There's really no other place quite like it, a blend of reverence and kitsch. It's where death -- and life -- are celebrated in unconventional ways. If the dead could vote (as some say they do in Chicago and Jersey City), this would have nearly enough of a population (250,000 to 350,000) to warrant its own congressional district, or at least a majority bloc of one. It's famed for hosting funerals...but thousands get married here, too. Until Disneyland came into existence, it was southern California's top tourist attraction; many have criticized it, some have satirized it.
We are, of course, referring to Forest Lawn, specifically the original cemetery in Glendale (the company has since opened several others). We know it as the place where Carole Lombard, second husband Clark Gable, her mother and two brothers are buried.
With Halloween on the horizon -- an event initially designed to celebrate the memory of the dead, and still treated that way in many cultures -- it seemed like a good time to delve into Forest Lawn, a place now nearly a century old and to some quintessentially southern California. We'll begin with the celebrity angle of the place, something that re-emerged a few months ago when Michael Jackson was buried there. The following, "The Great Mausoleum Six," is a video created by noted grave hunter Lisa Burks, on six Hollywood notables who now rest at Forest Lawn: Lombard, Gable, Jean Harlow, Irving Thalberg, his wife Norma Shearer, and Marie Dressler. I think you will appreciate it:
Now, we'll explore the history of Forest Lawn, with help from a rather irreverent three-part video. Part one opens with a song from John Denver's early days called "Forest Lawn," a rather funny piece that notes the kitsch that can envelop the place. (And to answer your question, no, he's not buried at Forest Lawn.) We get to view some of the cemetery's printed material from the '20s and '30s; had Michael Jackson died in 1929, he could not have been buried at Forest Lawn, because at the time it was restricted to Caucasians. (That was later changed, of course, and black celebrities buried there include Nat Cole, Sam Cooke and early Motown great Mary Wells.)
Part two covers the next quarter-century of Forest Lawn, noting the 1944 burial there of evangelist Aimee Semple MacPherson (but using simulated silent footage from a 1976 TV movie where Faye Dunaway portrayed her). There's also something from Time magazine in 1944 on the cemetery, which included a photo spread of celebrities there, including Lombard (her space can be seen at the 4:55 mark):
Part three looks at more recent times, and sums it all up; for legal reasons, there is no audio track:
As stated earlier, there's really no other place quite like it.