Grave Spotlight

In a way, cemeteries are like libraries. They contain the final resting places of thousands of people, each with their own separate and unique story. Some of these people are famous, and their stories are well known. Most are not, but that doesn't make their life any less interesting or their stories any less worthy of being told and remembered.

Periodically, we'll spotlight a different Los Angeles-area grave. Every person has a story, and we will use this space to tell their story, through their final resting place.

After your tour of the virtual cemetery, don't forget to visit the official store (or the brand new downtown location) on your way out and pick up a souvenir or two. Thanks!

Hazel Forbes

(Nov. 26, 1910 – Nov. 19, 1980)

Jan. 14, 2012 -- Hazel Forbes is interred inside the Great Mausoleum at Forest Lawn Memorial-Park in Glendale, Calif., just a few feet from the final resting place of actress Elizabeth Taylor.

Although she was born a generation earlier, Forbes had a few things in common with Taylor. Both were popular performers -- Taylor in films and Forbes on Broadway. Both were widely acclaimed for their stunning beauty. Both appeared often in the gossip columns and society pages of the newspaper. Both were widowed, both married often, and both were known for their incredible wealth.

But while Taylor also won acclaim for her acting -- her career spanned nearly 60 years and she was nominated five times for an Oscar as best actress, winning twice -- Forbes' film career began and ended in 1934 with uncredited appearances in two forgotten films. Forbes is best remembered today for her appearances in the Ziegfeld Follies on Broadway in the late 1920s and for her reputation -- deserved or not -- as one of the first "gold diggers."

In fact, if Forbes were alive today, it's likely she'd have more in common with a few well-known women of today who also inherited substantial wealth, are known for their beauty, and are "famous just for being famous." She'd probably have her own perfume and clothing lines, her own reality TV show, and more than a million followers on Twitter.

Forbes was born Hazel Froidevaux in Gettysburg, S.D., on Nov. 26, 1910, the only child of Albert Alcide Froidevaux of Switzerland and Elizabeth Klibschon Froidevaux of Germany, who were married in San Francisco in 1904. About a year after Hazel's birth, her father left the family, telling his wife that he had fallen in love with another woman and was moving back to Europe. Neither Hazel nor her mother ever heard from him again. (In fact, Froidevaux married again and moved back to South Dakota.)

When Forbes was still a teenager, she entered a beauty pageant in Atlantic City, N.J., and was named Miss Long Island. In 1926, she was chosen Miss United States at the Paris International Beauty Pageant. The following year -- at the age of 17, and with no experience as a performer -- Forbes was hired by Florenz Ziegfeld to appear in his Ziegfeld Follies in New York City. She appeared in a supporting role in the long-running production of "Whoopee!," which premiered in 1928 and starred Eddie Cantor, and ran for nearly a year and more than 400 performances.

In 1929, Forbes was lured away from Ziegfeld by his primary competitor, Earl Carroll, but she returned to Ziegfeld the following year.

On stage, Forbes was described as a dancer, but she was more likely one of the many "Ziegfeld girls" who simply walked across the stage wearing fabulously elaborate costumes, or nearly no costume at all. She was also probably one of Ziegfield's famous "living statues" -- scantily clad women who came out on stage and just stood there. (This was Ziegfeld's solution to a New York law which prohibited nude performers from moving on stage.)

During her work with Ziegfeld, Forbes was also photographed by Alfred Cheney Johnston, who worked for Ziegfeld for more than 15 years, primarily taking publicity and promotional photographs of the Follies performers.

After Johnston's death in 1971, a huge collection of nude and semi-nude photos of showgirls from the Ziegfeld Follies -- including Forbes -- was discovered among his possessions. Since the photos could never have been used to publicly promote the Follies in the 1920s, it has been speculated that the images were either taken by Johnston as samples of his artistic work, or were done at the request of Ziegfeld for his private collection.

Off stage, Forbes married for the first time in 1929, to automobile salesman Harry Judson, when she was 19 years old. They divorced the following year. In 1931, at the age of 21, she married Paul Owen Richmond of Ohio, heir to a toothpaste fortune. After less than a year of marriage, Richmond died at the age of 47, leaving Forbes with $2.2 million -- about $35 million today.

After Richmond’s death, Forbes went to Hollywood, where she appeared in uncredited supporting roles in “Bachelor Bait” and “Down to Their Last Yacht,” both produced by RKO in 1934. Because of the money she was left by Richmond, she donated her salary to charity.

While in Hollywood in the 1930s, Forbes continued to make headlines, but not for her acting career. Rather, she was kept in the public eye with the typical studio publicity pictures, and whenever she was seen out in public in the company of an eligible actor, including Arthur Lake, the future "Dagwood Bumstead." Newspaper reporters often speculated about the possibility of another marriage for the "toothpaste heiress," but Forbes always insisted they were "just friends." Throughout the 1930s, Forbes was -- like so many before and after her -- famous just for being famous. And also for being extremely wealthy.

In March 1938, Forbes married vaudeville singer, nightclub performer and former Follies headliner Harry Richman. Though Richman was successful on his own, his wealth didn't compare to Forbes' fortune. "How can you impress a girl with a fortune?," he said. "You buy her a $3,000 bracelet and find she's picked up some little thing for $25,000. In comparison, your gift looks like costume jewelry from the five and dime." Forbes and Richman divorced after three years. In 1943, she married Charles Clyde Eberly Jr. Her fourth and final marriage lasted two years.

Hazel Forbes died in Los Angeles on Nov. 19. 1980, a week before her 70th birthday. Her crypt marker identifies her as "Hazel Forbes Richmond." Although this was not her longest marriage, it was certainly her most profitable.

Buried with Forbes is her mother, Elizabeth Klibschon Froidevaux, who died in 1970. She had her name legally changed to Forbes in 1943 because it was shorter, easier to remember and pronounce, and "my daughter and I consider it lucky."

Forbes and her mother are interred in a small semi-private room, just around the corner from Taylor's final resting place, and featuring a statue of a woman who would have fit in perfectly in a Ziegfeld show.

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