Westwood Village Memorial Park - part 2: Stars' Graves



Seeing Stars: Final Resting Places of the Stars

Part II
1218 Glendon Avenue,
Westwood, CA. / (310) 474-1579

[This is the second page of a six-page article. Click here to go to page one.]

Continue to the south, past a large tree, and you'll come to the final resting place of Roy Orbison (1936-1988). Roy was the mysterious singer-songwriter with the dark glasses and the incredible voice, who gave us hit songs such as "Oh Pretty Woman," "Crying," and "Only the Lonely." He had just finished work on a new "Traveling Wilburys." CD when he died unexpectedly in 1988, at age 52.

For some reason, Roy is buried in an unmarked grave (#97). The caretaker tells me that Orbison's family had originally said they planned to install an elaborate, black granite headstone, inscribed with the singer's songs - but decades after his death, his grave remains without a marker.

Fortunately, you came to the right website - here's how to find Roy's grave: from Donna Reed's grave, notice that there are two large trees directly to the west (to your left when you're reading Donna's headstone). Roy's grave lies in the same row as Donna's, but between these two trees. On the left side of his grassy spot is a headstone which reads "Frank Wright Tuttle," and on his right is a small black marker which reads "Grandma Martha Monroe."

(Incidentally, Frank Wright Tuttle is famous in his own right as a director of films such as "This Gun For Hire" with Alan Ladd, and "The Big Broadcast" with Bing Crosby and George Burns.)

(Click here to see my map of the park)

Richard Dawson's graveRichard DawsonJust one space above Roy's plot, and just one space to the west, is the grave of TV's Richard Dawson (1932-2012). Richard's first claim to fame came as a member of "Hogan's Heroes", the popular '60s sitcom starring Bob Crane (who is also buried at Pierce Bros). On that show, Richard played the British POW called 'Newkirk'.

But he became far more of a household name in 1976, when he became the host of the new television game show "Family Feud", where he flirted with the female contestants until 1985. (The show was revived later with new hosts, but Richard was the first and best.)  Two years later, in the 1987 Arnold Schwartzenegger action pic "The Running Man", Richard played a villainous game show host who ran the deadly game that lent its name to that sci-fi epic.

Character actor Lew Ayres (1908-1996) is also buried here on the west lawn, immediately to the left (west) of Zappa. He won an Academy Award for his 1948 role as a doctor in "Johnny Belinda" and earlier played 'Dr. Kildare' in a series of movies during the 1930's-40's. His grave is on the lawn near the west curb, three or four spaces west of the large tree that is west of Roy Orbison's grave.

Jim Backus

From Roy Orbison's grave, note that there is another tree farther to the southwest, with a white stone bench in front of it (on the south side of the tree.) Here, just to the south of this bench is the weathered bronze headstone of actor Jim Backus (1913-1989), who played the millionaire ("Mr. Thurston Howell") on TV's "Gilligan's  Island," and provided the cartoon voice of the near-sighted "Mr. Magoo."

  •   Also, the wife of Errol Flynn, Nora Eddington (Flynn), was buried here, near Jim Backus' grave.
      (Flynn himself is buried at Forest Lawn Glendale.)  Nora was also married to singer Dick Haymes.

Jim Backus' grave is just above (north of) a crowded collection of tiny plots - an urn garden. And near the northeast edge of this crowded urn garden is the small marker of Sebastian Cabot (1918-1977), who played the butler "Mr. French" in the popular 60's TV sitcom "Family Affair." It's about 12 markers in from the northeast corner of this group of markers. (Ironically, his co-star on that show, Brian Keith, is also buried here at Pierce Bros.)

Now go back to Natalie Wood's grave, then walk to the southeast. Four rows south of a large tree near the center of the lawn, you'll find the grave of actress Dorothy Stratten (1960-1980), the Playboy model whose tragic life was recounted in the 1983 movie "Star 80."
She was going with "Paper Moon" director Peter Bogdanovich when she was brutally murdered by her estranged husband. (Eight years later, Bogdanovich married Dorothy's younger sister, Louise.) Her eye-catching brown headstone contains a lengthy epitaph from Ernest Hemingway's "A Farewell to Arms ." (Click on the small photo for a larger version you can read.)

From Dorothy's grave, walk to the right (east), and down a little, and you'll find the grave of singer Minnie Riperton (1947-1979), who died tragically in 1979 of cancer (at age 31). The lyrics to her hit song, "Lovin' You" (1975), are inscribed on her headstone.

(Click here to see my map of the park)

Above (north of) Minnie's grave, and a little to the right (east) is a huge gnarled tree, near the eastern edge of the central lawn. Just to the left (west) of this old tree are the two tiny markers of Will & Ariel Durant (1885-1981), the husband & wife writing team who gave the world the acclaimed "Story of Civilization."

About five rows south of the Durants and a few spaces to the left of Minnie Riperton (and perhaps four rows up from the curb) is the grave of Beach Boy Carl Wilson (1946-1998) (brother of Brian Wilson).. His black and white marker reads "Carl Dean Wilson," with small white hearts next to his name, and "the heart and voice of an angel". And indeed, Carl's pure lead vocals made the songs "God Only Knows" and "Good Vibrations" blockbuster hits for the Beach Boys. He passed away at the age of 51 of lung cancer.

Last, but not least in this central lawn area, is comic actress Eve Arden (1908-1990), famous on both television and radio as "Our Miss Brooks." As the wise-cracking Connie Brooks, a harried teacher at Madison High School, Ms. Arden clashed with principal Osgood Conklin (Gale Gordon), humored goofy student Walter Denton (Richard Crenna), and unsuccessfully pursued fellow teacher, Mr. Boynton.

Eve Arden is perhaps best remembered by today's generation as 'Principal McGee' in the hit musical "Grease," but she also had important roles in such movies as "Mildred Pierce" and "Stage Door." You can find her grave just four spaces west of those of Will & Ariel Durant (and the big tree). She is buried next to her husband, Brooks West, and her headstone reads:

"Eve Arden West, 1908-1990.
The world will remember."

Another character actor buried on the lawn is Lloyd Nolan (1902-1985), whose last role was as Hannah's father in the Woody Allen comedy "Hannah and Her Sisters". You might also remember him as the cranky boss in the 60's TV series "Julia," starring Diahann Carroll. His grave is #84, which is a few yards to the left (west) of Eve Arden, just to the right of a number of flower planters (see the map.)

Just one row up (north) and one space to the left (west) on this lawn is a character actor whose name you may not recognize, but whose face you probably will - at least if you're familiar with the popular sitcoms of the 1960s & '70s.

Allan Melvin (1923-2008), played mostly blue-collar roles, playing a gruff but usually likeable guy in supporting roles that included Archie Bunker's friend 'Barney Hefner' on "All in the Family",  'Sergeant Carter's rival, 'Sgt. Hacker' on "Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C.", and the butcher shop boyfriend ('Sam') of the Brady Bunch's housekeeper, 'Alice'.

Finally, on this lawn, just one space to the left (west) of Allan, is Bettie Page (1923-2008), the queen of 1950's pin-ups.  Bettie wore her black hair in bangs, and bore a slight resemblance to today's Katy Perry.

Unlike the chaste swimsuit pin-ups of the WW2 era, though, the demure-looking Betty preferred lingerie shots, occasionally posed nude, and was featured in a series of softcore bondage photos that still fill the Internet.

She had been mostly forgotten, until the 1980's, when a new cult developed around her pin-up photos, and a series of comic books came out featuring Betty as a heroine. In 2005, a biopic called "The Notorious Bettie Page" was released, introducing her to a new generation.

Just across the road from (north of) Rodney Dangerfield, right at the south 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 large 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. Zhivago"), a sweetly sentimental melody that's hard to forget. (You can listen to the song by clicking here.)  He also produced several albums full of Christmas carols, which resurface on the airwaves each holiday season.

Louis JourdanAlmost directly up (north) from Ray Conniff's grave, about five or six rows up, is the large lawn grave of actor Louis Jourdan (1921-2015).

Along with Maurice Chevalier, Louis Jourdan came to personify the suave, sophisticated Frenchman in many Hollywood films, most memorably "Gigi", the 1958 musical in which he starred opposite Leslie Caron (in the title role) as a young, jaded man who falls for a French girl being groomed to be a courtesan. The film won the Oscar as Best Picture.

(You can watch an excerpt from the movie here.)

His other notable films included "Three Coins in the Fountain" and "Can-Can". In later years, he played the urbane villain in the 1983 James Bond movie "Octopussy".

Jourdan never liked the role Hollywood created for him, referring to it as "the French cliché".

He shares the grave with his wife, Quique, and their son, Louis Jr., who died young (of an apparent suicide).

Don't stop! There's much more to be discovered,
including Marilyn Monroe's final resting place...


 Click here to go to page 3 and continue the tour of Westwood Village Memorial,
where you'll discover the graves of
Truman Capote, Dean Martin, Eva Gabor and many others.

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