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Cemeteries - Not Just For Funerals Anymore
By Catherine Olen

Can you recall the last time you set foot inside a cemetery? Was there a death in the family or were you visiting the grave site of a relative to place flowers and then get back in the car and drive away? This is how most people in western society experience cemeteries in the US. Never does it cross into the mind of most folks that these plots of ground with stone gardens of monuments can actually be fun and an unusual source of entertainment, especially in the Los Angeles area.

The local cemeteries in So. California have some of the greatest experiences in the city.

Did you know that at Hollywood Forever cemetery in Santa Monica Blvd, you can see classic movies every Saturday night during the summer? Any given weekend evening, just drive by the gates of this famous land mark and see an enormous gathering of people with beach chairs, picnics and bottles of wine in hand lined up on the street waiting to walk through the cemetery and watch films on the side of the mausoleum. An eclectic assortment of people from the artistic to gothic or families with multiple generations enjoying the scenery and comradery. These weekly events have become so popular, if you do not get in line at least two hour prior to the opening, you will not find a seat.

Another great experience is the Dia De La Muerta or the Day of the dead celebration at this same cemetery. Hollywood Forever opens its gates to families to decorate the graves with the traditional Mexican altars for this unique celebration. Authentic food and beverage tents are set up for the tourists and locals to sample the cuisine. Enjoy your time watching the dancers and other performers on stages set up around the sites. While this is only a two evening event, more than one million people walk through the cemetery to be a part of this spectacle.

The Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills memorial Park has its own traditions including the Memorial Day festivities. They pull out all the stops with full color guard, traditional music and key note addresses from some of the most prominent locals. Take this opportunity to see for yourself the majesty of the Birth of Liberty mosaic above the stage and marvel in the surroundings including the bronze statue of Abraham Lincoln and exact replica of the Old North Church in Boston.

If you're looking for something a little more traditional, check out the annual Rudolph Valentino memorial held at Hollywood Forever. For 82 years, people have gathered on August 23 at 12:10 pm, the time of Valentino's death, to honor this life taken far too early. Hear readings, music, and eulogies from those that knew the great talent.

At the same time of year, attend the Memorial for the great Marilyn Monroe held at Westwood memorial Park on August 4. Hear the passion of this group as they express the continued love and devotion to the platinum blonde. Visit her crypt as flowers, cards and other tributes are collected to show respect. Come early, the chapel is small and fills to capacity every year.

Little did you dream that the cemeteries could hold such entertainment. Not just for funerals anymore!


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