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VOICES / A Community Forum | Multicultural Manners

A Grave Policy

October 16, 1999|NORINE DRESSER | Norine Dresser's latest book is "Multicultural Celebrations" (Three Rivers Press, 1999). E-Mail: norined@earthlink.net

She was an Academy Award-winning actress and star of her own radio and television show, "Beulah." She called Hollywood a "fantasyland," and her last wish was to be buried at Hollywood Cemetery where other famous actors were interred. They wouldn't allow it.

Why? Hattie McDaniel, who in 1939 won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress as Mammy in "Gone With the Wind," was not allowed to be buried at Hollywood Cemetery because in 1952, local cemetery policy denied African Americans the right to be buried alongside whites. Seeking to redress that wrong, Hollywood Forever, the new owners of the Hollywood Cemetery, will dedicate a memorial to the renowned actress on the anniversary of her funeral, Oct. 26. Fittingly, her four-foot-tall granite monument will be placed in a lakeside setting in view of the Hollywood sign, near the graves of Marion Davies, Douglas Fairbanks and Tyrone Power, not too far from Rudolph Valentino's memorial.

The public is invited to attend the music and entertainment-filled celebration. For information, call (323) 469-1181.

The past "whites only" cemetery policy affected the Asian community, as well. Contemporaneous with the McDaniel incident, Keye Luke, a noted Chinese American actor, was denied permission to bury his mother in Forest Lawn. By 1959, policies had changed, and Chinese actress Beulah Quo believes that her mother was the first person of Asian descent to be buried there.

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