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Eisner Comment on Disney Grave Site Raises Questions

The company's CEO says the final resting place of its founder is hard to find. Others say it isn't.

March 09, 2004|James Bates | Times Staff Writer

Of all the grave matters facing Walt Disney Co. Chief Executive Michael Eisner, he recently raised an unexpected one.

In an appearance on CNN's Larry King Live, where he fielded questions about the mounting criticism of his management, Eisner told how he once sought out Walt Disney's burial site.

"His wishes were that it was unmarked, and not available to anybody to ever find out," Eisner said. "But I went up there and I talked my way into them showing me where he's buried."

Asked by King whether he knew why the site wasn't marked, Eisner said Disney, who died in 1966, "wanted his privacy forever," as did his widow, Lillian, who died in 1997.

Of the final resting place of the founder of the Burbank entertainment empire, Eisner said: "It's a beautiful little spot and nobody could ever find it, and I'm very proud that I talked myself into it."

It might not have been that difficult. Bonnie Quintanilla, a spokeswoman for Forest Lawn Glendale, said the cemetery doesn't as a policy volunteer any information about where people, famous or not, are buried. But Walt Disney's grave, she said, isn't unmarked.

Anyway, it's easy to find on various websites offering detailed maps to celebrity tombs.

At Disney, a spokesman said that Eisner "visited the grave 10 years ago, and at the time there were no markings to the site. He had to be led to it. Unless you were led to it, it would have been difficult to find."

The topic came up on King's show after Eisner was asked by a caller from Canada about the urban legend that Disney's body was frozen, providing a lighthearted respite from the more uncomfortable give and take with King about Comcast Corp.'s unsolicited takeover bid and Disney's restless shareholders.

Eisner had debunked the myth before, and did so again. (According to numerous accounts, including one in Eisner's 1998 autobiography "Work in Progress," Disney was cremated, with his ashes buried at Forest Lawn.)

Since taking control of the company 20 years ago, Eisner often has emulated the entertainment legend, from hosting a TV show himself to putting his personal stamp on nearly every facet of the company. In writing about Disney in his autobiography, Eisner recounted visiting the grave. In that retelling, unlike the one on TV, he said it was marked, though not necessarily easy to locate.

"In a cemetery full of huge memorials," Eisner wrote, "Walt's grave was impossible to find without help. It turned out to be a small monument on a tiny, overgrown plot."

Disney's daughter, Diane Disney Miller, could not be reached.

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