gone with the Wind“) had expressed her wish to be buried at Hollywood Memorial Park. The owner refused admittance to African Americans so McDaniel was buried at Rosedale Cemetery a few miles away. Forty-seven years later the new owners of the cemetery offered to make good on McDaniel’s original request but her family preferred not to disturb her remains. Instead, visitors to Hollywood Forever will find a cenotaph (“empty tomb”) erected in her honor.

As Quoted…”I’d rather make $700 a week playing a maid than $7 being one.” – Hattie McDaniel, when asked why she accepted “demeaning” servant roles in films.

To return to the Hollywood/Vine station:

–> Return to the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Gower Street, only this time, go  to the east side (right side) of Gower Street.

Locate the “DASH Hollywood/Wilshire” bus stop.

The return trip will follow essentially the same route, returning you back to where you started (Point “A” on the map). From there it’s just a few steps to the Hollywood/Vine station.

This concludes the Hollywood Forever Memorial Park Side Trip.

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