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Randy Jackson Wants to Let Fans Inside the GM?

May 20, 2010 -- As the first anniversary of the death of Michael Jackson approaches, Jackson's brother Randy is trying to allow fans to get into the Great Mausoleum at Forest Lawn to pay their respects on June 25. On Sunday, May 16, Randy Jackson posted this on his Twitter page: "I'm meeting with Forest Lawn and the City of Glendale. ... Although they have strict rules, I'll do my best 2 see if fans can visit & pay their respects beyond the gates of ForestLawn, on the 25th. ... I'll will inform you all soon."

(It's not clear, however, whether Randy Jackson means allowing fans inside the Great Mausoleum, or just allowing them inside the gates of the cemetery. Maybe he doesn't realize that fans are already allowed inside the gates.)

A few days earlier, Randy Jackson posted, "My family has plans to be at Forest Lawn on the 25th of June." So, apparently, he wants the fans to be around while the family is there -- another departure from previous practice.

As reported by TMZ, Randy Jackson's efforts are opposed by a relative of another celebrity buried inside the Great Mausoleum. Clark Gable's grandson, Clark Gable III, told TMZ that the GM "wouldn't be as sacred" if just anyone -- you know, commoners -- were allowed to go inside. (If that's the case, churches, synagogues, temples and mosques better start locking their doors to keep the riff-raff out.)

But another relative of a celebrity buried inside the GM, W.C. Fields' grandson Ronald J. Fields, said he thinks fans should be allowed inside because it would be "moving to them."

Ever since Michael Jackson was buried inside the GM, fans have been coming to visit, as documented by Lisa Burks' great "Adventures in Grave Hunting" blog. Like most people who visit cemeteries, they have been dignified and respectful. They come to visit and pay their respects, and they leave their flowers, cards and gifts for Jackson outside the door at the Holly Terrace entrance, where security guards pick them up and place them in front of Jackson's sarcophagus.

Over and over, the Jackson fans have proven that they're not there to cause any problems, they just want to pay their respects to a performer they admire. And I think Forest Lawn has been pleasantly surprised by their behavior.

The question I have is, why allow fans inside to visit now? Why the change of heart? Certainly, the Jackson family knew about the high security at the GM when they picked that location for Michael Jackson's final resting place, and they knew that fans wouldn't be allowed to visit. More than anyone else, Randy Jackson knew. In fact, according to Time magazine, "Security was highly critical in the final decision. Randy Jackson was tasked with checking out all of these places, and he worked with the family to make sure Michael will be protected all the time. That was a high priority." So, now he wants a one-day exemption from the rules?

They can't be surprised that fans want to visit. But they made the decision to have Jackson buried inside the GM, knowing the strict security, and knowing that fans wouldn't be allowed inside. If they wanted to create Graceland West, they could have done that, too.

As much as I would like to see the Great Mausoleum open to the public -- even for just one day -- it shouldn't happen just because the family of one person who's buried there wants to change the rules for everyone. If the Jacksons want fans to be able to visit and pay their respects, they should move Michael out of the Great Mausoleum. If they want to be able to set their own rules on who can visit and who can't, and then change the rules whenever they want to, they should open their own cemetery.

Which I still think the family will eventually do. It may not happen soon, but don't be surprised if the Great Mausoleum isn't Michael Jackson's final resting place. And if the family does create Graceland West, it won't be just about the money -- although that will be a major part of it. It will be about control.

There were reports that the Jackson family wanted to film inside the Great Mausoleum during Michael Jackson's memorial service in September, but Forest Lawn said no. And now Randy Jackson wants to allow fans to pay their respects on the anniversary, but first he has to meet with Forest Lawn and the City of Glendale and get their approval. And Forest Lawn will have to consider the request, and weigh the wishes of family members of others buried in the GM.

But if the Jacksons controlled the property, they could make the rules, decide on the access and have complete control over the entire operation. Until that happens, they should just let Michael rest in peace.

In the meantime, it will be interesting to see whether Randy Jackson will be successful in convincing Forest Lawn to waive the rules for a day to let fans "pay their respects."


Brittany Murphy Marked at FL Hollywood Hills

May 18, 2010 -- The gravesite of actress Brittany Murphy, who died on Dec. 20, 2009, after collapsing at her home, has been market at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills. Murphy's grave is located in the Bright Eternity section.

The L.A. County Coroner's Office reported that the 32-year-old actress died of pneumonia, complicated by an iron deficiency, anemia and multiple drug intoxication. Officials said Murphy had gone into sudden cardiac arrest at her home in the 1800 block of Rising Glen Road due to "drug intake," and her death was classified as an accident.

Murphy was born Nov. 10, 1977, in Atlanta, Ga. In 1991, the 13-year-old Murphy and her mother moved to Burbank, Calif., so she could pursue her acting career. She appeared on television in episodes of "Murphy Brown," "Drexell's Class," "Parker Lewis Can't Lose," "Almost Home," "Blossom," "Boy Meets World," "Nash Bridges" and many other series before making her breakthrough film appearance in "Clueless" (1995). She also starred in "Girl, Interrupted" (1999), "8 Mile" (2002) and "Sin City" (2005). She has also been heard but not seen, doing voices for several animated series, including "Pepper Ann" and "Futurama," and the film "Happy Feet" (2006), and she had a regular role as the voice of Luanne on "King of the Hill."


Brittany Murphy Buried at FL Hollywood Hills

Dec. 24, 2009 -- Funeral services for actress Brittany Murphy were held on Christmas Eve at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills. Murphy, 32, died Sunday at her Hollywood Hills home after suffering from sudden cardiac arrest. After the private, invitation-only funeral service in the Church of the Hills near the main entrance of the cemetery, Murphy was buried in the Bright Eternity section.

Only about 25 mourners attended the co-denominational service, which was officiated by a rabbi and a pastor. A family friend told the New York Daily News that Murphy's family is planning a larger memorial service after the first of the year that will include more friends and even fans.

The Radaronline.com website reported that the service started with a recording of "My Funny Valentine" and ended with a recording of Murphy singing Charlie Chaplin's "Smile" -- which was also sung at Michael Jackson's memorial service earlier this year at Staples Center. Mourners also sang "Amazing Grace" at her grave.

Police officials and the coroner's office are investigating Murphy's death. The medical examiner has completed the autopsy, but said an official cause of death will not be announced until tests determine what substances, if any, were in her system. Although there have been reports that Murphy may have been suffering from an eating disorder, Chief Coroner Investigator Craig Harvey told the New York Daily News that Murphy weighed 115 pounds at her autopsy, which he described as "normal" for a 5-foot, 5-inch woman.

There was a noticeable security presence at the cemetery during the funeral service, with both Forest Lawn security and LAPD police officers driving around the property. The only visible media presence at the cemetery was outside the main gates, filming and photographing mourners as they arrived and departed.

Murphy was born Nov. 10, 1977, in Atlanta, Ga. Murphy's parents, Sharon Murphy and Angelo Bertolotti, divorced when she was 2 years old, and Murphy was raised by her mother in Edison, N.J. In 1991, the 13-year-old Murphy and her mother moved to Burbank, Calif., so she could pursue her acting career. She appeared on television in episodes of "Murphy Brown," "Drexell's Class," "Parker Lewis Can't Lose," "Almost Home," "Blossom," "Boy Meets World," "Nash Bridges" and many other series before making her breakthrough film appearance in "Clueless" (1995). She also starred in "Girl, Interrupted" (1999), "8 Mile" (2002) and "Sin City" (2005). She has also been heard but not seen, doing voices for several animated series, including "Pepper Ann" and "Futurama," and the film "Happy Feet" (2006), and she had a regular role as the voice of Luanne on "King of the Hill."

And, of course, with the stories on her burial come the mistakes. No, Lucille Ball is no longer buried at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills. And the New York Post and Us Magazine -- who should both know better -- are reporting that Michael Jackson was buried at FLHH.


David Carradine Marked at FL Hollywood Hills

Dec. 6, 2009 -- The grave of actor David Carradine -- best known for his role as Kwai Chang Caine on the ABC TV series "Kung Fu" from 1972 to 1975, later known for his performances in "Kill Bill: Vol. 1" (2003) and "Kill Bill: Vol. 2" (2004), and most recently known for his mysterious death in Thailand -- has been marked at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills.

As first reported by fellow gravehunter Lisa Burks in her fabulous "Adventures in Grave Hunting" blog, Carradine's final resting place is located in the Lincoln Terrace section at FLHH, Lot 5144, Space 1, at the south end of the cemetery grounds, and just west of the Hall of Liberty, where Carradine's funeral service was held on June 13, 2009.

Carradine was born John Arthur Carradine on Dec. 8, 1936, in Los Angeles, the son of actor John Carradine. He attended San Francisco State College, where he studied music theory and composition. While writing music for the school's annual revues, he discovered his passion for the stage, and joined a Shakespearean repertory company. After serving two years in the Army, Carradine found work in New York as a commercial artist and later found fame on Broadway in "The Deputy" and "The Royal Hunt of the Sun," starring with Christopher Plummer. He returned to Los Angeles, and appeared in a number of television series in the early 1960s, including "Wagon Train," "The Virginian" and "The Alfred Hitchcock Hour," then landed the starring role in the short-lived TV series "Shane" (1966). In 1972, Carradine starred with Barbara Hershey in director Martin Scorsese's first Hollywood film, "Boxcar Bertha." The same year, Carradine starred in the "Kung Fu" TV series, which made him a star. In 1973, he was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, and in 1974, he was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best TV Actor in a Drama Series. After appearing in "Kung Fu" for three years, Carradine left to pursue his film career.

Carradine received critical acclaim for his performance as Woody Guthrie in "Bound for Glory" (1976), and Carradine was again nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance. He also appeared in "Thunder and Lightning" (1977), "Gray Lady Down" (1978), "Deathsport" (1978), and the "North and South" TV mini-series in 1985 and 1986, for which he received his third Golden Globe nomination. In 1992, Carradine revived his Kwai Chang Caine character for a new TV series -- "Kung Fu: The Legend Continues," which ran for four years.

For the most part, Carradine faded from view for the next few years, until he reappeared in Quentin Tarantino's "Kill Bill: Vol. 1" and "Kill Bill: Vol. 2," and received his fourth Golden Globe nomination.

In June 2009, Carradine was in Bangkok, Thailand, for the filming of "Stretch." He had been expected to join the film crew for dinner on June 3, but he didn't show up. At about 10 a.m. the next day, a maid discovered Carradine's body in the luxury suite of the Swissotel Nai Lert Park Hotel in Bangkok, after she knocked on the door and received no response.

Carradine was reportedly found naked with his arms tied above his head, and attached to a bar in the closet of his hotel room. One end of a shoelace was tied around his neck, and the other end was tied to his penis. Although initial reports ranged from homicide to suicide, a Thai forensic pathologist stated the incident met four of the criteria for accidental death involving autoerotic asphyxiation, and police officials said closed-circuit cameras inside the hotel indicated that no other person was involved in Carradine's death

Carradine's family told the press that they believed the death to be accidental and not a suicide. And two of Carradine's former wives told the press that he enjoyed kinky sex and bondage.


Michael Jackson Burial Location Confirmed?

Oct. 6, 2009 -- After months of speculation, there is some evidence confirming the final burial location of Michael Jackson -- inside a marble sarcophagus beneath the Ascension Windows in the Holly Terrace, inside the Great Mausoleum at Forest Lawn Glendale. (This photo of the sargophagus was taken about a year ago.)

Fellow gravehunter Lisa Burks reported on her great "Adventures in Grave Hunting" blog that fans who recently brought flowers and cards for Jackson gave them to a guard at the Great Mausoleum, and then watched through a window of the Holly Terrace door as the guard walked to the end of the hallway and placed the items in front of this sarcophagus. The fans reported that "the small room at the end of the hallway is covered with flowers and balloons."

The fans also reported that they took photos and video through the window. "The guards were very friendly and they didn't try to make us erase the film," they said.

Also, TMZ is reporting that security at the Great Mausoleum has been "scaled back." TMZ reported that Forest Lawn hired a private security firm to protect Jackson's grave, but that the additional security has been removed. Still, the Great Mausoleum is closed to the public, except for a small area near the Last Supper stained-glass window, all doors are locked, and all areas of the mausoleum are under the watchful eyes of security cameras. TMZ also reports that cemetery staff says "there hasn't been a single suspicious incident since Jackson moved into the neighborhood."

Is this absolute proof that Jackson is buried there? No, not really. Not until someone sees his brass nameplace on the sarcophagus. It's possible that Forest Lawn is just putting the cards and flowers and balloons there either to throw fans off the track, or just because they don't have any other place to put them. But I'd say it's pretty good evidence that he's buried there.

I'm glad to hear that Forest Lawn is loosening their security grip, and I'm also glad to hear that there haven't been any security problems. Maybe they're finally realizing that the vast majority of fans just want to visit, leave flowers and cards, and pay their respects to someone they admire and who was an important part of their lives.

So, for the time being, fans can go to the Holly Entrance door and look through the glass to see Jackson's sarcophagus -- which is closer than anyone has ever been allowed before. If there is a problem, however, it's likely that Forest Lawn will go back on lock-down, and prevent fans from getting anywhere near the Holly Terrace entrance.

I hope the truce continues. And for that to happen, fans have to continue to follow the rules, be respectful, and leave the shovels and crowbars in the car.


Karl Malden is Marked at Westwood

Sept. 26, 2009 -- Academy Award-winning actor Karl Malden has been marked at Westwood Memorial Park. Malden died July 1, 2009, at the age of 97.

Malden was born Mladen Sekulovich in Chicago, and was raised in Gary, Ind. When he started his acting career, theater producers wanted him to change his name, so he switched two letters in his first name and made it his last name, and took his grandfather's first name. Interestingly, Malden often found ways to say "Sekulovich" in films and TV series. In "Patton," Malden plays Gen. Omar Bradley, and calls out to one of his troops, "Hand me that helmet, Sekulovich." In "Fear Strikes Out," playing Jimmy Piersall's father, John, Malden introduces Jimmy to a baseball scout named Sekulovich. In "Birdman of Alcatraz," as a prison warden touring the cell block, Malden reads off a list of inmate names, including "Sekulovich." Malden's father was not pleased with that appearance of the family name, and he told his son, "No Sekulovich has ever been in prison!" The Sekulovich name got back on the right side of the law in Malden's TV series, "The Streets of San Francisco," when Malden was assisted in a few episodes by a police officer named Sgt. Sekulovich.

Malden began his acting career on Broadway in 1937, and made his film debut in 1940 with a small role in "They Knew What They Wanted," which starred Carole Lombard and Charles Laughton. After an interruption for World War II, during which Malden served in the U.S. Air Force, he returned to films, appearing in "The Gunfighter" and "Halls of Montezuma," both in 1950. In 1951, he appeared in "A Streetcar Named Desire" as Mitch, the best friend of Stanley Kowalski. For that role, Malden won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Malden was also nominated in the same category for his role in "On the Waterfront" (1954). Malden was also a five-time Emmy nominee -- nominiated four times for his role in "The Streets of San Francisco" before finally winning for his performance in "Fatal Vision."

Malden's acting career spanned 60 years, and he is perhaps best known for his role in "The Streets of San Francisco" TV series, where he co-starred with Michael Douglas, and also for a series of American Express television commercials -- "Don't leave home without it."

In 1988, Malden was elected president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, a position he held for five years.

His grave at Westwood is located just off the main street, around the corner from Farrah Fawcett, Rodney Dangerfield and Walter Matthau.


Remembering the "Summer of Death"

Sept. 21, 2009 -- At the end of every year, many newspapers list the names of the famous people who died that year. But they usually wait until the year is actually over. This year, they just can't wait. They're already coming out with the lists of people who've died during the past few months.

The Associated Press, sparing no drama, described the sounds of the summer as "a ceaseless and somber drumbeat, as idols of all walks of life passed away. From Walter Cronkite to Sen. Ted Kennedy, the nonstop loss of luminaries continued almost as if a seasonal occurrence -- as much a part of summer as hot dogs and humidity."

The New York Times described it as "the endless funereal season."

A columnist in the Washington Post wailed, "God, please stop taking away our celebrities.

New York magazine even claimed a trademark on the phrase "Summer of Death."

Is the Grim Reaper working overtime? Are celebrities really being cut down in record numbers? What will happen when they're all gone? TV screens will go blank, movie theaters will be empty, and talk show hosts will have no one to talk to. (Actually, there won't even be any talk show hosts, since they're celebrities, too.) What will happen to a world obsessed with celebrities when there isn't anyone left to obsess about? Think of the gossip magazines and TV shows that will disappear. What will we read? What will we do? Oh, the humanity ...

Calm down. It's not as bad as all that. Or maybe it is, but not in the way you're thinking.

In fact, no more celebrities have died this summer than in previous years, according to Lou Ferrara, a managing editor in charge of entertainment and lifestyle coverage for the Associated Press, quoted in the New York Times. The perception of numerous celebrity deaths is not supported by the number of obituaries the news agency wrote, he said, because it was not a matter of how many died, but who.

So, why the panic? First, we did lose a bunch of big names over the past few months -- Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, Patrick Swayze, David Carradine, Ed McMahon, Karl Malden, John Hughes, Robert McNamera, Les Paul, Mary Travers, Don Hewitt, Dom De Luise, Dominick Dunne, Frank McCourt, Robert Novak, Cronkite and Kennedy. But you can probably pick any three-month period during the past few decades, when we actually started caring about "celebrities," and find a similar number of big names. Maybe not huge names, but certainly some big ones.

Second, a bunch of them were pretty young. Jackson and Billy Mays were 50. Fawcett was 62 (although most of us don't think of her as being that old). Adam Goldstein, better known as DJ AM, was 36. Swayze was 57. Hughes was 59. When we start reading obituaries for people who are younger than we are, we start to notice and start to think.

"Many of them are people I looked up to, like one does with authorities or with parents," psychologist Michael Bader told the New York Times. "But that means my generation -- me -- is next. We're up at the plate, not on deck. That's unnerving. It's like they blocked our view of the edge of the cliff and with them gone, it's all too clear."

Another reason is the wide reach of the Internet and the growing use of social media sites. As soon as someone dies, notices and updates spread on Facebook and Twitter. People create memorial websites and discussion groups.

"It's relentless because of the impact of the Internet," Adam Bernstein, the obituary editor of the Washington Post, told the AP. "Twitter feeds go out. Every death seems to become more of a tempest rather than just the simple news of what it is."

And, of course, we can't get enough celebrity news, especially celebrity deaths. "Any time you have someone that's even a moderate celebrity, they make more news now than maybe they would have before," Claire Noland, obituary editor of The Los Angeles Times, told the AP.

"Our measure of celebrities is different than before," said Ferrara. "DJ AM, when you look at his celebrity status, he was a D.J. that hung around certain people, dated certain people, became a celebrity. We probably didn't have that 10 years ago or even five years ago."

Luckily, summer officially ends tomorrow, which means an official end of the "Summer of Death." So now we can start keeping track of the "Autumn of Death" and the "Winter of Death." And that should be really interesting, since statistics show that the death rate is higher during the winter. I just hope we'll have enough celebrities left.


Farrah Fawcett is Marked at Westwood

Sept. 11, 2009 -- She died early in the morning on June 25, with quiet class and dignity, a few hours before Michael Jackson. Because of that, her death escaped the media spotlight.

A private family funeral service -- just one -- was held on June 30 at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown Los Angeles. There was no video feed from her memorial service, and no plans by her family to try to profit from her death.

Farrah Fawcett was quietly buried at Westwood Memorial Park after the funeral service -- across the cemetery lawn from another iconic blonde beauty, Marilyn Monroe -- and her grave was marked this week.

For fans who want to visit, Farrah is buried along the road, just past the Westwood chapel, between Rodney Dangerfield and Merv Griffin.

There are no guards who will try to stop you from visiting, saying a prayer, leaving flowers or paying your respects, and photography is allowed. In fact, her grave is between two benches, so you can sit and spend some time with her, if you'd like to thank her for sharing her talent, or for setting an example of courage and bravery.


Maybe it's Time to Leave the Jacksons Alone

Sept. 6, 2009 -- The day after Michael Jackson's memorial service -- his third -- and his burial Thursday at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale -- his first, so far -- his brother, Randy, issued a statement about how upset the family was that media helicopters "severely disrupted" the event.

"I was dismayed last night and again today at the coverage I saw on television of our ceremony for Michael," Randy Jackson said in a statement. "We had asked the media to respect the privacy and the sanctity of this event; to give us one moment of privacy to mourn as a family out of the public spotlight. Unfortunately, despite a no-fly zone around Forest Lawn, many media organizations decided to ignore our wishes. They employed helicopters that not only surreptitiously recorded our private family ceremony, but also severely disrupted it".

"I therefore ask today that media organizations airing helicopter footage of the ceremony we held for my brother immediately pull that footage from their air and refrain from airing it in the future."

(As a slight clarification, the Los Angeles Times reported that, although the Glendale Police Department had warned private pilots about flying around the burial because of increased air traffic, there was not an actual ban on planes and choppers around Forest Lawn.)

At this point, I think Randy Jackson is absolutely right. Let's not ask why the family arranged for elaborate lighting and multiple cameras to film this "one moment of privacy to mourn as a family out of the public spotlight." (Apparently, it's OK if they control the spotlight.) Let's not ask why the service wasn't held inside the Great Mausoleum, where there's a great space in front of the Last Supper stained-glass window with plenty of room for everyone, and there would be absolutely no possible problems with surreptitious helicopters recording this private family moment. (But maybe the lighting and the sound isn't as good in there.) And let's not wonder why the post-burial dinner for family and friends was also filmed. (But maybe now we know why the Jacksons were 90 minutes late for the service -- Randy was watching the coverage on TV and being dismayed.)

(UPDATE: According to the Glendale News Press, the reason the burial service wasn't held inside the Great Mausoleum is because Forest Lawn wouldn't allow any photographs or video to be taken inside. Apparently, the original plan was to have the service inside, with the Jackson family film crew, and one media pool photographer outside, providing all the photographs for the media. But when Forest Lawn rejected the idea of any photographers inside the GM, the Jacksons were forced to move the service outside, and decided they wouldn't need a media pool photographer, since they would provide their own photos and video to the media. According to the Glendale News Press: "Now, this is speculation, but here goes: The Jackson family wanted exclusivity and control over these images. If the News-Press and ABC7 were also shooting outside the Great Mausoleum, those images would no longer be exclusive. Bye-bye media." And what would be the point of having a private, intensely personal family moment if you can't have a bunch of cameras to record it?)

Let's just leave them alone to privately mourn their brother, son and father. Let's be content with the memories we have of Michael Jackson the performer, and leave them with their memories of Michael Jackson the person.

Let's not further invade their privacy by watching the upcoming A&E special and possible reality series -- tentatively titled "Jackson Family Dynasty" -- about the surviving Jackson brothers and how they're dealing with life after Michael. Let's not watch it because it will almost certainly include footage of the memorial services, burial and after-party, since that would violate "the privacy and sanctity of this event." And let's not purchase or watch the upcoming memorial DVD and/or film about Michael's life and death.

Let's just leave the Jackson family alone.



Jackson's Funeral Tour -- "It is Just Inappropriate"

Sept. 3, 2009 -- In a recent Associated Press story, Forest Lawn Glendale spokesman William Martin was asked about the cemetery's tight-lipped policy regarding the celebrities who are buried there.

Martin acknowledged there was a time when Forest Lawn boasted about its celebrity crowd, but no more. "We don't advertise, we don't market it," he said. "It is just inappropriate."

While watching the coverage of the Michael Jackson burial ceremony tonight, I couldn't help but have the same thought. It is just inappropriate.

My impression is that if the Jackson family -- or whoever is making the decisions -- could take Michael's body on a world funeral tour, they would. Tonight, LA. Tomorrow, New York. Next week, London and Paris. C'mon out and watch the family mourn. T-shirts and CDs will be for sale outside the gates. This is at least the third "funeral" service they've had for him -- the public ceremony at Staples Center, the private family service at FLHH, and now this, more than two months after he died.

For the first time, I'm actually shocked and appalled at what they're doing. Say whatever you want about Michael Jackson as a performer or as a person. He was a human being, someone's son, brother, father, cousin, uncle and friend. To be trotting his corpse around like this, for whatever financial gain, is absolutely horrible. Why can't they let him rest in peace? Whoever is making these decisions should be ashamed.

Thursday's event at Forest Lawn was supposed to be a "quiet and private" service for family and friends. A chance to say one final farewell before he's buried -- more than two months, and at least two other funeral services, after his death.

As I was watching, I couldn't appreciate it as a memorial service. All I could think of were questions.

Why did they get the FAA to ban traffic in the air above FLG? The only reason I can think of is because they didn't want any news helicopters, so they could have the only video of the service. Why? What do they plan to do with it? The memorial video, or perhaps for the A&E reality show? Or something else they can make money on?

The networks were told that there would be one pool camera at the service, but there were at least three, plus audio. Why was it necessary to so completely record the event if this was supposed to be a "quiet and private" service for family and friends?

If this was supposed to be a private event for family and friends, why did the family PR flack announce the exact date, time and specific location? If they wanted a private service, they could have easily had one inside the GM -- with absolute and complete privacy and no chance of prying eyes or cameras -- and then announced the next day that it was over.

I don't mean to sound disrespectful or critical of the family. Exactly the opposite. I'm sure this has been a horrible ordeal for them. So why put his mother through this three times? Why put his children through this three times? Why put his family and friends through this three times? Isn't once enough?

The answer, of course, is money, and lots of it. The estate of Elvis Presley -- who died in 1977, 32 years ago -- earned $55 million last year. The excecutor of Michael Jackson's estate estimates that the payday for Jackson's estate could be at least twice that amount. Why not start as soon as possible? Why not take advantage of the pain and emotion while it's still fresh?

So don't be surprised if you see the footage from tonight's burial service -- the parts you didn't see on TV -- show up in some sort of special memorial DVD set, on the brothers' A&E reality show, or in some other money-making form. I hope I'm wrong. But I don't think so.

And that would be absolutely, completely, totally and morally inappropriate.



The Countdown Begins With the Lockdown

Sept. 2, 2009 -- The final memorial service and burial of Michael Jackson at Forest Lawn cemetery in Glendale is scheduled for tomorrow, Sept. 3, at 7 p.m., and the cemetery property is already at DEFCON 2 high-level security alert and lockdown. I haven't seen any F-15 fighter jets zooming overhead, but I wouldn't be a bit surprised.

Streets will be blocked all around the cemetery for the service, and parking restrictions are already in place. The Glendale Police Department will be handling security, with an estimated cost of $150,000 -- which will be passed on to the Jackson family. The security measures will include canine teams and air support. There have also been reports that the police helicopters will be equipped with heat-detecting cameras to find anyone who might try to sneak onto the property and hide in a tree or something.

Glendale Police Sgt. Tom Lorenz had a message for fans or other gawkers who are thinking about going to the cemetery: "Don't even try and come, because you won't even be able to see the green of the Forest Lawn."

People magazine is reporting that the Federal Aviation Administration has restricted airspace over the cemetery. Seriously. Apparently, this is that important. And don't give up on seeing those F-15s.

I went out to Forest Lawn this afternoon to do an interview with the BBC, along with the lovely and talented Lisa Burks, who writes the wonderful "Adventures in Grave Hunting" blog. The BBC people knew they couldn't film anything on the Forest Lawn propery, so they set up their camera on the sidewalk in front. While they were making their preparations, two FLG security trucks drove up and told them they had to move. The BBC people pointed out that they were located on the public sidewalk, not FLG property. After some discussion and a few radio calls back to FLG HQ -- which I imagine looks something like the War Room in "Dr. Strangelove" -- the camera and the reporter were allowed to stay.

I realize that this is a big deal, and if the family wants privacy, those wishes should absolutely be respected (although, if they really want privacy, why have the family PR representative announce the exact location, date and time of the service?). But don't you think Forest Lawn might be ... oh, I don't know ... over-reacting just a bit?

These aren't people trying to climb over the wall with crowbars and shovels. They aren't breaking any laws or Forest Lawn rules or even -- Heaven forbid! -- taking pictures. They're standing on the sidewalk. And that brought out two Forest Lawn security trucks and a guard who tried to kick them out. ("Scramble! Scramble! Attention all units! Security breach in Sector 7! Proceed with caution. The subject wearing the sport coat and tie appears to be holding a dangerous weapon! Or it might be a microphone!")

It's ironic that Hubert Eaton, the man who made Forest Lawn what it and changed the nation's thoughts and feelings about cemeteries, wanted to create a welcoming, inviting place for visitors to come and enjoy the beautiful grounds and scenery. Today, you can't even stand on the sidewalk in front without being asked to leave.

Lisa said she heard of a Forest Lawn property owner who tried to visit a loved one in the Great Mausoleum recently. He was told that he would be escorted by a security guard to his intended location, and the guard would stay with him until he left the building. The visitor declined, saying, "I'll come back when things get back to normal."

Whenever that might be.


Forest Lawn Gets Massive Surge in Online Traffic

Forest Lawn's Online Traffic

Aug. 25, 2009 -- Think we're the only ones who care about where Michael Jackson might be buried? Think again.

In July 2008, 18,765 people visited ForestLawn.com, according to a website analysis. Over the next 10 months, the numbers declined a bit, with monthly totals ranging from 10,326 to 17,700. Still, a nice, steady traffic flow. In June 2009, 13,428 people visited the site. Then Michael Jackson died on June 25, and the website traffic in July rose to 95,919 -- an increase of more than 614 percent!

Holy Google!

I can't say for sure that Jackson's death spurred the online traffic spurt, but what else could it be? People making plans because they're worried about the spread of swine flu? People who finally looked at the yearly totals for their 401(k) plans? Fans of the Chicago Cubs? What else could account for a 614 percent monthly increase in the number of visitors to a cemetery website?

I know most of those 95,919 website visitors will probably never visit the actual cemetery, but what if just a fraction of the online traffic becomes traffic through the gates? Even if just 10 percent showed up, that would be more than 300 people every day. The poor overworked Forest Lawn security guards would be absolutely overwhelmed.

And, remember, in July, there were still rumors that Jackson would end up at his Neverland ranch. Earlier this month, some media outlets were still reporting that Jackson would be buried at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills. It wasn't until last week that the family's PR agency confirmed that Jackson would be going into the Great Mausoleum at FLG.

(And on a side note, let's assume that the family actually wants a private funeral service, and wants to be allowed to mourn and bury their loved one in peace. Every family, no matter who they are, certainly has that right, and we should respect their privacy. But if that's what they really want, why the heck do they have a PR agency announcing the exact time, date and location of the service, even down to which door of the Great Mausoleum they're going through? Wouldn't it make more sense just to do it quietly? Have the service at Forest Lawn some night after it's closed, then announce it the next day. Doing it this way absolutely guarantees huge crowds outside the gates and news helicopters circling overhead.)

I think it's a safe bet that the online traffic numbers will increase in August. And it's a guaranteed bet that the cemetery traffic numbers will increase, too.


Forest Lawn Gets Tough, and Changes The Rules

Aug. 24, 2009 -- Now that word has spread that Michael Jackson will be buried at Forest Lawn in Glendale, the cemetery has increased its security presence, and FLG guards are following, harassing, threatening and ejecting people -- even when they haven't broken any of the cemetery's many rules and regulations. I know, because it happened to me.

I went out to FLG last week to photograph the Great Mausoleum. From the outside. I wasn't even going to try to get inside. I know that Forest Lawn has specific rules about taking pictures -- no commercial photography, and no photography inside buildings. I had no plans to do either.

And, just for the record, here is Forest Lawn's official, complete and unedited policy on photography, taken from their website:

  • All photography (still or video) inside buildings is prohibited, except at funerals, weddings, and other private services with the consent of the person(s) in charge.

  • No commercial or professional photography is allowed under any circumstances without the express written consent of Forest Lawn.

  • No wedding photography in connection with weddings held outside the Forest Lawn Memorial-Parks is permitted anywhere on the premises.

    There are no prohibitions or restrictions whatsoever on taking personal, non-commercial photographs outside on the grounds (as long as you're not bothering or disturbing anyone).

    When I arrived, I stopped on front of the Holly Terrace entrance to the Great Mausoleum, where Jackson will reportedly be buried (as announced by family members and the family's publicist). There was an FLG security truck parked nearby and, since I didn't want to attract any unnecessary attention, I drove off, to visit a friend's niche in the Freedom Mausoleum. And the truck followed me all the way over there, stopping when I did so the driver could watch me go inside.

    After paying my respects to my friend, I returned to the Holly Terrace, and took a few pictures of the door, then returned to my car. I drove a short distance, and a black FLG security van came toward me, pulled into my lane and stopped in front of my car, blocking my path. The driver got out, held a walkie-talkie up to his mouth and said, "I've got him." So, apparently I had been under surveillance.

    The guard asked me my name, who I was working for, why I was there, where I had gone, and whether I had been taking any pictures. I answered all his questions politely and honestly. He then told me that photography isn't allowed, and said I had to delete all the pictures on my camera. My biggest regret at this point is that I didn't remember the posted policy prohibiting only commercial photography and photography inside the buildings. I wasn't doing either.

    I did everything the guard asked me to do. I deleted all the photographs on my camera -- which I had to show him to prove that I did it -- and he allowed me to continue toward the exit.

    Before I got there, another black FLG security van drove toward me, pulled into my lane and blocked my path. When the second guard came up to my car, I told him that another guard had already stopped me, that I had deleted all my photos, and that I was heading for the exit to leave.

    The second guard also wanted to see my camera so he could see that all the pictures had been deleted. He also asked for my name and wrote down the license number of my car. Then he asked to see my driver's license. I asked him why. He said, "How do I know if you're telling me the truth?" So I showed him my driver's license.

    (I also asked for his name, and asked to see his driver's license, which he refused to show me. So I guess I'll never know if he was telling me the truth.)

    He asked me if I knew what "commercial infringement" is. I told him I did. "If any pictures show up anywhere," he told me, "we will find you, and you will be in big trouble. Now, go, and don't ever come back."

    I know Forest Lawn has their rules and, for the most part, I have a history of following and even defending their rules. In fact, I wrote this warning in my book: "And always remember that you're on private property, not a public park. If you're caught trespassing in forbidden areas or breaking any of the other many cemetery rules, you could be asked to leave, or even arrested. Forest Lawn employees have absolutely no sense of humor when it comes to things like that." (You can look it up. It's on page 56.)

    Want more proof that I know how to follow the Forest Lawn rules? My book contains information on 14 cemeteries in the Hollywood area, including chapters on both Forest Lawn Glendale and Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills. In fact, due to the large number of celebrities buried at those two cemeteries, those two chapters make up more than one-fourth of the entire book. And how many photographs did I include from the Forest Lawn properties? None. Not one. The book includes photographs from every other cemetery, but none from either Forest Lawn location. Why? Because they prohibit commercial photography, and I followed the rules. Plenty of other books have been published before and since with plenty of pictures of the Forest Lawn properties, including some taken inside the Great Mausoleum. Newspapers and TV stations -- both commercial operations -- have used pictures at the cemeteries and inside the Great Mausoleum. But I chose not to do it. Why? Because I followed the rules.

    (Yes, there are photographs from the Forest Lawn properties on this website, but this isn't a commercial endeavor. You don't have to pay to look at anything on this website, and I don't make any money from it. They don't say "no photography," they say "no commercial photography.")

    But Forest Lawn is selective in the rules they decide to enforce, and how they decide to enforce them -- and now they're making up new rules without telling anyone about them -- and selective in how they remember their own history. Next to the Great Mausoleum is Hubert Eaton's "Builder's Creed," literally carved in stone, which includes his desire that, "Forest Lawn shall become a place where lovers new and old shall love to stroll and watch the sunset's glow, planning for the future or reminiscing of the past; a place where artists study and sketch ..." Now, the official policy is that "Loitering is prohibited. Persons other than property owners and relatives and friends of deceased persons interred or to be interred in Forest Lawn Memorial Parks should not linger or 'hang around' on the grounds or in the buildings." I guess if you want to watch the sunset's glow, you have to keep strolling. And if you want to "study and sketch" anything, you better do it quickly.

    And now I've been told that all photography is banned at Forest Lawn. I wonder what would have happened if I tried to "study and sketch" the Great Mausoleum instead of taking a picture. I wonder if Hubert Eaton is spinning in his grave (which, by the way, is located inside the Great Mausoleum).

    I know the FLG guards were just doing their jobs, but that doesn't justify what they did and how they did it. Both guards pulled their vans in front of my car, blocking my progress and my ability to leave. A lawyer could argue that was unlawful restraint, which is typically defined as any action that knowingly and purposefully restrains, limits or prevents the freedoms of another individual without legal authority. And it doesn't matter if it's private property. If you're inside my house and I stop you from leaving, that's unlawful restraint. Both guards demanded to see my camera, which could be defined as illegal search and seizure. Both guards insisted that I delete all the photographs on my camera, which could be considered as destruction of private property.

    I know that cemeteries are hallowed, sacred grounds, and I understand the issues of respect and reverence. I know how I would feel if someone was trampling over my grandparents' graves to take a picture. But, somehow, places like Hollywood Forever and Westwood are able to accommodate visitors and tourists, and respect the wishes and feelings of friends and families of the dearly departed, and people aren't running around with shovels and crowbars. Hollywood Forever even sells maps in their flower shop so people can visit the graves of the celebrities buried there and pay their respects. Cemeteries all across the country have history tours where they remember and celebrate the people who are buried there. Why can't Forest Lawn figure out how to do that? With Forest Lawn, it's "come up to the 'museum,' buy some books, Christmas tree ornaments, little bells, tiny spoons and other trinkets with the Forest Lawn logo on them, but you can't visit the people who REALLY made Forest Lawn famous. And don't 'hang around' too long. You make us nervous."

    Plus, with their policies, they're almost daring people to break the rules. If they want to seal off the Great Mausoleum, fine. Seal it off. It's their cemetery, and they can do whatever they want. Prevent visitors from getting in without a DNA test and a retina scan. Surround it with barbed wire and guard dogs. If people don't want strangers looking at their loved ones' crypts, I can understand that. Sell them a spot in a guarded Fortress of Solitude. But don't invite us in to see the Last Supper window, and have Clark Gable and Jean Harlow calling to us from behind little signs and tiny gates, and then go nuts when we cross the line. Of course we're going to do it. That's entrapment. (OK, I might be stretching it a little with the entrapment thing, but just a little.)

    And then there's the whole issue of fame. If you want to be famous, there are huge benefits, and there are huge drawbacks. You can get the best table in any restaurant any time you want, but you can't walk out of the house without people trying to take your picture. You can make millions of dollars on a concert tour, but the people who paid those millions of dollars are going to want to visit your grave after you die. That's the deal. You can't turn it on and off whenever it's convenient. As the lovely and talented Scott Michaels has often said, if you don't want to pay the price, you have an easy choice. Don't get famous.

    I realize that Forest Lawn is private property, and an extremely lucrative business, and they have a right to make up any rules they want. Just let me know what those rules are. And don't change them without letting me know, and send over-zealous guards to threaten me and force me to comply with these new rules that I had no way of knowing anything about. Is that too much to ask?

    If you decide to visit Forest Lawn and take some pictures, I suggest that you follow their rules to the letter. No commercial photography and no photography inside buildings. And if they approach you and try to stop you, or ask you to delete the photos on your camera, ask them specifically which rule you've broken.

    Overall, I don't think Forest Lawn really understands what they're in for. I'm sure they'll make a ton of money off the Jackson burial, but they'll spend even more on additional security and whatever else they think they need to do to keep people out of the GM. And that's too bad for them, too bad for the fans, and too bad for people like us.


    Jackson Going to Forest Lawn -- For Now

    Aug. 18, 2009 -- A few major media outlets, from CNN to TMZ, are reporting today that Michael Jackson will be buried on Saturday, Aug. 29, inside the Great Mausoleum at Forest Lawn Glendale, on what would have been his 51st birthday.

    Anyone familiar with the Great Mausoleum knows that it's not a place where you can just wander around. There's a guard sitting at the only public entrance, and you can only get in at certain times to watch a presentation about the "Last Supper" stained-glass window. If you're careful and don't attract too much attention, you can glance down a nearby gated corridor and see the crypts of Red Skelton, Jean Harlow and Irving Thalberg. But if you start getting curious and going beyond the gates, they'll come and get you. There are security cameras all over the place and anyone wandering away from the "Last Supper" area will be tracked down and asked to leave.

    For security purposes, it's probably the best place for Jackson, and I'm sure the tight security at the GM will be even tighter, at least for a while. No gawking tourists, no adoring fans, and no stacks of flowers, balloons, candles and stuffed animals.

    And on the other side of the coin (with "coin" being the key word), no admission charge, no T-shirt or album sales, and no souvenir stand. Which is why I'll bet that Forest Lawn won't be Jackson's final and permanent address.

    Just look at Elvis Presley and Graceland. Presley's estate generated $55 million in revenue last year, according to Billboard, the music industry trade publication. John Branca, Jackson's lawyer and co-executor of his estate, estimated that the Jackson estate could earn $50 million to $100 million annually -- and that's without considering a Graceland-style theme park.

    "When you look at what the Presley estate has done, you see the opportunities here," Branca said last week in the New York Times. "I quite frankly think this will be a bigger estate."

    Some of the "opportunities" being tossed around include turning Jackson's Neverland Ranch into a West Coast version of Graceland. Some family members are still pushing for that idea. Another option is to establish a permanent Michael Jackson attraction in Las Vegas, where his father, Joe, lives. The advantage of that choice over Neverland is that Las Vegas is more easily accessible to tourists and could draw a bigger crowd. Another possible location is Jackson's birthplace of Gary, Ind.

    Though some members of the family might want Jackson to just rest in peace, the business side of the estate will be pressuring them to consider "the opportunities." There's the potential for a whole lot of money, and all they have to do is make the effort to pick it up.


    The next Valentino, or the next Morrison?

    Aug. 11, 2009 -- I wasn't around when Rudolph Valentino died in 1926 (believe it or not), but I've read a lot about what happened, and he might be the only celebrity whose death and resulting national hysteria can be compared to the current situation with Michael Jackson.

    For you youngsters out there who might not remember the details, an estimated 100,000 people gathered at the funeral home in New York City to pay their respects to Valentino, who was only 31 when he died. The funeral home windows were smashed as fans tried to push their way in, and more then 100 police officers were sent to the scene to control what was described as a day-long riot. Despondent fans committed suicide. Rumors about his death spread -- he was killed by a jealous husband or a jilted lover, he died as a result of illegal medication, or he wasn't really dead. There were rumors that the body on display at the funeral home wasn't really Valentino, but a wax figure. (Sound familiar?)

    A funeral train brought Valentino's body to California, and thousands of fans stood at railroad stations across the country, just to see the train as it sped past. In New York and Los Angeles, mourners couldn't attend his funeral service without an invitation card. (Sound familiar?) An estimated 80,000 mourners crowded in and around the grounds of Hollywood Memorial Park (now Hollywood Forever) when Valentino's casket was carried into the Cathedral Mausoleum. A small airplane flew overhead, showering the funeral procession with rose petals.

    If Larry King and CNN had been around back then, they would have been doing nightly broadcasts and special updates; interviewing doctors, lawyers, self-described experts and fringe family friends; talking to shocked and saddened fans; and setting up their mobile news wagons and doing live remote broadcasts outside the coroner's office, the funeral home and the cemetery.

    The difference between then and how is that, once Valentino's funeral was over, people pretty much went back to their homes and resumed their lives (except for the ones who had killed themselves). There was a period of mourning, and then it was over, even for the most devoted and adoring fans.

    That's not to say that Valentino has been forgotten. Even now, 83 years after his death, flowers are still left at his final resting place at Hollywood Forever, which hosts an annual memorial service and celebration of his life and films on the anniversary of his death. (This year's event will be held on Sunday, Aug. 23.)

    Michael Jackson's final resting place will probably end up resembling Jim Morrison's grave at Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, where Sarah Bernhardt, Chopin, Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf and Marcel Marceau are also buried. Although it has been cleaned up in recent years, the marker and a bust which had been placed on Morrison's grave were repeatedly defaced and eventually stolen. Many of the nearby grave markers were also covered with graffiti, and there have been repeated attempts to dig up Morrison's corpse. "Fans" climbed over the cemetery walls at night, and performed rituals and held drug parties, and souvenir hunters took everything that could be removed, uprooted or chipped away with a chisel. The area was littered with flowers, candles, liquor bottles, beer cans, syringes and other drug paraphernalia.

    Although Morrison's grave is still a top tourist attraction in Paris, cemetery officials are reportedly seeking to have Morrison moved to another cemetery.


    Resting in Peace? Not Very Likely

    Aug. 10, 2009 -- Unlike Michael Jackson, reports of where or even whether he's been officially buried just won't die.

    The London Daily Mirror is reporting that Jackson was quietly buried at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills, without a formal service, and only the cemetery management and the family know exactly where. In fact, according to the Mirror, cemetery employees have been told he's buried at several different locations, just to confuse everyone in case the news leaks.

    The Mirror also reports that the family is prepared to move Jackson's body to another location if security at FLHH becomes an issue. Those locations include Jackson's Neverland ranch, a memorial site in Las Vegas, and a proposed museum in the Jackson family's hometown of Gary, Ind.

    So far, the reports on the travels of Jackson's body include the initial trip to the coroner's office, then he was taken to FLHH (minus his brain, which was kept at the coroner's office for further testing), then to the big memorial service at Staples Center, then back to FLHH, then to the Berry Gordy family crypt at FLHH, then to the basement of the main building at FLHH for security reasons, then (after his brain was returned) to some undisclosed "final" location at FLHH. There have also been reports that his body was returned to the coroner's office for further testing, due to the criminal investigation.

    That's a lot of traveling for a dead guy. And you'd think it would be hard to keep it a secret when they're carting that gold coffin all over the place.

    For the Daily Mirror, they really have nothing to lose by printing the story, whether it's true or not. No one at the cemetery and no one associated with the family is going to confirm or deny it, and they get a fresh, new Michael Jackson story to sell more papers and drive more traffic to their website. (And, of course, websites like this one will repeat those rumors.)

    The L.A. Times is reporting today that Jackson's family "still hasn't decided where to bury the pop star." Jermaine Jackson -- the guy who doesn't want his brother "sharing the ground with other people who are not good human beings" -- said the burial location will ultimately be decided by his mother, Katherine Jackson, who now has custody of Michael Jackson's children.

    Wherever Jackson ends up, it will become a shrine to his fans. He's been dead for more than a month, and his star on the Walk of Fame is still covered with flowers, candles, letters, cards, coins and stuffed animals, and surrounded by fans and curious onlookers. Fans and tour buses continue to stop at the house in Beverly Hills where he died. To imagine what his gravesite will look like, take that scene on Hollywood Boulevard and multiply it by a million. Or more.


    Jackson Among the Common Folk? Horrors!

    Aug. 5, 2009 -- Entertainment Tonight is reporting on its website that plans are underway for Michael Jackson's final resting place.

    ET is reporting that "Michael Jackson's family has signed papers that clear the way for the late singer to be buried at Forest Lawn cemetery in the Hollywood Hills."

    No information on exactly where he'll end up at FLHH, but I can't imagine that he'll be planted in the ground with the common folk, or even stuck in a private mausoleum. FLHH has a lot of land, and I'm sure they'll be able to come up with pretty much anything the family wants.

    Interestingly enough, Jermaine Jackson doesn't like the idea of burying his brother in a public cemetery. He wants the burial to be at Michael's Neverland estate -- which he left after his child molestation trial in 2005.

    "I'm totally against the idea of a public cemetery," Jermaine said. "I just don't like it. He's done so much to make the world special -- and he needs to be somewhere special.

    "He should be somewhere where it's safe and where he isn't sharing the ground with other people who are not good human beings. At those places they bury people who have done bad things in their life. Why should he be in the company of these bad people? He should be by himself. His world is Neverland."

    Regardless of whether you think Michael Jackson was a good human being who never did anything bad in his life, I think the families and friends of the people who are buried at FLHH might take offense at Jermaine's comments.


    Still waiting ...

    July 17, 2009 -- It's been three weeks since the death of Michael Jackson, and it's been fairly quiet on the Michael Jackson burial rumor front. Oh, sure, there's been lots of news about his will, his children and who will take care of them, and which doctors might be arrested as part of the LAPD's homicide investigation. And, of course, the ridiculous rumors that he's actually still alive.

    But, as for where his body might be resting, or where he might eventually end up, it's been pretty quiet.

    That's really not surprising. As we've mentioned here before, the bodies of other stars have waited a year or more in storage while their final resting places were completed. And that's when everyone knew where they were going to be buried.

    With Jackson, it's still an ongoing family debate. Will he go to his Neverland Ranch? Will he stay at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills (where his grandmother, Martha Bridges, was buried in 1990)? Or will there be some other final disposition for his remains?

    Forest Lawn is still trying to dissuade fans who think Jackson is resting -- temporarily and anonymously -- in the Berry Gordy family mausoleum at FLHH. The "G" on the floor is still covered with carpet, and all other identifying features are still missing. When I went to visit this afternoon, a Forest Lawn security guard was sitting in a truck nearby, keeping a close watch on everyone in the area. But there weren't many people in the area to keep an eye on. Just a few wandering visitors, and no one in the area of the Gordy mausoleum.

    But I don't think the additional security should be taken as a sign that Jackson is there. I think it just means that Forest Lawn doesn't appreciate curious fans wandering around their property -- which is pretty much their standard policy.

    Meanwhile, the speculation will continue and the theories will be throw out, gain followers, then disappear. I think it will be several months, if not longer, before we hear anything definitive or authoritative.




    Two Stars, Lost in the Shuffle

    July 12, 2009 -- With the recent passings of Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson, it's hard to remember that we lost two major stars with long and celebrated careers in the past few weeks -- Karl Malden and Ed McMahon.

    Malden, at right in a scene from "On the Waterfront" with Marlon Brando and Eve Maria Saint, died July 1. He was an Oscar-winning actor for his performance in "A Streetcar Named Desire," and was also nominated for his performance in "On The Waterfront." In addition, he was five-time Emmy nominee, winning for his performance in "Fatal Vision."

    Malden's acting career spanned 60 years, and also included roles in "Patton," "Birdman of Alzatraz," "The Gunfighter," "Baby Doll," "Kiss of Death," "Cheyenne Autumn" and "Fear Strikes Out." He is perhaps best known for his role in "The Streets of San Francisco" TV series, where he co-starred with Michael Douglas, and also for a series of American Express television commercials -- "Don't leave home without it."

    In 1988, Malden was elected president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, a position he held for five years.

    Interestingly enough, though Malden was born in Chicago (as Mladen George Sekulovich), he was raised in Gary, Ind., the same city where Michael Jackson was born and raised.

    Ed McMahon, who will always be best known at Johnny Carson's sidekick on "The Tonight Show" for 30 years, died on June 23. McMahon, seen at right with Carson, was also the host of "Star Search," an amateur talent show, and regularly appeared on talk and game shows, as well as the annual Jerry Lewis muscular distrophy telethon.

    McMahon was born in Detroit and was raised in Lowell, Mass. He started his professional career as a bingo caller in Maine when he was 15. He also we worked as a carnival barker for three years in Mexico, Maine, and put himself through college working as a pitchman for vegetable slicers on the Atlantic City boardwalk. His first broadcasting job was at WLLH-AM in his native Lowell and he began his television career in Philadelphia at WCAU-TV.

    McMahon was also a decorated Marine fighter pilot during World War II and the Korean War. He retired as a colonel in the USMC. He was commissioned a brigadier general in the California Air National Guard in 1966 and continued to serve after he began his acting career. Along with James Stewart, he held the highest active military rank of any actor in history.

    Although funeral services for McMahon were held at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills, he was not buried there. He was cremated, and his ashes were returned to his family -- despite a large number of media reports to the contrary.


    Forest Lawn to Michael Jackson fans: "Beat it!"

    July 10, 2009 -- It's still not absolutely certain where Michael Jackson's remains are resting, but there are a lot of people who think his body is in Motown Records founder Berry Gordy's family crypt at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills, until the Jackson family can figure out where his "final" resting place will be.

    Jackson's remains were certainly brought to FLHH after his death and autopsy. That's where his family visited the night before and the morning of the big memorial service at Staples Center. But, although viewers saw the hearse bringing the body to the memorial, no one saw it leave. Which fueled even more of a media rumor storm.

    There were reports in several media outlets, including many that just repeated things that were originally reported elsewhere, that Jackson was being temporarily stored in Gordy's empty family crypt at FLHH.

    And Forest Lawn is sending a clear message to anyone who wants to snoop around and look for Jackson's alleged temporary resting place: "Beat it!"

    Like a good reporter, I went out to FLHH today to check things out. And I wasn't the only one. In the short time I was there, there were dozens of people wandering around the area -- which is extremely unusual for a Friday afternoon. I had seen Gordy's family crypt area before, and I knew that the small gates in front, and the marble floor were decorated with the letter "G." While I was waiting for the crowds to thin out a little, I spoke to a woman from Las Vegas who had heard that Jackson was in Godry's crypt area, but she couldn't find it.

    I pointed out the area to her, and told her to look for the "G" on the gates and on the floor. She came back and told me that she couldn't find them.

    So I went back with her, and she was absolutely right. The "G" initial on the floor, seen in the top photo, was covered with black carpets and tape (second photo). And the "G" panels on the gates (third photo) had been removed (fourth photo).

    Does that confirm that Jackson is there, and Forest Lawn doesn't want anyone to find him? Or does it just confirm that a lot of people think he's in there, and Forest Lawn doesn't want a bunch of camera-toting tourists and fans wandering around?

    At this point, there were about six of us standing in front of the gates, discussing what this all means. After about two minutes, a Forest Lawn employee walked up and asked if we needed any help. No, we told her. She reminded us that photography is prohibited, and walked a few yards away. But she didn't take her eyes off us.

    A few minutes later, another FLHH employee showed up, and I decided that we were probably attracting a little too much attention, so I left.

    (In Forest Lawn's defense, they are certainly entitled to keep an eye on people visiting their property -- which is, after all, private property. It's not a public park. They can set whatever rules they want -- and they do -- and they can kick out anyone who doesn't follow their rules -- and they do. Plus, it's still a cemetery, and lots of people come there to pay respects to departed friends and family members -- and they'd probably be pretty annoyed if they were disturbed by a bunch of fans running around, snapping pictures. So, be careful.)

    For his part, Gordy is denying that Jackson is in his family crypt -- or even if he has property at FLHH.

    "I can assure you it is absolutely incorrect," a spokeswoman for Gordy told the New York Daily News. "[Michael Jackson's body] is not there." The spokeswoman also declined to say whether the Gordy family even has a private crypt at the cemetery.

    So, does all of this mean anything? Not really. Just that Forest Lawn guards its privacy, and the privary of its property owners. Good for them. And unless someone shows up with a flashlight and a crowbar, I don't think we'll know for sure if Jackson is in there. (And, just for the record, I am NOT recommending that anyone do that.)

    NOTE: The "before" pictures taken above were graciously and generously provided, and used with the express permission of Steve Goldstein, author of the recently published "L.A.'s Graveside Companion: Where the V.I.P.s R.I.P." And don't forget to check Steve's great website, Beneath Los Angeles.








    Whither Michael Jackson?

    July 7, 2009 -- Just in case you missed the news, Michael Jackson's memorial service was held today at the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles. It was a lovely and emotional service, but now the really interesting discussion starts -- where will he end up?

    The initial reports said he was going to be buried at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills, seen at right, swarmed by media trucks and fans on the night before the memorial service. There were also reports that the family wanted him to be buried at his Neverland Ranch. But there were legal barriers to that plan, including getting the necessary approval to bury someone at a location other than a cemetery.

    The questions and the theories started last night, when the family went to Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills for a private service. There was some speculation that Jackson would be buried at night, immediately after the private service. Or perhaps this morning, when all the attention would be focused on the Staples Center.

    When the family and friends returned to FLHH this morning for another brief service, the coffin came with them when they went to the Staples Center. (In case you're wondering, the coffin was the 14-carat gold-plated, solid bronze Promethean model, with a hand-polished mirror finish and lined with blue velvet, made by the Batesville Casket Company from the Jacksons' home state of Indiana. If you're interested in picking one up for yourself, the Promethean goes for $25,000 to $30,000.)

    The hearse carrying Jackson's coffin was part of a motorcade of ebony Rolls-Royces and SUVs on freeways cleared by police. It then was carried into the Staples spotlight by his brothers -- Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon and Randy -- who each wore a solitary sequined glove. Jackson's coffin was prominently displayed in front of the stage at the memorial, then taken backstage by the pallbearers. At the end of the service, the family and friends went to the Beverly Wilshire Hotel for a private gathering.

    But what happened to the coffin?

    The speculation continued. Maybe the coffin at the Staples Center was an empty decoy. Maybe he really was buried last night. Maybe he was cremated and scattered at Neverland. And, of course, maybe he's not really dead.

    My theory: He was taken back to FLHH, where he'll remain in storage. After the family clears all the legal hurdles and zoning restrictons, he'll be buried at the Neverland Ranch, which will become the west coast version of Graceland. And, like Graceland, fans will flock by the millions, and Michael Jackson's estate will reap the benefits.

    I can't imagine that he'll be buried at FLHH. First of all, I don't think the cemetery would want or be able to handle the flood of visitors. Other than the cost of the plot, they wouldn't make any extra money off the deal. It's not like they'd be selling tickets or souvenirs. And they'd probably end up losing business with people who wouldn't want their loved ones buried at a location that would almost certainly become a fan and media circus for a long, long time. And it's not like Forest Lawn enjoys attention.

    It's not unheard of for dead celebrities to cool their heels while their memorials are being built. Douglas Fairbanks Sr., Al Jolson and Bob Hope are the first that spring to mind. Fairbanks died on Dec. 12, 1939, and he was finally laid to rest at Hollywood Forever (then Hollywood Memorial Park) on May 25, 1941 -- nearly a year and a half later. (In the meantime, interestingly enough, his body was stored at Forest Lawn's Glendale location.) Jolson died on Oct. 23, 1950, and his body was moved to its final resting place at Hillside Memorial Park on Sept. 23, 1951 -- nearly a year later. (In the meantime, his body was at Beth Olam Cemetery, the Jewish section of Hollywood Memorial Park -- interesting how this all ties together.) Bob Hope died on July 27, 2003. Two years later -- to the day -- on July 27, 2005, family members and friends attended the dedication of the Bob Hope Memorial Garden at the San Fernando Mission in Mission Hills, his final resting place.

    So there's plenty of time for a memorial to be built at Neverland, and for all the legal hurdles to be cleared. Just don't hold your breath.


    Farrah Fawcett is Buried at Westwood

    July 5, 2009 -- Following funeral services held on June 30 at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown Los Angeles, Farrah Fawcett was buried at Westwood Memorial Park.

    Her gravesite is next to Merv Griffin, and across the lawn from another iconic blonde beauty, Marilyn Monroe.

    Born in Texas, Fawcett gained fame in the late 1960s and early 1970s in a series of television commercials. In 1976, she starred along with Kate Jackson and Jaclyn Smith as a trio of private investivators known as "Charlie's Angels." Although Fawcett left the series after only one year, her popularity remained strong -- boosted by a classic poster which sold an estimated 10 million copies.

    In 1984, she starred as an abused wife in the TV movie "The Burning Bed," and earned the first of her three Emmy nominations. She also received six Golden Globe nominations during her career, but never won.

    Fawcett was diagnosed with cancer in 2006. She documented her cancer treatment in a two-hour documentary titled "Farrah's Story," which aired on NBC on May 15, 2009. She died on June 25, 2009, although her death was overshadowed by Michael Jackson's death a few hours later.














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