Monday, September 5, 2011

Hollywood Forever: Movies, Concerts & Graves

Movies, concerts, and......graves?  That is what you will find at Hollywood Forever Cemetery located in Hollywood California.  This is a fascinating cemetery that was founded in 1899.  Paramount Studios was built on the back half of the original cemetery and is still in operation there today.  The cemetery has beautiful monuments and is the final resting place for more famous actors and movie people than anywhere else in the world.  It is listed on the National Registrar for Historic Sites.
I had never heard of this cemetery until I started researching my husband's ancestors.  We were quite shocked to find his great uncle buried in this cemetery.  It seems bizarre that a poor house painter from Armstrong County, PA would end up buried in a famous, glitzy Hollywood cemetery.  But apparently Uncle Bill moved to California sometime in the 1930's or 1940's and became quite successful with his painting business.  He made his living painting the homes of movies stars and other rich Hollywood types.  He is buried in a mausoleum there.

What fascinates me most about this cemetery is that they have a movie and concert series on a regular basis, as well as an annual Day of the Dead celebration.  Some may think well it's Hollywood.  But using cemeteries as a social gathering place for events and even family picnics was quite common in the early 1900's.  This practice seems to have died out by the 1940's and many people today think it is odd and morbid.  I think it would be really cool to go to a cemetery to watch Edward Scissorhands (or any Tim Burton movie) which they showed this past weekend.  You can read more about cemeteries as social event places in a previous post of mine here Picnic at the Cemetery.

Also every famous historic cemetery needs a ghost story and Hollywood Forever has numerous reported ghost sitings of famous people.  The most famous one surrounds the famous actor Rudolph Valentino who died in 1926 at the age of 31 and is laid to rest in a mausoleum.  It is not the ghost of Valentino that is seen but that of a mysterious lady dressed in black that visits his grave.

The story started on the first anniversary of his death when a (living) mystery woman visited his grave and left a rose dressed in all black including a veil to cover her face.  She returned each year to leave roses and curiosity arose about her identity.  Many women made claims, some outlandish, of being the "Woman in Black".  Finally one woman who seemed likely to be legitimate came forward named Ditra Flame.  Her mother had been friends with Valentino before he became famous.  Ditra had taken gravely ill as a child.  Valentino came to visit her bringing her one red rose, telling her she would get better.  She had come forward because she was annoyed by all the other pretenders.  It had become a major production of hundreds of women dressed in black making a procession to Valentino's grave each anniversary that Ditra stopped coming.  She died in 1984.  Still to this day there is still a procession of Women in Black each year to his grave.  But many have claimed to see the ghostly figure of the original woman appear at his grave, paying her respects.

See learn more about Hollywood Forever Cemetery and see the schedule of movies and concerts you can visit their website Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

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