Our walk through cemeteries in southern California begins this time in Hollywood.
Every time I go to California – or anywhere, really – I always visit nearby cemeteries. Everything about them is fascinating. The history of the people who lived in area is revealed on the markers, the grounds and monuments are compelling testaments to the memories of the deceased, and the peace I feel whenever I am there cannot be recreated in any other setting. I love cemeteries, so I want to tell everyone I can about them.
What I plan to do with this series is wander around southern California (and eventually elsewhere) and tell readers a little bit about the cemeteries I visit so they can decide whether to make the trip themselves. I will be going to famous places, but also lesser-known spots. This first installment is a get-to-know-you highlight of four of my favorite stops I made on my most recent in January 2023.
Hollywood Forever Cemetery is on Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood. This is the first cemetery I went to in LA, all those years ago. It features beautiful grounds and a large and stable population of peacocks to keep everybody in line. Now and then, they will show a movie outside at night, and that is an experience you really cannot get any place else.
Forest Lawn Memorial Parks is a massive cemetery complex in the Hollywood Hills (and other locations). It is probably has the most national name recognition of them all in LA. It is reference in countless books and movies, and Alice Cooper brought it up in his song “Inmates (We’re All Crazy)” on his From The Inside (1978) album. I went there looking for a specific memorial in a one of the columbaria for a book I am working on, and I was overcome by the size and grandeur of the place.
Westwood Village Memorial Park in Westwood is the smallest of this group, and it is a little hard to find, even with the GPS programs on your phone. It is in the middle of Westwood, downtown, and to get to it you think you are driving down an alley toward a loading dock. Once inside, however, it is peaceful and serene. It also houses the remains of some of the most famous people in the history of Hollywood.
I wanted to go see Rose Hills Memorial Park and Mortuary in Whittier because it describes itself as the largest cemetery in the US. It is enormous, with many chapels for remembrance and sweeping views of the area. You can see downtown LA in the far distance from the top of the hill. In fact, it was when we were driving to the highest spot in the memorial park to gain the best view of the surrounding landscape that we came across, quite by accident, the amazing Buddhist Memorial Columbarium, near the top of Rose Hills. It is a spectacular place with a main building that includes a shrine and places for the remains of the departed in the building and on the adjoining grounds.
I could go on and on, and I will in future articles. In Part 2, I will focus on gone but never forgotten heavy metal icons. Until then, visit cemeteries whenever you can. You know I will.
Photos by Wayne Edwards.
© Wayne Edwards
Hollywood Forever Cemetery, https://hollywoodforever.com/cemetery/
Forest Lawn Memorial Parks, https://forestlawn.com/parks/hollywood-hills/
Westwood Village Memorial Park, https://www.dignitymemorial.com/funeral-homes/los-angeles-ca/pierce-brothers-westwood-village-memorial-park-and-mortuary/4798
Rose Hills Memorial Park and Mortuary, https://www.rosehills.com/
Buddhist Memorial Columbarium, http://www.hsilai.org/pl/ch/index.html