Seeing Stars: Final Resting Places of the Stars

Part II
(formerly "Hollywood Memorial Park")
6000 Santa Monica Boulevard,
Hollywood, CA. / (213) 469-1181

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In 2005 & 2006, two new stars were buried at Hollywood Forever, both on the edge of the lawn by the road that circles the lake - and both stars of hit TV series from the '60s & '70s.

To find these graves, from the Valentino mausoleum, get back in your car and drive northeast to follow the road that circles the lake. Look to your left (towards the lake), and you will soon see a massive white statue of a man in a suit & tie sitting in a throne-like chair - not unlike the Lincoln Memorial statue. Stop the car and get out.

Don AdamsAs you face that seated statue, just to its left, you will see a life-size statue of an angel, watching over a somewhat cluttered gravesite that contains (among other things), a smaller angel statue, flowers, and a stone reading "If Love Could Have Saved You, You Would Have Lived Forever".

This is the grave of "Get Smart" star Don Adams (1923-2005).

A spoof of the '60s spy fad (such as "James Bond", "Secret Agent" and "The Man from U.N.C.L.E."), "Get Smart" gave us Adams as 'Maxwell Smart' the bumbling Agent 86 of the CONTROL agency, shoe-phone in hand, battling the evil forces of KAOS and constantly frustrating both his Chief and his seductive partner, Agent 99.

Anyone familiar with the show will never forget Don's trademark voice, as he intoned such running gags as "Sorry about that, Chief!", "Missed it by that much!" and "Would you believe...?" That memorable voice also came in handy later, when Don voiced cartoons such as "Inspector Gadget".

(In 2008, three years after Don's death, they made a movie version of the series, "Get Smart", starring Steve Carell in the 'Smart' role.)

The grave is right at the (inside) edge of the road, on the northeast side of the lake.

[Click here to see a map of this lake area]

Get back in the car and continue west a short ways to the next corner, where you'll see the tall obelisk marking the grave of Griffith Griffith (the man after whom Griffith Park is named). It somewhat resembles a small version of the Washington Monument. Turn left (south) here and count the trees near the curb on your right side. After five trees, stop the car and get out.

To your right (west), near the curb (across the road from the lake), you should be able to spot the tall, old-fashioned headstone of actor Darren McGavin (1922-2006).

One of my favorite TV movies was a thriller called "The Night Stalker", starring Darren McGavin as a reporter ('Carl Kolchak') who investigates the strange case of a serial murderer who seems to be trying to make people believe he is a vampire... the victims are drained of blood. Or is it the work of a real vampire? The 1972 TV movie was so popular that it spawned a sequel ("The Night Strangler"), and then a TV series of its own ("Kolchak, the Night Stalker"). The TV series never achieved the same level of suspense as the movie (by then, we knew the formula too well), but it was still one of the more memorable series of the '70s.

(Given how much time 'Kolchak' spent running through graveyards on that show, I wouldn't be surprised to learn that some of those scenes were filmed right here at Hollywood Forever.)

But for everyone who knows Darren McGavin as a supernatural sleuth, there is another who remembers him in a much more down-to-earth role: that of Ralphie's 'Old Man' in the popular 1983 Christmas comedy: "A Christmas Story", who becomes infatuated with a leg-shaped lamp. And there are still a few who remember him as TV's "'Mike Hammer' in the '50s.

I visited Hollywood Forever several times before I even realized that there was another, separate mausoleum at the south end of the Abbey of the Psalms (the one on the west side of the park, with Darla Hood and Clifton Webb).

It's called the T-Building, and to enter it you'll have to walk around to the far south side of the building, where you'll find a separate entrance - there are no shared inside hallways to link the two.

Stepping inside, you'll find yourself in a small chapel of sorts. Turn to your right (east) and walk down the hallway until you come to a small niche (or short hallway) on your left (north) side. Step inside this niche, and look at the wall on your right (east).

Here, you'll find the small crypt of bandleader and composer Nelson Riddle (1921-1985), seven spaces up from the bottom, and just two spaces out from the back wall. [see a map]

Known to TV fans as the orchestra leader on "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour" and "The Julie Andrews Show," Nelson Riddle composed the themes for several television shows, including "The Untouchables" and "Route 66," and wrote music for "Batman" and "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." He also scored a number of films, including "Pal Joey," "Lolita," "Ocean's Eleven," "How to Succeed in Business...," "Harlow" and "El Dorado."

He was a well-known arranger for singers including Frank Sinatra , Nat King Cole, Dean Martin and Peggy Lee - and more recently for the pops albums of Linda Ronstadt. He also hit the charts himself with the "Route 66" theme and popular versions of songs like "Mona Lisa," "Charade" and Shangri-La."

Now walk back down the main hallway (west), back past the main entrance, and make a right turn at the next corridor, which is labeled T-5.

Here, just five spaces in from the main hall, on your right (east) side, on the bottom row, you'll find the crypt of the first of the Ritz Brothers, a trio of zany actors who did their best back in the 30's to give the Marx Brothers a run for their money. This first crypt is that of Al Ritz (1901-1965), but all three of the Ritz Bros are buried in this T-building.

When you visit the famed forecourt at Grauman's Chinese Theatre, you may well notice that the Ritz Bros have a huge square of cement with their footprints & handprints. Along with the Marx Bros, it's one of the largest squares allotted to any star in the famous courtyard. Some might wonder why.

The Marx Brothers began cranking out their string of hilarious hits for Paramount Studios back in 1929 - in 1934, they switched to MGM, and continued producing hits.

Their success didn't go unnoticed by rival 20th Century Fox, and in 1936, that studio decided to debut their own zany comedy trio - and thus the Ritz Brothers were introduced to Hollywood audiences.

They never came anywhere near the popularity of the Marx Brothers, but Al, Jimmy and Harry Ritz did manage to churn out over 15 movies for Fox, sometimes providing comic relief to romantic musical stars of the day like Alice Faye & Dick Powell, other times getting top billing. Their string of decent but mostly forgotten movies ended with the onset of World War II - it included such titles such as "Sing Baby Sing," "You Can't Have Everything" and "Life Begins in College."

(The Ritz Brothers: from left to right,
it's Harry, Al and Jimmy Rotz.)

Apparently, Fox must have insisted on equal space for their boys, because just four years after the Marx Bros got their acreage of cement at Grauman's Chinese, the Ritz Bros got their own nearby. Ironically, the trio is buried only steps away from Paramount Studios, the original home of the Marx Bros.

You'll find brother Jimmy Ritz (1904-1985) just one corridor over to the west (T-5), but he's about 36 spaces in from the main hallway, and about five spaces up from the bottom of the left (west) wall, making his marker more difficult to read. [see a map]

In between these two corridors is a stairway which leads to an upper floor, where Harry Ritz (1907-1986) was laid to rest (I haven't been able to track down his crypt yet.)

Last but not least, we go back outside to find our last (and first) star.

From back at the lake area (where Tyrone Power and Nelson Eddy are buried), follow the road around to the north side of the lake, and park near a road marker that says "Section 2." Now look to your right (north), and you will spot a former pumphouse (now referred to as "the historic chapel") near the northeast corner of the park, up against the outside northern wall that borders Santa Monica Blvd.

(Click here to see a map of the grounds.)

The very first grave left (west) of the corner of that house belongs to a woman whose name most of us have forgotten, but who holds a unique place in Hollywood history.

Florence Lawrence (1890-1938), as her worn tombstone reads, was Hollywood's first movie star.

Back in those early days, tight-fisted studio owners refused to list the names of their players, fearing (correctly so) that such fame would result in demands for higher wages. For years, silent screen actors and actresses were just faces without names.

When Florence Lawrence began to gain popularity, her studio, Biograph, merely referred to her as "The Biograph Girl."

So she quit Biograph and went to work for a rival studio, which billed her as Florence Lawrence - and thus she became the first movie actor (male or female) to truly achieve stardom and receive screen credit for their work. And the new studio successfully used her name to sell their motion pictures.

Unfortunately, her story does not have a happy ending. When time and fame finally passed her by, Florence took her own life in a particularly startling way - by consuming ant paste.  She was buried in an unmmarked grave.

53 years after her death, this headstone was added in 1991, paid for by actor Roddy McDowall.

Perhaps, wherever she is now, Florence can take some comfort in the fact that movie fans are still visiting the grave of "America's First Movie Star."

Finally, Hollywood Forever played a role in the final disposition of the early remains of former Beatle George Harrison.

Just hours after George Harrison passed away (at a friend's house in L.A.), the family had his body cremated by Hollywood Forever, in keeping with his Eastern faith. His ashes were returned to the family, and were scattered in the sacred Ganges River in India.

His family released a statement following George's death, which read:
   "He left this world as he lived in it, conscious of God, fearless of death, and at peace, surrounded by family and friends. He often said, Everything else can wait but the search for God cannot wait, and love one another."


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Parking: Free parking inside the grounds.

Hours: Mon-Fri: 8 AM - 5 PM. Sat-Sun: 9 AM - 4 PM.

Getting there: Hollywood Forever is located on Santa Monica Boulevard, between Western Avenue & Vine Street, in Hollywood. The park is bordered by Gower Street (on the west), Van Ness Avenue (on the east), and the Paramount Studios (on the south). / From Hollywood & Vine, take Vine Street south to Santa Monica Boulevard, then turn left (east) on Santa Monica and go three blocks east to the cemetery, and turn right (south) into the gates. / From the Hollywood (101) Freeway, take the Santa Monica Boulevard exit, and head west on Santa Monica Boulevard (one half mile) to the park's entrance (near Bronson Avenue). Turn left (south) into the gates.  

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