2013 L.A. Gravecation, Erin Murphy, featured, Hollywood, Hollywood Orchid Suites Hotel, L.A. County Coroners Office, Los Angeles, Los Angeles 2013 Death Hag Weekend, Rose Hills Memorial Park, San Fernando Mission Cemetery, Walter Brennan, Whittier CA
Being that I overslept, and I mean WAY overslept, the day after I arrived in Los Angeles and thus missing out on a full day of grave hunting insanity. I made a wise decision to not make that crucial mistake again. Because as we all know vacation time is precious. So on Thursday, October 3rd, I had a few things planned.
First on the agenda was revisiting San Fernando Mission Cemetery, in Mission Hills, set in the bustling San Fernando Valley. This time I wanted to get a more definite overview of those Hollywood personalities who call this tranquil Catholic cemetery their final home. After the San Fernando Mission Cemetery trek I attended the Thursday night “death hag” weekend pre-party at The Hollywood Orchid Suites Hotel. On Friday I’d be visiting Rose Hills Memorial Park, in Whittier. After the trek at Rose Hills Memorial Park, I bee-lined it for Hollywood for some pre-coroner’s office party drinks with friends at the bar inside the Arclight Hollywood Theater. So let’s get started.
The History: San Fernando Mission Cemetery
The History part of this article is a re-post from the article I wrote last year during my second L.A. Gravecation and is titled “2012 L.A. Gravecation Day 12-13: Had a Helluva Good Time Bon Voyage Los Angeles“
The San Fernando Mission Cemetery, is adjacent to the historic San Fernando Mission, and across the street from Eden Memorial Park. The Mission was founded in 1797. The cemetery itself wasn’t built until about 1800. If you’re interested in learning the condensed version of the history of the San Fernando Mission visit Wikipedia. The old burial ground was intended for “Christianized Indians”, the first burial took place in 1800. Also buried in the old graveyard are early European settlers and several priests. The last burial in the old cemetery took place in 1852.
The new San Fernando Mission Cemetery was opened in 1952, roughly 100 years to the day when the old cemetery met its capacity. It is owned, and maintained by the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, and is just one of about 11 or so Catholic cemeteries in Los Angeles County. The cemetery encompasses roughly 86 acres of prime burial real estate. Highlights on the grounds among the palm trees include the Spanish-style architectural buildings, among other highlights. If you’re interested in checking out what this historic cemetery has to offer, and who’s buried there, visit the San Fernando Mission Cemetery, Wikipedia, or Find A Grave pages.
The Tour: San Fernando Mission Cemetery
Upon my arrival at San Fernando Mission Cemetery, I cruised over to the cemetery office in the mortuary building to obtain a much-needed cemetery map. After obtaining one, off I went into the abyss.
With the cemetery trek underway, the first order of business was to track down the gravesite of highly-prolific actor Walter Brennan. Born in 1894 in Lynn, Massachusetts, to Irish immigrant parents. In high school he developed a love for various forms of acting, and that’s where he found his niche. A veteran of WWI, he’d eventually relocate to Los Angeles to pursue his budding acting career. Although he had many fine, starring and co-starring roles, he was best known for being a talkative old-timer or gold prospector in western films and TV shows. One of the things I find fascinating about Brennan is that he’s one of three actors to be awarded the Academy Award on three different occasions, between 1936 and 1940 (The others were Jack Nicholson and Daniel Day-Lewis). In 1974 at the ripe old age of 74, or 80 (depending on the source), Brennan succumbed to complications of emphysema. He’s interred in Section: D, two rows in from curb #445. If you’re interested in reading more about his life, and highly prolific career, you should definitely checkout his Wikipedia page.
After photographing, and paying my utmost respects at the graveside of Walter Brenna I cruised over to the graveside of Fred Niblo Jr. As you probably guessed Fred Niblo Jr. is the son of prolific Hollywood director/producer/actor Fred Niblo Sr., who’s noted for directing acting icon Douglas Fairbanks in “The Mark of Zorro.” (1920).
Niblo Jr. was a prolific screenwriter in his own right during his time in motion pictures. Born in New York City, Niblo Jr. would eventually receive an Oscar nomination for screenwriting for the film “The Criminal Code” (1931). He co-wrote “You’re in the Army Now” (1941) starring Jimmy Durante, Phil Silvers, and Jane Wyman. The rest of his twenty year career would be spent writing action films for the studios Columbia, Warner Bros., RKO, and Fox. In 1950 he retired from the film industry, and became a businessman. It’s unknown to me, at the moment, what his cause of death was. After photographing, and paying my respects at the grave of Fred Niblo Jr. I had many other celebrity graves to find. Unfortunately after trying to find them with much desired luck. I came up empty-handed.
Death Hag Weekend: Pre-Party
After grave hunting at San Fernando Mission Cemetery I cruised back to my nearby hotel. So I could pretty much relax and freshen up before the 2013 Death Hag Weekend pre-party. The pre-party was held at The Hollywood Orchid Suites Hotel which is steeped in Hollywood history and is also reported to be haunted by several ghostly apparitions. Upon my arrival I made a leisurely stroll to the pool where I proceeded to light up a cigar and await the arrivals of some new, and old friends alike. I was at the party for a few hours mingling, sharing stories of my own, grave hunting in the Detroit area where I’m from, and working in the TV/film industry there. After a few hours hanging around at the Death Hag pre-party. I decided to leave and head for my San Fernando Valley hotel room.
The History: Rose Hills Memorial Park
Located in the Los Angeles suburb of Whittier on a large parcel of land once a part of the Rancho Paso de Bartol is Rose Hills Memorial Park. The park was founded in 1914 by land developer Augustus Gregg. At that time the cemetery was known as Whittier Heights Memorial Park, and surrounded 18 acres, of burial real estate. As time went on, and the region around Whittier expanded, so did the memorial park. Today Rose Hills Memorial Park encompasses a staggering 1,400-acres of prime, burial real estate and holds the undisputed distinction of being the largest cemetery/memorial park in the United States. If you’re interested, the Rose Hills Memorial Park website has a pdf booklet available titled “Touring Rose Hills” this 11-page booklet gives visitors a self-guided walking tour, of the grounds and some of the key architectural highlights of the memorial park. Unfortunately the booklet does not mention any of the famous people buried/interred, in the memorial park.
The Tour: Rose Hills Memorial Park
Upon my arrival at Rose Hills Memorial Park I soon realized after visualizing the panoramic views witnessed in front of me that I’d be in serious need of a map. Because there was no way in hell I’d be able to navigate around the cemetery without one. Take it from me. This place is beyond huge when it comes to normal acreage standards in cemeteries. So the first thing I did was get one from the information booth at the front gate. Due to the fact that I was crunched for time I narrowed the list I compiled down from 11 celebrities to just two celebrities. One of those two I did not find, was Boyd Coddington, star of the reality TV show “American Hot Rod”, this was due in part to me crossing paths in the cemetery with a few burial plot salesmen who were looking for a random grave, who insisted on helping me when I did not need it. You gotta’ love friendly people in the cemetery. The other gravesite I had the utmost desire to find was that of “The Godfather Of Gangsta Rap” Eric “Eazy-E” Wright. This time I succeeded without the help of the nosey cemetery employees.
Eric “Eazy-E” Wright
b. September 7th 1963 – d. March 26th 1995
After getting the cemetery map I drove around the memorial park looking for the “Lupine Lawn” section. During my joyride around the largest cemetery in the United States. I came upon a cemetery employee on the grounds. With the way he was dressed I assumed he was security, or had some sort of management position. After I cruised up to where he was standing, I casually asked where the “Lupine Lawn” was too which he replied something along the lines of “who are you looking for.” So I casually gave the last name, then mentioned the first name. To which the gentleman asked was he a “rapper” to which I replied “Yeah in the 90s.” He replies “I can’t give out that info” walks a few steps, then walked back towards me in my car, and said something along the lines “Here’s what I can do. Here’s how to find him.” He then marks the precise area on the map where “Eazy-E” is buried. Then say’s something like, “this is all the info I can give you. I’m sorry but Eric’s name was taken out of the database a few years ago and we’re not supposed to reveal the location.” I then thanked him graciously for the intel, and then went about finding “Eazy-E,” who’s buried several spaces in from the curb in the south-western part of this section. If you’re interested in reading about Eazy-E’s charismatic rise to fame, and sudden downfall read his bio on Wikipedia.
To make a long story short. On February 24, 1995 “Eazy-E” was admitted to Cedars Sinai Medical Center, due to what he believed to be asthma related. As fate would turn out he was diagnosed with the HIV/AIDS virus. Less than a month later, on March 16th, he went public with the diagnoses during a televised press conference . Ten days after that and nearly a month to the day of the initial diagnoses Eazy-E, passed away from the deadly virus.
After photographing the graveside of “Eazy-E,” I then made an unsuccessful attempt (chronicled above) to find the gravesite of noted custom hot rod builder and reality TV star Boyd Coddington. After my unsuccessful attempt with that. I then bee-lined it for Hollywood. Where I met up with my friend Steve Goldstein, and a few other fellow death hags for a few adult beverages at the bar, inside Arclight Cinemas. After a few rounds of drinks we all decided to make our ascent to the L.A. County Coroner’s Office for the Friday night cocktail party, which also included a tour of the service floor of the coroner’s office.
Death Hag Weekend: Night One – Coroner’s Office Cocktail Party
On night one of the 2nd Annual Dearly Departed Death Hag Weekend which took place on Friday October 4th. Myself, and about seventy-five fellow death hag’s, gathered inside the hospital building which serves as the public services building at the L.A. County Coroners Office complex.
I arrived at the Coroner’s office a little after 6pm. Upon my arrival, I mingled with some friends, outside the front doors of the L.A. County Coroner’s Office hospital building. As things got underway, for the night, actress Erin Murphy, who portrayed the character “Tabitha” the daughter of Samantha (Elizabeth Montgomery) and Darrin Stevens (portrayed by Dick York, then Dick Sargent) on the iconic ’60’s & ’70’s TV show “Bewitched” gave a presentation on the celebrities who’ve passed away from the TV show.
After Murphy’s presentation, party goers were given a tour of the coroner’s office in groups of 25. Leading the informative tours was the chief coroner for L.A. County Craig Harvey. Let me just say despite the macabre topic at hand with the tour I participated in. I have to admit it was really interesting. So that pretty much concludes this article covering day 3 & 4 of my 2013 L.A. Gravecation. Please stay tuned in the next few days as I cover day 5 & 6, 7 & 8 of The 2013 L.A. Gravecation.