Seeing Stars: Final Resting Places of the Stars

Part V
1712 S. Glendale Avenue,
Glendale, CA. / (323) 254-3131

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Now it's time to go inside the Great Mausoleum.

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.

Every half hour, you can watch the unveiling of "The Last Supper Window," a giant (30 feet long by 15 feet high) rendition of Leonardo de Vinci's masterpiece, reproduced in glowing stained glass.

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 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 Ron B., 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.

    ( Thanks go to Lisa Burks, who first determined the location of the crypt on her own, and then confirmed it with the help of reader Erin Jacobs. )

James ArnessAlso reportedly buried inside the Great Mausoleum, in a wall crypt (in the area off-limits to the public), 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, a friend 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' (Amanda Blake), owner of the Long Branch saloon.

Before "Gunsmoke", Arness was a decorated hero in WW2, and later 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 1953's "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 of an angel (with arms & wings spread) right in front of you, titled "In Memoria."  This statue marks the final resting place of one of Hollywood's biggest stars.

In March 2011, superstar Elizabeth Taylor (1932-2011) was buried at Forest Lawn Glendale.

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 to 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 is at the base of the large angel statue ("In Memoria").  Her actual crypt is in the wall behind the statue.

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.

(Click here to see a partial map of this mausoleum.)


The biggest star in this Sanctuary 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 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 Kadiddlehopper', and the seagulls Gertrude & Heathcliffe.

(You can see a bust of Red Skelton at the Emmy Academy's Hall of Fame.)

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:

Irving Thalberg
  • Marie Dressler (1869-1934), was an unlikely star, but this large, burley actress shone in blue-collar roles like "Tugboat Annie," and she could handle both drama and comedy. Often starring opposite Wallace Beery, she was one of the most popular personalities of the 1930's, and the top box office draw of 1933. She won an Academy Award for Best Actress in 1930's "Min & Bill."

  • Sid Grauman (1879-1950) the legendary master showman who built Grauman's Chinese Theatre, as well as the nearby Egyptian Theatre - where he staged Hollywood's very first gala movie premiere.  Grauman's Chinese remains the most famous movie theatre in the world, in large part because of Grauman's marketing savvy in having his stars immortalize their hand & footprints in cement in the forecourt outside the theatre.

  • Alexander Pantages (1867-1936) another pioneer of the early motion picture business, he created a chain of theatres (featuring both movies and vaudeville) that dominated the west coast in the early days.  But in today's Hollywood, his name is best remembered for his 1930 creation, the lavish Pantages Theatre, near Hollywood & Vine.

  • Irving Thalberg (1899-1936) was the boy genius who led MGM Studios during its Golden Years. He died at age 35. He was married to actress Norma Shearer (who is also buried in the same private room.)
  • An award in his name is given each year by the Motion Picture Academy for lifetime achievement. (See the photo of the award to the left)

(Click here to see a partial map of this mausoleum).

In the corridor just to the left (west) of Red's (the Columbarium of Memory) are three other Hollywood stars:

  • Jack Carson (1910-1963), a veteran character actor and a fine comedian, is a familiar face in many Golden Age movies, often playing the good-natured best friend. He was hilarious in comedies like "The Good Humor Man," but was equally at home in dramas like "Mildred Pierce."
  • His niche is located on the left side (as you're looking into the room), three spaces up from the bottom, and four sections in from the door.

  • Ellen Corby (1911-1999), best known as 'Grandma Walton' on the popular TV show "The Waltons," this veteran character actress appeared in over 100 movies and dozens of TV shows, including a small role in "It's A Wonderful Life," as the woman withdrawing money from the savings & loan, and an Oscar-nominated supporting role in 1948's "I Remember Mama."
  • Her niche is also on the left side, but is in the last column in (farthest from the door), seven spaces up from the bottom.

  • Theda Bara (1885-1955). made all of her films during the silent era, but her performances added a new term to the English language: "the vamp," and was remembered for the classic line "Kiss me, my fool!"  Although she was a tailor's daughter, the studio passed her off as the exotic offspring of a French soldier and an Egyptian lover, and posed her in photographs with veils and snakes. It worked, and her dangerous image was a hit. She was second only to Chaplin and Pickford in those early days. Her niche is near Jack Carson's, five spaces up from the bottom, and three spaces in from the door.
  • ( A side note: if you ever went to the Country Bear Playhouse at Disneyland, you may remember "Teddy Bara," the sexy female bear who descends from the ceiling on a swing. Her moniker is a play on Theda Bara's name. )

    The Andrew Sisters
  • At the very back of this "Memory"corridor are two of the three Andrews Sisters (Laverne & Maxine), whose three-part harmony personified the Big Band vocal sound of the WW2 years. (Patty was buried at Pierce Bros. Westwood in 2013.)

    The trio 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)

  • Across the main hall is the Sanctuary of Trust. It is here that superstars Clark Gable (1901-1960) and wife Carole Lombard (1908-1942) are buried side by side.

    Gable, 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 the Wind."


    (Click here to see a partial map of this mausoleum).

    Oscar-winner David O. Selznick (1902-1965) is just a little farther down this same Sanctuary of Trust corridor, in a side room with the Selznick name above it.

    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." Jennifer Jones

    Selznick was married to popular actress Jennifer Jones (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 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. (His 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.

    (Click here to see a partial map of this mausoleum).

    Tucked away in his own family room at the far end of the Sanctuary of Gratitude is William Wrigley (1861-1932), 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.

    And right across the main hallway from the Pieta is the family crypt of Herbert Eaton himself (1881-1966), the man who created the Forest Lawn parks. His epitaph reads: "I believe, most of all, in a Christ that smiles and loves you and me."

    (Click here to see a partial map of this mausoleum.)

    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').

    But alas, unless you know a property owner here, you'll probably never get in to see them.

    The hallways tend to be dim, making photography difficult at times.  But below are thumbnails of photos, of some of those hidden crypts, shot by someone with access to the private areas.

     Click on the small photos to see larger versions:

    WC Fields    Ed Wynn & Keenan Wynn   William Boyd 
    Lon Chaney   Hermione Gringold   Alfred Newman

    And now superstar Michael Jackson has joined them in relative obscurity, lost to his public in the gothic, guarded corridors of the Great Mausoleum.  In my opinion, it's an odd choice of a final resting spot for a man whose greatest joy seemed to be basking in the public's adoration onstage...

    Despite the apparent sincerity of its founder, and the undeniable grandeur of his creation, there is still something that seems a bit askew about Forest Lawn.

    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 least once.


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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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