Cruising along a noisy and unremarkable stretch of Santa Monica boulevard, it’s easy to overlook the entrance to this quiet oasis, peacefully cradled between Paramount Studios and strip malls offering coin laundry and payday loans. But there, humbly situated behind a fortress of palm fronds, is a sacred resting ground. It’s a piece of Hollywood history. And its residents have a lovely view of the Hollywood sign.
Hollywood Forever, founded in 1899, is like other cemeteries in that it’s a full-service funeral home and crematory and the grounds are open to the public. Unlike other cemeteries, however, it’s the permanent home to some of Hollywood’s most influential stars and it periodically hosts public events like concerts, yoga classes, Cinespia movie nights, and a massive, annual Dia de los Muertos festival. That’s why the peacocks and water fowl that nonchalantly roam the grounds seem unphased by visitors. They’re used to having guests.
Judy Garland and Rudolph Valentino are two of the Hollywood legends resting inside the mausoleums, while Cecile B. DeMille, Mel Blanc, and Jayne Mansfield have gravestones that visitors may notice while strolling around the lake. Douglas Fairbanks has quite a prominent monument next to an infinity pool, which sits across a lane from the statue of Johnny Ramone (though Johnny’s ashes remain with his widow, Linda, until it’s time to move them both into the cemetery). Other notable residents include Dee Dee Ramone, notorious mobster Bugsy Siegel, Lana Clarkson, the “king of surf guitar” Dick Dale, Chris Cornell, and Scott Weiland.
Lou Reed sang, “Holly came from Miami F-L-A” in Take a Walk on the Wild Side and fans of Holly stamp the east wall where she’s interred with lipstick kisses. There’s a wide array of quirky tributes like that throughout grounds. Visitors may also find headstones for cult icon Maila Nurmi a.k.a. “Vampira”, as well as Virginia Rappe, the notorious victim in the controversial Fatty Arbuckle scandal. Virginia’s spirit is one of the ghosts rumored to haunt the grounds.
These are just a few of the noteworthy names laid to rest at Hollywood Forever. Though the cemetery is home to many celebrities and pop culture icons, the cemetery staff stresses the importance of respecting the residents equally. So even though maps to famous graves may be found online, the maps are unofficial and not affiliated with the cemetery. But as long as visitors are quiet and courteous, Hollywood Forever is a wonderful place for fans to pay their respects.