I have been in Los Angeles, working. I took some photos today that I thought you might enjoy.
Our first location was amazing – and it was actually used for crew parking. It was the HOLLYWOOD FOREVER CEMETERY.
Now, it may sound strange that we would have crew parking in a cemetery… but it is centrally located and a great, quiet spot to park a lot of cars.
The odd thing was (other than the odd thing of being in an old cemetery…) was that I had never heard of this cemetery. I spent my formative career in LA, working in the film industry, and I had never, EVER, noticed this huge cemetery right behind Paramount Studios… I was baffled. How could I have missed it all these years?!
Well, it turns out that when I was living here, the cemetery was in total disrepair. It must have been a mass of weeds and unsightliness at that time because I do not remember it at all. Anyway, it was purchased at auction in 1998 and the new owners put tons of money into it to bring it back – and give it a new life!
Now, there are tours and events here… the grounds are lovely and people walk about as if it was a lovely park. Very interesting marketing.
Anyway, here are some photos I took while there this morning.
Hollywood Forever Cemetery, originally named Hollywood 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. Paramount Studios is located at the south end of the same block on 40 acres which were once part of the cemetery, but held no interments.
Those in the graves, crypts, niches, and sarcophagi at 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 interred throughout the property. The cemetery is active and regularly hosts community events, including music and summer movie screenings. In 2011, the cemetery acted as co-production company for the American silent movieSilent Life based on the story of the Hollywood idol Rudolph Valentino, who is famously entombed there in what was originally a borrowed crypt.
The cemetery, the only one actually in Hollywood, was founded in 1899 on 100 acres (0.40 km2) and called “Hollywood Cemetery” by F. W. Samuelson and one Lombard were in 1897 the owners of a 60-acre tract of land near Hollywood in Los Angeles county, and in that year, they, with others, formed a corporation known as the “Hollywood Cemetery Association.The cemetery sold off large tracts to Paramount Studios, which, with RKO Studios, 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, where members of the local Jewish community are buried.
In 1939, Jules Roth, a convicted felon and millionaire, bought a 51% stake in the cemetery, the interment site of his parents. 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 actress Hattie McDaniel, best known for her role of Mammy in the movie Gone with the Wind, for which she became the first African American to win an Academy Award, 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 owner dedicated a cenotaph in her honor at a prime location south of Sylvan Lake.
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 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 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 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, to settle tax bills and maintain his lavish lifestyle, Jules Roth sold two lawns totaling three acres, facing the Santa Monica Boulevard front of the property. Those lawns are now strip malls which 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 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, it was discovered that the cemetery’s endowment care fund, meant to care for the cemetery in perpetuity, was missing about $9 million, according to the current owner.
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.
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 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??“
This was the most amazing burial site. It is where Douglas Fairbanks JR and SR are resting.
THE REST OF MY DAY
The rest of my day was the actual hard work – the shoot.
It went well. We had 21 talent and a full day. Everything ended on time and on budget, which is always my goal. Of course, the pictures were beautiful. Yay!
Here are some photos of the vehicles… which aren’t that interesting… but I cannot show you what we were actually shooting because it was proprietary.
This was a staging area outside of our first location – a small market. The blue thing in the front is a light that goes on top of a stand. The grip truck is the big white truck. The black truck is the camera van. The white truck in the way back is where we were recording audio. But the real action was happening inside the market.
You are looking at the Production truck and the wardrobe truck. The two doors on the back are bathrooms. The truck in the far front is a prop (Art Department) truck.
This is outside our house location. The homes on this block looked to be from the golden era. So much nostalgia! We walked around the blocks and could imagine the people who once lived there. The Palm Trees were very, very tall.