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Inside the dim, church-like halls of the Great Mausoleum, you can view full-size marble replicas of Michelangelo's "The Pieta," "Moses," and other works.
The main entrance to this mausoleum is guarded, but the public is admitted to see the show. So just tell the person behind the desk at the "box office" that you are there to see the "Last Supper" window, and they'll let you right in. There is no admission charge for the show, and you will have plenty of time to look around for stars before and after the display. But do mind their rules and regulations while you're there.
First though, let's take a look at the Great Mausoleum's most recent (and most popular) arrival...
Michael Jackson, the "King of Pop", was buried in the Great Mausoleum in July of 2009.
But you can't reach his tomb. It's in a private part of the Mausoleum, with access limited to those with relatives buried there.
This isn't completely surprising, since the family seemed to be concerned about security. It's difficult to imagine any more secure a final resting place than one in the depths of the Great Mausoleum, a place that sometimes rivals Fort Knox in its security efforts.
But for those who are curious, here's the location: His free-standing marble sarcophagus is located at the far west end of the main (east/west) hallway of the Holly Terrace section, beneath large stained glass windows depicting The Ascension of Jesus. It is straight back (west of) the main Holly Terrace entrance doors, which are on the east side (of the south end) of the Great Mausoleum.
Viewed from the outside, from the lower level parking lot on the west side, the three stained glass windows behind his sarcophagus appear to be on the second floor (but since the Terrace is built on a hillside, the east side doors are just a few steps above ground level).
A photo of the crypt was distributed by the park to the press back in the 1950's, when the Holly Terrace first opened. Click here to see it. With a very high price, this valuable location waited five decades for the right tenant.
The photo shows it as it was back then, unmarked.
Most likely, Michael's name and an epitaph will be added
eventually. But as of June 2012, his crypt is still unmarked - as
you can see here in recent photos sent by a fan with access to the area.
Word is that several other crypts were bought in
the surrounding area, so the Jackson family can be together in death, as
they were in life.
A natural beauty, Elizabeth began her career as a child actress, in such films as "National Velvet" and "Lassie Come Home", and grew up on screen, in front of her audience, starring in "Father of the Bride", "Giant", "A Place in the Sun", "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof", "Suddenly, Last Summer", "Butterfield 8", "Cleopatra" and "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf", among many other films.
Her personal life was almost as famous as her movie roles. She was married eight times, including marriages actor Eddie Fisher (whom she took from Debbie Reynolds) and co-star Richard Burton.
She was buried in the Great Mausoleum.
Her crypt is at the end of the main entrance
hallway, her marker at the base of the large angel statue (with arms
& wings spread) entitled "In Memoria". Her actual crypt is on
the wall behind the statue.
Also reportedly buried inside the Great Mausoleum (although I'm not sure where) is actor James Arness, known to TV viewers as 'Marshal Matt Dillon' of "Gunsmoke", the longest-running TV drama in the history of television.
"Gunsmoke" began its run on CBS in 1955 and lasted until 1975, airing 635 episodes. The pilot episode was introduced by John Wayne, who had advised James Arness to take the lead role. The series chronicled life in the western town of Dodge City, where Marshal Dillion was aided by his deputy 'Chester' (Dennis Weaver), the town 'Doc' (Milburn Stone), and 'Miss Kitty', owner of the Long Branch saloon.
Before "Gunsmoke", Arness starred (incognito) as the alien monster in the original 1951 sci-fi/horror epic, "The Thing", but he was mainly known for Westerns, and appeared in a number of John Wayne films, including "Hondo".
Now, back to that part of the Great Mausoleum that the public can visit...
As you first enter the Great Mausoleum, and reach the main hallway, you will encounter a large statue right in front of you, titled "In Memoria." Turn to your right. The very first corridor on your right is the Sanctuary of Benediction. There are a host of top celebrities buried here, tucked away in small, private rooms off the main (gated) hallway. This is the first corridor to your right when you first enter the main hallway.
The biggest star here is the legendary actress Jean Harlow (1911-1937), the blonde bombshell
who starred in six movies with Clark Gable
(beginning with "Red Dust" in 1934) and three with Spencer Tracy
(both of whom are also buried here at Forest Lawn). She ranks
with Marilyn Monroe as was one of Hollywood's biggest sex symbols. Unfortunately,
she died at age 26. At her funeral, Jeanette MacDonald
and Nelson Eddy sang "Oh,
Sweet Mystery of Life'" in the chapel.
Funnyman Red Skelton (1913-1997) also has his own small room here, with his name over the door. It's the first room you'll see on the left side of this (Benediction) corridor, closest to the main hallway, and the easiest to spot for casual visitors..
Red appeared in dozen of movie comedies (such as "I Dood It" and "The Fuller Brush Man"), on the radio, and for 20 years on TV in "The Red Skelton Show." He created a number of memorable comic characters, including 'Freddy the Freeloader', 'Clem Kaddiddlehopper', and the seagulls Gertrude & Heathcliffe.
(You can see a bust of Red
Skelton at the Emmy Academy's Hall
There are a number of other Hollywood notables in
this same (Benediction) corridor as well - although not all
of their rooms are visible from the main hallway. They include:
In the corridor just to the left (west) of Red's (the Columbarium of Memory) are three other Hollywood stars:
They sold 100 million records, with 46 Top 10 hits, including "The Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" (1941), "Beat Me Daddy, Eight to the Bar" (1940), "Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree" (1942) and "Apple Blossom Time" (1941)
one of Hollywood's all-time favorite actors, won an Oscar for the 1934
comedy "It Happened One Night," but he is probably
best remembered for his role as Rhett Butler in the classic "Gone With
As a producer at M-G-M, he was responsible for such classics as "Gone With the Wind," "King Kong," "Rebecca," "Since You Went Away," "Duel in the Sun" and "The Third Man."
Selznick was married to popular actress Jennifer
(1919-2009), whose ashes are also interred in the same room.
Jennifer starred in such films as "Song of Bernadette", "Portrait of Jennie" and "Since You Went Away." She starred opposite Gregory Peck in both "Duel in the Sun" and "The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit".
Back out in the more public corridors of the Great Mausoleum, there are a few of minor celebrities who might interest you. In the open Sanctuary of Vespers (just before the statue of the Pieta) is crooner Russ Columbo (1908-1934), a rival of Bing Crosby in the early 30's. Benny Goodman first formed his famous orchestra (with Gene Krupa) to play for Russ Columbo.
He's probably best known today
for his tragic early death. He was engaged to none other than
Carole Lombard when he was accidentally
shot and killed at age 26, while looking at a friend's antique pistol.
name is mentioned in the Neil Diamond
song "Done Too Soon.") His mother was gravely
ill at the time, so they never told her of her son's accidental death.
She lived another ten years without knowing, as relatives sent her cards
and letters "from Russ." His crypt is just above eye level,
near the center of the left wall of this corridor.
Tucked away in his own family room at the far end
of the Sanctuary of Gratitude is William
the man who gave us Wrigley spearmint chewing gum. He also owned the Chicago
Cubs baseball team, as well as the island of Catalina (where the team held
their annual Spring Training for 30 years). His son Phillip Wrigley (1894-1977), who inherited the chewing
gum empire, owned the Cubs, and helped preserve the natural beauty of Catalina, is also buried here. The Wrigley
family's hilltop home on the island is still a tourist attraction.
On your way out of the mausoleum, on the left side of the narrow entrance hallway as you leave, is a statue of a young woman. It marks the graves of "The Dolly Sisters," twin singers & dancers whose vaudeville lives were made into a 1945 movie musical called (what else?) "The Dolly Sisters." The movie starred Betty Grable as Jenny Dolly (1892-1941) and June Haver as Rosie Dolly (1892-1970).
Jenny Dolly married Harry Fox, who is credited with
inventing the dance called the Fox Trot.
In more remote sections of the Great Mausoleum,
virtually inaccessible to the general public, are the crypts of such Hollywood
luminaries as W.C. Fields, Lon Chaney,
Ed Wynn, his son Keenan
Wynn, and William Boyd
(best known as 'Hopalong Cassidy').
The hallways tend to be dim, making photography difficult at times. But below are thumbnails of photos, of some of those hidden crypts, shot be someone with access to the private areas.
Click on the small photos to see larger versions:
It may be the inescapable commercialization, the uneven mix of religion and nationalism, or the questionable juxtaposition of different kinds of art (where else would you see a statue of a young woman baring her breasts just a few yards away from a statue of Jesus welcoming children?)... Or maybe there is just something inherently outlandish about the idea of turning a graveyard into a tourist attraction.
However, I will give Forest Lawn its due: they accomplish
what their founder set out to do, and they do it well. This is indeed,
a place unlike any other memorial park. As an icon of American culture,
and as the world's most famous cemetery, it is well worth seeing... at
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Hours: Open daily: 9 AM - 5 PM.
Getting there: Forest Lawn is located in Glendale (northeast of Hollywood), at the southeast corner of Glendale Avenue and Los Feliz Boulevard; between the Golden State Freeway (on the west) and the Glendale Freeway (on the east). / From Universal Studios and the Burbank studios area, take the Ventura (134) Freeway east (about three miles) to the Golden State (5) Freeway south. Go south on the Golden State Freeway (about two miles) to the Los Feliz Boulevard exit. Go east on Los Feliz Boulevard (about one mile) to Glendale Avenue. Turn right (south) on Glendale Avenue, and go three blocks, then turn left (west) into Forest Lawn's entrance gates. / From the Golden State (5) Freeway north, take the Los Feliz Boulevard exit, then go east on Los Feliz Boulevard (about one mile) to Glendale Avenue. Turn right (south) on Glendale Avenue, then turn left (west) into the entrance gates.
[Also see: Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills]
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