Cemetery Chic -- What's Old Is New in Hollywood Cemeteries

Cemetery Chic -- What's Old Is New in Hollywood Cemeteries

If you follow the death care trade magazines, online podcasts, and pundit proclamations you'd think that cemeteries designed as entertainment destinations are a brand-new concept. But history tells a different story.


Recently PBS Los Angeles hosted a television series called Lost LA. One episode, Eternal City: Los Angeles Cemeteries, featured beautifully filmed visits to Forest Lawn, Evergreen, and Hollywood Forever cemeteries. The show explored how in the 1920's the newborn Hollywood film industry's influence reinvented the cemetery business.


One quote set the stage -- "Cemeteries are for the living" -- and the show explains with fascinating historical photos, videos, and interviews how Los Angeles cemeteries have changed with the times.


In the 1920's Hollywood Forever Cemetery was transformed by Hollywood's "libertine film industry" from a "dry, single-purpose, Midwestern cemetery" to a multipurpose venue supporting not only funerals but weddings, art walks, concerts, and other events.


Then in the 1970's, with the decline of the film industry's influence, the use of cemeteries swung back to primarily hosting funerals. In the 90s, LA cemeteries were again transformed due to the influx of large immigrant groups with diverse ethnic and religious traditions. Tombstones, art, and spaces noticeably changed as a result.


Fast forward to today and with a revival of the film industry, and other social media influence, LA's cemeteries are more diverse, entertaining, and fun than ever.


Forest Lawn, of course, is a famous destination venue where visitors can view the many movie stars' graves including, Marilyn Monroe, Micky Rooney, Johnny Ramone, Rudolph Valentino, Douglas Fairbanks, Judy Garland and famous gangsters like Bugsy Siegel. But it also has 3 churches that have hosted over 70,000 weddings. And currently, it offers a diverse list of events including celebrations of life, lectures, yoga lessons, sports events, music festivals, indoor and outdoor movie nites, as well as copious amounts of art and walking tours. Indeed, destinations for the living. 




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