Even your last burial place may serve as a prestige symbol, and no cemetery exemplifies this more than Hollywood Forever. On its grounds are buried plenty of celebrities and semi-famous figures, ranging from old school cinema stars and publishing moguls to rockers and even a handful of gangsters. The cemetery also serves as a social center, presenting one of the city's most popular outdoor film series. Consider it a cutting-edge example of adaptive reuse.
It began as Hollywood Memorial Park Cemetery in 1899, when filmmaking was not yet a profession and has grown in tandem with the film industry. In truth, the land's original owners, Isaac Lankershim and his son-in-law Isaac Van Nuys, sold large sections of it to Paramount and RKO. It's no surprise that so many studio executives are buried there. Due to unscrupulous owner Jules Roth, an oil swindler and convicted felon, it had fallen into ruin by the 1980s. Several crypts were additionally damaged by the Northridge earthquake in 1994. When Roth died in 1998, it became clear that the cemetery had several financial and physical issues.
Tyler and Brent Cassity, brothers, purchased the property in 1998. They spent millions on improvements, renamed it Hollywood Forever, and started holding events and tours there. When outdoor cinema evenings started in 2002, the renaissance accelerated. It wasn't all sunshine and flowers. Brent, Cassity patriarch Doug, and many firm partners were charged with fraud in the pre-need funeral business.
In May of 1999, Hollywood Forever was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Hundreds of celebrities and past celebrities are buried at Hollywood Forever. The cemetery's website has an interactive map that lists their locations and is neatly separated into categories such as actors, musicians, and others.
One of the legends lying in the cemetery is Mel Blanc. His tombstone proclaims him to be "The Man of a Thousand Voices." Mel Blanc was a voice actor and radio personality who brought us Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, Daffy Duck, and a slew of other Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies characters. He also provided vocal talent for Hanna-Barbera cartoon characters such as Barney Rubble from The Flintstones.
“That's all, folks,” says Blanc's tombstone. Check out Hollywood Forever to see if you can find his grave.
Taking a walking tour with Karie Bible is one of the finest ways to explore Hollywood Forever. Bible leads tourists on a two-hour tour of the cemetery and its most famous inhabitants, dressed in a vintage gown from her collection, which covers the 1920s through the 1950s. Bible is also the current "Lady in Black" who pays tribute to Rudolph Valentino, the silent cinema legend.