Welcome back to Johnny LaRue's Crane Shot. I'm Marty McKee, your host. I'm back after an all-too-brief vacation in Southern California, where the weather every day was 86 degrees and clear skies, while Champaign-Urbana was battling 42-degree temperatures and downpouring rain. Some Californians say they become bored with the beautiful weather, but I surely don't understand how.
I flew out from St. Louis on Friday night, the 20th of October, and settled into my temporary residence at the home of good friends Chris and Sara Dowell and their little girl Grace. On Saturday, the four of us set out on our first sightseeing foray to visit some celebrity gravesites.
First up was Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City. As we were feeling the spirit of Halloween, our first order of business was to pay respect to the great horror star Bela Lugosi:
Oddly, Bela's grave lies about three stones down from Bing Crosby's. We also saw stones for Rita Hayworth, Walter Brennan, Sharon Tate (so sad), John Ford, Bonita Granville, Jack Wrather and Rosalind Russell, among others. Inside the mausoleum, we made a point of finding John Candy's resting place, which is just above that of Fred MacMurray and June Haver. Holy Cross is a beautiful place, a sprawling green landscape on a hill with a spectacular view of the city.
Westwood Village, on the other hand, is an unusual cemetary. It's located smack dab in the middle of the city, surrounded by highrises and accessible only by navigating around a parking lot. It's practically hidden from casual pedestrians, but marks the resting place for many top Hollywood stars, including Marilyn Monroe, whose grave is probably America's most visited. Some graves, such as Rodney Dangerfield, Carroll O'Connor (buried with his wife and stepson Hugh), Walter Matthau, James Coburn and Bob Crane, are relatively lavish. George C. Scott's is completely unmarked (I think we found it). Eddie Albert is there, and I wondered about the whereabouts of his recently deceased son Edward. Burt Lancaster's is surprisingly tiny, just another square in one of the urn gardens (very near the equally small stone of Janet Margolin, a beautiful and interesting '70s actress taken from us well before her time). Dean Martin and Christopher George are among the stars in the mausoleum. So is Steve Ihnat, who is buried with his son Stefan, who was born the same year his father died. So sad. See the link above to read a list of prominent Hollywood personalities buried in Westwood Village, many of whom I didn't notice.
An unusual way to begin a vacation, perhaps, but as a film fan, I found it a nice way to pay respect to favorites who had meant much to me in life.
The evening found us at Hamburger Hamlet, where I ordered...steak. The World Series started that night, but I didn't see much of it (any of the games, really). I never got used to the concept of sporting events beginning two hours "early"; watching the Fighting Illini football game at 10am was as foreign an experience as seeing the end of a World Series game and then going out for dinner.
On Sunday, I spotted the first celebrities of my trip--three of them, in fact--and I visited two of science fiction's most recognizable filming locations. More to come.
P.S. The "greatest film ever made" referenced below? ROAD HOUSE, of course!