Seeing Stars: Final Resting Places of the Stars


PART VI
1218 Glendon Avenue,
Westwood, CA. / (310) 474-1579


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Just outside this Memorial Gardens area, between the Gardens and the road, is a grassy strip with a small number of lawn graves. Here, in an unmarked grave plot near the curb, is Oscar-winning actor George C. Scott (1927-1999).

Best known for his role as "Patton," George C. Scott starred in over 75 productions, including "The Hustler," "Dr. Strangelove," "Anatomy of a Murder," "The Hospital," "Firestarter," "Taps," "Hardcore," "The Changling," and exceptional TV versions of "Jane Eyre," "Inherit the Wind" and "A Christmas Carol." And who could forget his eccentric 'Sherlock Holmes' in "They Might be Giants"?

Ironically, he may be most remembered for an award he refused to accept; he made headlines when he turned down the 1971 Oscar for "Patton," because he didn't feel that he was in competition with other actors. Unfortunately, his grave still doesn't have a marker. However, I've confirmed that he is located immediately to the left of Walter Matthau's grave. It's the only remaining space there which still has a blank headstone.





Another recent arrival at Pierce Bros is 'Oscar Madison' himself, comic actor Walter Matthau (1920-2000). Often playing a crotchety sort, Walter was wonderfully paired with Jack Lemmon for "The Odd Couple," and again, almost 30 years later, for "Grumpy Old Men." He was the cantankerous 'Mr. Wilson' in 1993's "Dennis the Menace," the reluctant coach in "The Bad News Bears," an aging vaudeville comic feuding with partner George Burns in "The Sunshine Boys," and the grouchy 'Horace Vandergelder ' to Barbra Streisand's 'Dolly Levi' in "Hello Dolly." He also starred in "Cactus Flower," "Plaza Suite" and "Kotch."

His grave has a large marble headstone - it's located right along the curb, on the south side of the main road, just north of the new Memorial Gardens area, and just to the right (west) of (unmarked) George C. Scott.






And in July of 2001, almost a year to the day, Walter's lifelong friend and fellow actor Jack Lemmon (1925-2001) was also buried at Pierce Bros.

Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau made 10 movies together, beginning with the classic 1968 comedy "The Odd Couple," and including "The Fortune Cookie," "The Front Page" and (near the end of their lives) "Grumpy Old Men." (Jack even directed Walter in "Kotch".)

So the fact that they ended up together at Pierce Bros. is more than appropriate.

But Jack Lemmon was an outstanding actor in his own right, starring in comedies such as "Mr. Roberts," "Bell, Book and Candle," "The Apartment,"  "Irma La Douce," "Good Neighbor Sam," and "The Out-of-Towners," yet also brilliant in dramas such as "The Days of Wine and Roses," "Save the Tiger," "The China Syndrome" and "Missing."  And who can forget "Some Like It Hot," with Jack in drag opposite Tony Curtis and Marilyn Monroe? He was nominated for eight Academy Awards and won two, becoming the first actor to win both a Best Actor and a Best Supporting Actor Oscar.

Those in attendance at his July 1 funeral here included Kirk Douglas, Michael Douglas, Catharine Zeta-Jones, Kevin Spacey, Sidney Poitier, Shirley MacLaine, Gregory Peck, director Billy Wilder and the sons of both Lemmon & Matthau.

Jack Lemmon was buried in a new row of graves on the lawn between Walter's location and the chapel entrance. If you're facing Walter's grave, just turn right and walk west along the curb, and look to your left (south) until you spot a long hedge. Walk around the hedge and you'll find a row of large marble headstones (identical to the kind above Walter's grave) up on the lawn a few paces.

A joker to the last, his headstone reads

"Jack Lemmon in..."





Just to the left (east) of Jack Lemmon, in the very next grave, is veteran actor Carroll O'Connor (1924-2001), TV's "Archie Bunker" on the smash hit sitcom "All in the Family."

Debuting in 1971, at the peak of the 60's anti-war movement, "All in the Family" was revolutionary for its day. At a time when most sitcoms were lightweight comedies such as "The Brady Bunch", "Family" was breaking taboos left and right, dealing with controversial, current issues ranging from Watergate to rape, and tackling hot targets from the KKK to the Jewish Defense League with sharp political satire, sexual frankness and occasional bathroom humor. It attacked bigotry by making it look ridiculous.

But it was Carroll O'Connor's portrayal of 'Archie Bunker' that made the show work.

Carroll appeared in almost 50 productions, including the role of 'Sheriff Bill Gillespie' in the TV series "In The Heat of the Night", plus the movies "Cleopatra," "Hawaii" and "Kelly's Heroes." It's a tribute to his acting ability that he was best known worldwide as the lovable bigot Archie, who Rob Reiner called "the single most indelible character in the history of American television." It was easy to forget that Carroll was actually a liberal in real life when he took on the fiery persona of that died-in-the-wool, cigar-chomping, Nixon-loving conservative from Queens, who called his son-in-law 'Meathead' and told his wife 'Edith' to "Stifle!". Yet Archie developed as a surprisingly complex character, sympathetic despite his obvious faults. The show was a tremendous hit.

Carroll died of a heart attack in June of 2001. His funeral was held at the nearby St. Paul the Apostle Church in Westwood. His grave is located directly between those of Jack Lemmon and Billy Wilder.


  [ Also buried here is Carroll's adopted son, Hugh O'Connor (1962-1995), who played 'Lt. Lonnie Jamison' on his father's show ("In the Heat of the Night"). Unfortunately, plagued by drug problems, the young man shot himself in 1995. ]






And what do Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau and Marilyn Monroe, Dean Martin, and Ray Walston all have in common? They all starred in landmark films for the great director Billy Wilder (1906-2002).

Billy Wilder directed, produced and/or wrote such classics as "Some Like It Hot" (with Marilyn and Jack), "The Seven Year Itch" (with Marilyn's famous blowing skirt scene), "The Apartment" (for which Jack won an Oscar), "The Fortune Cookie" (with Matthau & Lemmon), "Kiss Me Stupid" (with Dean Martin and Ray Walston), "Irma la Douce" (with Jack again), plus "Sunset Blvd.," "The Lost Weekend," "Sabrina," "Stalag 17," "Double Indemnity," "Ball of Fire," "Ninotchka" and "One, Two, Three".

He was nominated for an Academy Award over 20 times, and won seven Oscars - for "Sunset Blvd.," "The Lost Weekend" and "The Apartment."

He died in March of 2002, less than a year after he attended Jack's funeral here. Billy was buried just two graves down (to the east) from Jack Lemmon (and immediately to the left of Carroll O'Connor, in the same row of new graves with marble headstones.

His headstone bears the punchline from his best-known film, "Some Like It Hot".





Peter FalkThis particular row of graves, that already included stars Jack Lemmon, Carroll O'Connor and Billy Wilder, gained a even more luster in 2011, when TV's "Columbo", Peter Falk (1927-2011), was buried here as well.

You'll find his grave behind a wrought iron fence (but clearly visible), just to the left of Billy Wilder.

Peter Falk was best known as the rumpled raincoat-wearing Lieutenant  Columbo, whose bumbling, absentminded demeanor masked a keen mind, and whose unassuming, polite (but relentless) methods caused his often-brilliant adversaries to underestimate him as an incompetent pest - much to their own disadvantage.

He won ten different Emmy awards for playing that beloved character.

Besides "Columbo" (and many other TV appearances), Falk appeared in a number of movies, including one of the funniest (and strangest) comedies you'll ever see: 1979's "The In-Laws", as well as "It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World", "Murder By Death", and as the grandfather/narrator in "The Princess Bride".

He was a favorite of director John Cassavetes (also buried at Westwood), and starred in several of Cassavetes' movies, including "Husbands" and "A Woman Under the Influence".

He was nominated for two Academy Awards, for "Murder Inc." and "Pocketful of Miracles".



In October of 2004, stand-up comic Rodney Dangerfield (1921-2004) was buried at Pierce Bros. Best known for his famous line "I don't get no respect!", but at Rodney's funeral, comics Adam Sandler and Jim Carrey were pallbearers, while Jay Leno, Tim Allen, Chris Rock, Jon Lovitz, Louie Anderson, George Lopez, and others celebs attended.

Besides his stand-up career, Rodney also appeared in several movies, most notably "Caddyshack" and "Back to School"- usually playing a loveable but disgruntled slob with a tendency to insult people with his outrageous style. He also played the Devil in "Little Nicky", and had a rare dramatic role as an abusive father in "Natural Born Killers."

His grave is easy to find. It's right at the curb, on the south side of the park, in front of the markers of Jack Lemmon, Billy Wilder and Carroll O'Connor. And the epitaph perfectly matches Rodney's screen persona: "There Goes The Neighborhood."



Also located near the curb, to the left of Rodney Dangerfield and to the right of George C. Scott, is the grave of showman Merv Griffin (1925-2007).

Merv was best known as a talk show host, back in the Golden Age of talk shows, going up against Johnny Carson himself.

"The Merv Griffin Show" (with British sidekick Arthur Treacher) ran from 1962 to 1986, and certainly gave "The Tonight Show" a run for its money.

Mr, Griffin was also a successful singer, and an occasional actor. He won 17 Emmys and had a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

But as an off-camera entrepreneur, Merv created two of the biggest hit TV game shows to ever grace the airwaves: "Jeopardy" and "Wheel of Fortune" (he even wrote their memorable theme songs), and owned the Beverly Hilton hotel, amassing a fortune estimated at $1 billion.




Just to the right of Merv, also near the curb, is the grave of actress Farrah Fawcett (1947-2009).

Farrah was best known as one of TV's original "Charlie's Angels", as well as for her marriage to "Six Million Dollar Man" actor Lee Majors, and her long relationship with actor Ryan O'Neal.

And who can forget that famous poster of Farrah in a red swimsuit, that made her America's favorite pin-up in the 1970's?

In addition to "Angels", Farrah also starred in a number topical dramas, including "Extremities" and "The Burning Bed".

She and Ryan O'Neal reunited in her last days, and there was even talk of an upcoming marriage, but alas, Farrah died of cancer before that could happen.

She also had the misfortune of dying on the same day of Michael Jackson, and the massive mourning for that superstar eclipsed media coverage of her own passing.



Nearby, but a bit harder to find, is actor Karl Malden.

Today's public probably remembers him best from his work on the hit 70's police drama "The Streets of San Francisco", in which he co-starred with a young Michael Douglas, and as a commercial spokesman for American Express travelers checks.

But long before that, Karl Malden won an Academy Award for his role as Blanche's suitor, 'Mitch', in the 1951 drama “A Streetcar Named Desire.” He was nominated for another Oscar for playing the scrappy priest ('Father Berry') in the 1954 classic "On the Waterfront" (again opposite Marlon Brando).

Possessing a unique & memorable nose, Karl was a character actor - not a leading man, but an outstanding actor in any case. He was the warden in "Birdman of Alcatraz" (opposite Burt Lancaster), Rose's boyfriend in "Gypsy", and General Omar Bradley in "Patton" (opposite George C. Scott), among many other roles. He appeared in over 50 movies before finally entering TV with "Streets..."

His final role, appropriately enough, was as another priest, on a 2000 episode of "The West Wing".

To find his grave, look in the new section that has been added in between the Lemmon/Matthau/Farrah area and the niche section (with Brian Keith).  Here (on the south side of the road), you'll find several new lawn graves, divided by long hedges, between a low wall and a sidewalk. The graves (and the hedges) run east/west. His grave is one of them, a lawn grave nestled between two hedges. Click here (then scroll down) to see three photos of his grave, so you'll know what to look for.




Just across the road from (north of) Rodney Dangerfield, right at the curb of the main lawn, is the grave of bandleader Ray Conniff (1916-2002).

Back in the '50s and early '60s, before the arrival of the Beatles cemented rock & roll as the main fare of AM radio, there was still room for softer sounds on the pop charts.

Ray Conniff and his Ray Conniff Singers provided a distinct sound that reflects that era - soft, lush, romantic melodies (often songs from the movies) performed by a Big Band orchestra, fronted by a full chorus of 25 singers. It's the kind of music that many of today's generation would dismiss as "elevator music", but it was very popular at its time - and still is with Conniff's many fans.

Ray Conniff sold over 70 million albums in his lifetime: 25 of them hit the Top 40 charts, ten went gold and two went platinum - a huge accomplishment for any artist.

He was best known for the hit recording of Somewhere My Love ("Lara's Theme" from the 1965 film "Dr. Zivago"), a sweetly sentimental melody that's hard to forget. (You can listen to an except from the song by clicking here.) He also produced several albums full of Christmas carols, which resurface on the airwaves each holiday season.





In January of 2008, a memorial service for actor Heath Ledger (star of "Brokeback Mountain" and "A Knight's Tale") was held at Pierce Bros. His body was flown in to Westwood from Manhattan, after his tragic death at age 28. But he was to be buried in his home of Perth, Australia.





A final resting place among the stars here at Pierce Bros Westwood Memorial Park will reportedly cost about $22,000.  In fact, Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner recently paid a hefty sum to purchase the crypt just to the left of Marilyn Monroe - who was his first Playboy "Playmate." And the one remaining crypt on Marilyn's wall is reportedly priced at over $80,000.

But it costs nothing to visit.

If you need assistance finding a particular grave, don't be afraid to ask the people in the office - on the south side of the park. They are usually very helpful. (In fact, I've been told that they sometimes hand out copies of my own map of the park.)

Click here to see a map of the park.

             

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Parking: There is a circular driveway/road which leads through the cemetery grounds. (Be sure to bear to your right when you approach the cemetery's wrought-iron gates, or else you will end up in a parking garage meant for the local movie theatres.)

Hours: Daily: 8 AM - 5 PM.

Getting there: The cemetery is difficult to find, hidden away in Westwood, immediately south of Wilshire Boulevard on Glendon Avenue, between Malcom (on the east) & Wellworth Avenues (on the south). The only access is from the east side of Glendon Avenue, up a small driveway between the pink-stone skyscraper on the southeast corner of Glendon & Wilshire and the parking garage just south of that skyscraper. (Don't confuse this small park with the huge Veteran's cemetery located north of Wilshire, near the 405.)  / From Rodeo Drive, take Wilshire Boulevard west (about two and a half miles) to Glendon Avenue (which is one block before Westwood Boulevard), and turn left (south) on Glendon. Then immediately turn left (east) up the driveway, and then turn right again (south) into the gates of the small cemetery. (If you look carefully, you will spot a small, square pink-stone sign off Glendon reading "Pierce Bros Westwood Village Memorial Park.") / From the San Diego (405) Freeway, take the Wilshire Boulevard and go east on Wilshire one half mile to Glendon Avenue (the first street east of Westwood Boulevard).  





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