Hollywood Forever Cemetery is one of the oldest cemeteries in Los Angeles. It is located at 6000 Santa Monica Boulevard in the Hollywood district of Los Angeles. The studios of Paramount Pictures is located at the south end of the same block on 40 acres that were once part of the cemetery, but held no interments.
The renowned individuals who are interred in the graves, crypts, niches, and sarcophagi of the cemetery include culturally significant people as well as celebrities, including iconic actors, directors, writers, etc. from the entertainment industry. People who played vital roles in shaping Los Angeles are also interred throughout the property. The cemetery is interactive and regularly hosts community events, including music and summer movie screenings. In 2011, the cemetery acted as co-production company for the American silent movie Silent Life based on the story of the Hollywood idol Rudolph Valentino, who is famously entombed there in what was originally a borrowed crypt.
Hollywood's only cemetery was founded in 1899 on 100 acres (0.40 km2) and called "Hollywood Cemetery" by F. W. Samuelson and (first name unknown) Lombard. In 1897, the two men were the owners of a 60-acre tract of land near Hollywood in Los Angeles County. In that year, they—along with Mrs. M. W. Gardner of Santa Monica, Joseph D. Rodford, Gilbert Smith, and Thomas R. Wallace—formed a corporation known as the “Hollywood Cemetery Association. The cemetery sold off large tracts to Paramount Pictures, which, with RKO Pictures, bought 40 acres (160,000 m2) by 1920. Part of the remaining land was set aside for the Beth Olam Cemetery, a dedicated Jewish burial ground for members of the local Jewish community.
Jules Roth was a convicted felon and millionaire. In 1939, he bought a 51% stake in the cemetery, which was the interment site of his parents. He used the money from the cemetery's operations to pay for his personal luxuries. At that time, the cemetery was known as Hollywood Memorial Park. In the 1990s, the cemetery began to show signs of neglect and disrepair.
Actress Hattie McDaniel was best known for her role as Mammy in the epic movie Gone with the Wind, for which she became the first African American to win an Academy Award. She had expressed a desire to be interred at Hollywood Memorial Park. At the time of McDaniel's death in 1952, Hollywood Memorial, like other cemeteries, was segregated. Despite McDaniel's expressed wish, Roth would not allow the actress to be interred in the cemetery. Hollywood Forever would be desegregated seven years later. In 1999 (the 47th anniversary of McDaniel's death), the cemetery's current owner dedicated a cenotaph in her honor at a prime location south of Sylvan Lake.
In July 1974, the crematory was shut down after singer Cass Elliot was cremated. According to cemetery grounds supervisor Daniel Ugarte, the crematory was in such disrepair that bricks began falling in around Elliot's remains. The crematory would be repaired and re-opened twenty-eight years later 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 cemetery grounds. The heirs of well-known makeup artist Max Factor (who was interred in the Beth Olam Mausoleum in 1938) moved his and other Factor family remains to Hillside Memorial Park in Culver City 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 while the studio's parking structure was undergoing construction.
In the late 1980s, Jules Roth needed to settle tax bills and maintain his lavish lifestyle. He sold two lawns totalling three acres that were facing the Santa Monica Boulevard front of the property. It was reported that the property was paid for with cash. Those lawns are now strip malls that house, among other businesses, an auto parts store and a laundromat.
After the 1994 Northridge earthquake, Roth couldn't afford to repair the roofs and other damage the earthquake caused to crypts. By that time, Hollywood Memorial was no longer making money and only generated revenue by charging families $500 for disinterments.
In 1997, Roth became ill after he fell in his Hollywood Hills home. He had been embroiled in a scandal regarding another cemetery he owned, Lincoln Memorial Park, in Carson, California. Several months before his death, Roth was bedridden and disoriented and 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, which were listed in his previous will, were written out. Roth died on January 4, 1998, and he was interred next to his wife Virginia, his father, and his mother in the Cathedral Mausoleum. The state of California had revoked the cemetery's license to sell its remaining interment spaces.
After Roth's death, the current owner discovered that the cemetery's endowment care fund—meant to care for the cemetery in perpetuity—was missing about $9 million. The owner also claimed that he discovered Mr. Roth's bust in an antique shop. The bust was part of Mr. Roth's personal artifacts that were sold at auction.
Those owners, Tyler and Brent Cassity, purchased the now 62-acre (250,000 m2) property which was on the verge of closure in a bankruptcy proceeding, in 1998 for $375,000. They renamed the cemetery "Hollywood Forever" and set-out to give it a complete renaissance, restoring, refurbishing and adding to it, investing millions in revitalizing the grounds and also offering documentaries about the deceased that are to be played in perpetuity on kiosks and are posted on the Web, as well as organizing tours to draw visitors.
In 2010, Brent Cassity and his father, along with several others, were indicted for running a Ponzi-like scheme stealing hundreds of millions of dollars from pre-need funeral contracts. Authorities later found that the money the brothers invested in the cemetery came from the proceeds of the scheme.
Since 2002, the cemetery has screened films on weekends during the summer and on holidays at a gathering called Cinespia. The screenings are held on the Douglas 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??".
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.
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 Lew Ashby's grave is depicted at Hollywood Forever Cemetery.
In 2012, Los Angeles heavy metal band L.A. Guns released an album entitled Hollywood Forever, which also contains a title track. A music video for one of the album's tracks, "Requiem" featured excerpts filmed on location at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.
Hollywood Forever Cemetery was featured on CNBC’s American Greed episode “Six Feet Plunder”: it detailed how the cemetery was purchased and owned by brothers Tyler and Brent Cassity, with some of the funds coming from National Prearranged Services, Inc., a ponzi scheme run by the Cassity family.
The cemetery was featured in the 2014 horror comedy Burying the Ex.
The 2015 movie Woman in Gold had a funeral scene near the Watchorn obelisk.
Talking Dead hosted a live 90-minute season premiere on the grounds, immediately following the Season 7 premiere of The Walking Dead. The grounds were also used to air the series finale of Breaking Bad.
Numerous notable individuals including many prominent persons in the entertainment industry have been interred at Hollywood Forever Cemetery.
The cemetery's website contains Forever Tributes of each star which consist of a video with introduction titles saying, "A Hollywood Forever Tribute, in honor of...(name)". The body of the video contains photos and film clips of the honoree, interviews with friends or relatives, music and narration. The conclusion again shows the honoree's name birth and death year. The videos are available through an interactive map of the property on the cemetery website.
The Hollywood Cemetery Association filed articles of incorporation yesterday.
In 1998 Tyler Cassity, a friend of Mr. Boileau's from St. Louis, bought the 62-acre (250,000 m2) property for $375,000 and began making renovations. Mr. Cassity's family runs Forever Enterprises.
So will Hollywood Forever Cemetery, where the Long Beach chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy maintains a Confederate monument.
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