By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
TYRONE POWER–ADJACENT GRAVE FOR SALE
What do you have to do to get buried in Hollywood? Forty or 50 years ago, the answer would have been: Be a glamorous film personality. Today, the answer is: Be John Q. Public. At least that’s what Hollywood Forever Cemetery (formerly Hollywood Memorial Cemetery), the final resting place of over 300 Hollywood legends, including Cecil B. De Mille, Rudolph Valentino, Douglas Fairbanks Sr. and Marion Davies, is trying to tell you.
For the past six months, the 100-year old final resting place for 80,000 bodies has been aggressively advertising its no-frills steel- or wood-casket funeral for $988. Daily ads in the Los Angeles Times and La Opinión, as well as a huge banner at the entrance to the storied Santa Monica Boulevard location, trumpet the cemetery’s new mission: bringing death to the people.
“The death culture has changed. Funerals aren’t as well attended. Families are dispersed all over the country,” said 30-year-old owner Tyler Cassity. “In general, people don’t want to spend money.”
Included in the price is a funeral director to arrange and perform the funeral, a chapel service, embalming, a one-hour visitation and a video tribute. The big draw, says Cassity, are the videos, which memorialize loved ones in their own home videos or photos. (Forest Lawn Cemetery charges $2,432 for the same services, without the video.)
The additional cost of being buried at Hollywood Forever, in the ground or in a mausoleum, starts at $900. (Securing your final resting place next to Tyrone Power, however, will put you back $8,000.)
Unorthodox by traditional standards, but Cassity is making no apologies.
“I have encountered funeral directors who were appalled with having anything untraditional,” said Cassity. “Here is this strange tradition which is based on the premise that even if a family wanted something they couldn’t have it.”
Since the ads started appearing, the 62-acre cemetery has averaged 52 funerals a month — a big improvement for a business that, just two years ago, was bankrupt and in serious disrepair. Funerals were so few and far between that Cassity was lucky to sew up one or two ceremonies a month. As a matter of fact, most of the money that was trickling in when he bought the place came from having remains interred elsewhere. (The body of makeup artist Max Factor was moved to another cemetery on the orders of angry relatives.)
Since his takeover, Cassity has put $3 million into renovations, as well as his ad campaign to stamp out the general public’s misapprehensions about Hollywood Forever.
“Many people think it is just for stars,” said the 30-year-old Cassity. “It is a huge misconception. A cemetery serves people in the five-to-10-mile radius around it.”
Edited by Gale Holland
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