Actress Marion Davies, mistress of William Randolph Hearst, has been dead for almost 30 years, but someone remembers.
Earlier this week, a fan left a red rose on her mausoleum in Hollywood Memorial Park. "Dear Marion, you are still loved and missed," read the accompanying note.
"Practically all of Hollywood's history can be revisited here," said Frank Cooper during a preview of the upcoming Halloween tour of the cemetery sponsored by the Art Deco Society of Los Angeles. This year Cooper, who began the tours five years ago, and his colleagues will take groups through the cemetery on Saturday.
As Cooper walked the 57-acre grounds, he pointed out the graves of Hollywood founder Harvey Wilcox and other city fathers and of dozens of celebrities, from swashbuckler Douglas Fairbanks Sr. to director John Huston.
Cooper, whose day job is with a firm that mails press releases, is master of the odd Hollywood cemetery fact.
He explains, for instance, that Davies' handsome white mausoleum, with its stone cherubs, was not a macabre gift from Hearst to his pretty protegee. Davies had the tomb, which has room for 12, built for her family.
As an anthropology student at USC, Cooper wrote a thesis on death and culture that took him to most of the area's memorial parks. The Hollywood cemetery, an eclectic jumble of 73,000 graves, crypts, mausoleums and cenotaphs, is his all-time favorite.
"Forest Lawn," he opined, "looks like a golf course. It has no character." But Hollywood Memorial Park, with its miniature Egyptian temples, stained-glass windows and tombstones shaped like rocket ships, is fraught with character, he said. Like the streets of Hollywood, the cemetery tolerates dozens of different styles. "There's room for personalization," the cemetery aficionado said.
Cooper insists there is nothing strange about liking cemeteries. "We're not concerned with what's beneath the ground. We're concerned with lawn level and above. It's not morbid. It's quite beautiful."
It's also a cheap date, noted Cooper, who sometimes visits the cemetery with girlfriend Suzanne Tarbell.
Established in 1899, the cemetery is best known for its film-industry burials. Producer-director Cecil B. De Mille is lavishly entombed, purportedly with his feet pointing toward Paramount. Rudolph Valentino's marker in the Hollywood Cathedral Mausoleum almost always bears the lipstick imprint of a kiss. Jayne Mansfield, who was decapitated in a car accident in 1967, is buried in Pennsylvania, but her bereaved fan club bought her a memorial plaque in Hollywood cemetery. On it is a publicity shot of the blonde star and the inscription: "We live to love you more each day."
As Cooper pointed out, dead moguls and stars are the cemetery's major draw, but many of the most interesting graves have nothing to do with the famous.
In several Armenian areas of the cemetery, graves are marked with headstones decorated with photo-like portraits of the dead sandblasted on polished granite. One of the deceased is shown as a young man, wearing a rakishly angled hat. Little gardens, planted with mint and other herbs as well as flowers, flourish on some plots, many of which are edged with brick borders. The grave of a beloved toddler is decorated with his toy cars and other playthings. Some graves are topped with Eastern Rite crosses fashioned out of plastic pipe.
Cooper said Valentino's place of interment is the one every visitor wants to see.