Hollywood’s Deceased, Resting in Peace
Published on: 8th November 2019
The Dean Street Press ‘Hollywood Collection’ (biographies and autobiographies of Golden Age Hollywood stars) certainly came to mind during this week’s trip to Los Angeles and a visit to the Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park and Mortuary. Nestled peacefully in the Westwood region of the city, the cemetary (that has undergone several name changes over the decades) has been active since the 1880s, and is still used to inter the bodies of the famous – and not so famous – of Hollywood’s elite. Notably, it is the site chosen by Joe DiMaggio to lay his ex-wife, Marilyn Monroe, to rest, her crypt only feet away from the grave of her Some Like It Hot director, Billy Wilder (whose gravestone humorously reads; ‘I’m a writer, but then, nobody’s perfect’).
Unlike Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris (a tourist destination that offers maps to famous graves, queues to take a look at them, and Millennials with ‘selfie sticks’ pouting in front of Jim Morrisson’s) the Pierce Brothers Memorial Park is a peaceful and respectul place. Green, leafy, cool, and calm, few people visit, and those who do are either related to those who are interred, or genuine film buffs who have come to quiety pay their respects to those who made Hollywood history. Keeping Monroe company in this peaceful oasis flanked by freeways and highrise buildings are Jack Lemmon, Fanny Bryce, Dean Martin, Josef von Sternberg, Cornel Wilde, Walter Matthau, Burt Lancaster, Louis Jordan,Truman Capote,and many others. Perhaps most interesting to Dean Street Press were the graves of sisters Eva and Zsa Zsa Gabor, as we publish both the autobiography and novels of George Sanders (All About Eve actor known for his caustic wit) who was married to both Zsa Zsa and, later, to her other sister, Magda (buried elsewhere).
Dionne Warwick famously sang that ‘L.A. is a great big freeway’, and those of you who know the city can certainly attest to that. A sprawling, exciting, and frenetic hub, L.A. does host some pockets of peace, and the Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park and Mortuary is one of them. Free of gift shops and gawkers, if you’re visiting The City of Angels and want to take a breather, a trip to the Pierce Brothers is not only a fascinating glimpse into Hollywood history, but a little reminder that those we admire on the Silver Screen were real people who, to quote Morrissey, were ‘born, and then they lived, and then they died’, and they were loved not only by fans, but by the friends and relatives who chose such a beautiful site to inter them.