Seeing Stars: Final Resting Places of the Stars

Part I
720 E. Florence Avenue,
Inglewood, CA. / (310) 412-6500

Inglewood Park is located across the street from the Great Western Forum, and a few blocks north of Hollywood Park race track. Despite the fact that this neighborhood in Inglewood has seen better days, the 100-year-old park is still a surprisingly beautiful cemetery, filled with old-fashioned monuments, majestic statues, and a lovely lake.

There are only a few of Hollywood celebrities buried here, but some of them are major stars.

In recent decades, Inglewood Park has grown, with the community, into a predominently African-American cemetery. But back in Hollywood's Golden Age, most of the stars buried here were white.

The first, Edgar Bergen (1903-1978) may be better known today as the father of "Murphy Brown" (Candice Bergen), but he was a superstar in his own day.

Perhaps the best-known ventriloquist of all time, Edgar Bergen starred both on radio and in the movies, with his beloved dummies "Charlie McCarthy" and "Mortimer Snerd," most notably in 1939's "You Can't Cheat an Honest Man" opposite W.C. Fields.

Edgar Bergen's dummies were so personable that when young Candice was growing up she thought that the dapper "Charlie" was her real brother. Mr. Bergen and Charlie had their footprints immortalized outside of Grauman's Chinese Theatre (Edgar even drew a caricature of Charlie in the wet cement there)

(Here is a video of Bergen & Charlie's act.)

Edgar is buried in a simple lawn plot here at Inglewood Park, atop a small knoll in the Miramar section, two sections northeast of the lake. (The Miramar section may be recognized by a dramatic, life-size statue of a winged angel embracing a semi-nude young woman.) (click here to see a map of the grounds)

In the handsome Mausoleum of the Golden West *, on the far north side of the cemetery, just to the east of the main entrance (click here to see a map of the park), you'll find the crypt of actress Betty Grable (listed on her marker as "Betty Grable James") (1916-1973), wife of bandleader Harry James.

Betty Grable was the ultimate WW2 "Pin-Up Girl." In fact, she even starred in a 1944 movie called "Pin-Up Girl," among the many musical comedies she made for 20th-Century Fox during the 1930s & 40s.

(Click here to see a clip from that musical.)

Soldiers carried her photo into combat, and pilots painted images of her on their airplanes. Her legs were so famous that they were supposedly insured for a million dollars. She left an impression of her right leg in the wet cement outside Grauman's Chinese Theatre.

Her crypt (A78) is tricky to find; this large mausoleum is a virtual maze of corridors and dead-ends. So pay attention to these directions:

(click here to see a map of the mausoleum interior)

This mausoleum has two main entrances, both facing south. The first entrance looks like a mission tower and is called the "Galleria Entrance." Do NOT go in this entrance - it puts you too far away from your destinations (which are on the far east side of the large building). Instead, go in through the next door to the east, called the "Cenotaph Entrance." Just inside the door, to your right (near a stained glass window of Father Serra) is a map of the entire mausoleum, which will help you find your way around.

To find the crypt of Betty Grable, walk two corridors back (north) to the "Sanctuary of Faith" (the corridor names are written on the floor), and turn right (east). Walk east down this long hallway until you come to its end. Keep walking east. Straight ahead (east) is another corridor ("The Sanctuary of Dawn") with a stained glass window at the end. You'll find Betty Grable's simple wall crypt about halfway down this corridor, on the right (south) side, at about eye level.

Inside this same Golden West Mausoleum are the ashes of César Romero (1907-1994), the actor/dancer who starred as 'Peter Stavros' in the 80's on TV's "Falcon Crest," and was featured as a suave Latin lover in a bevy of 1940's "Golden Age" musicals, and portrayed the Cisco Kid in a number of movies for 20th Century Fox. He is probably best known today for his role as 'The Joker' in the TV series "Batman." He died on New Year's Day, 1994, and was cremated here. You'll find his ashes in a unique harp-shaped container in the Alcove of Music, #408.

(Click here to see a clip of César as "The Cisco Kid".  Or here to see him dancing with Betty Grable in "Springtime in the Rockies".)

To locate César, starting back at the door (the "Cenotaph Entrance"), walk three corridors back (north) to the "Sanctuary of Reverence." Turn right (east) and walk east until you come to the end of the corridor. You will find yourself in a north/south hallway (called the "Sanctuary of Dreams"). Turn left (north) and stop. There is a glass-enclosed alcove against the west wall here (between the "Sanctuary of Reverence" and the "Sanctuary of Devotion") called the "Alcove of Music." It's hard to miss the large, harp-shaped container holding the remains of César Romero.

(click here to see a map of the mausoleum interior)

Perhaps the most famous celebrity interred in this Golden West Mausoleum is the man who virtually invented soul music, Ray Charles (1939-2004).

Ray Charles overcame about as many bad breaks in life as fate can throw at a man. He was born into dire poverty in Georgia. He saw his brother drown when he was a child. He went blind at age 7, and was shipped off to a segregated school for the blind, where he learned music. While there, he was orphaned when his mother died, and ended up on his own at 15, still blind, trying to get work as a musician in Florida.

Few people would have survived half of that, but long before he died, Ray Charles was hailed world-wide as a musical legend, with a string of Grammy-award winning songs to his credit, including his unforgettable version of "Georgia on my Mind" (his version is now the official state song of Georgia), the soulful "Unchain My Heart", the country-influenced "I Can't Stop Loving You", the brash "Hit the Road Jack", the rocking "What'd I Say" and "I Got a Woman", and a particularly poignant rendition of the hymn "America".

The most memorable image is of him sitting behind his piano, swaying and singing.

At his funeral, the attendees reflected Ray's various musical styles. They included Stevie Wonder, Clint Eastwood, B.B. King, Willie Nelson, Little Richard, Glen Campbell, Johnny Mathis and members of ZZ Top.

His crypt isn't easy to find. It's located in the "Sanctuary of Eternal Love", near the far northeast corner of the large mausoleum. (Don't confuse it with another sanctuary called simply "Eternity".)

Start out at César Romero's glass case (see above). Now walk north up that central hallway, to the very end of the hallway (where there is a stained glass window of a mission). On your right (east), there will be a final corridor. Look down on the floor at the entrance to this corridor and it will say "Sanctuary of Eternal Love". Ray Charles' crypt is just inside this corridor, on the right (south) side. It's located four spaces up from the bottom, and five spaces in from the main hallway, space "A 32". Check the map of the mausoleum to get a better idea of where it is.

(click here to see a map of the mausoleum interior)

Just to the west of the main entrance (off Florence Avenue), is another mausoleum, the Sunset Mission Mausoleum *. (Click here to see a map of the grounds.) The mausoleum has two doors side by side, both facing east. Walk in the right door, and once inside you will see a stairway on your left side. Pass the stairway, and there will be a wall of marble crypts on your left side. Three spaces up from the bottom and the four spaces in (west) from the end (Vault 1086D) is the crypt of Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley (1917-1998).

He was the first African-American to become mayor of a major city. He headed the City of Angels for 20 years (from 1973 to 1993), and presided over the 1984 Olympics. Stevie Wonder sang at his funeral.

In the same Sunset Mission Mausoleum is jazz legend Ella Fitzgerald (1918-1996), one of the greatest jazz singers in the history of American music.

Both as a Big Band singer and as a solo artist, Ella gave life to songs from legendary songwriters ranging from George Gershwin to Cole Porter to Duke Ellington.  She was also noted for scat singing, as represented on her version of "How High the Moon".

You'll find her crypt 1063 on the second floor, in the "Sanctuary of the Bells." Remember that stairway on your left that you passed when you first entered? Just climb the stairs to the next floor, and you'll come to a wall with an open doorway and with wall crypts on the door's left side. Ella's crypt is 2 spaces up from the floor and 2 spaces in (west) from the doorway.

Back outside, we now go to look for some celebrities buried on the lawn, near the middle of the large park, including Gypsy Rose Lee & Sugar Ray Robinson.


* Be aware: Inglewood is considered by some to be a high-crime district (although
I know of no problems inside the park itself). Exercise reasonable caution.

Click here to continue the tour of Inglewood Park.

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