Seeing the Stars – at the Cemetery

I came out to California for a few extra days before attending the Southern California Genealogical Society’s annual Genealogy Jamboree, because I was doing some genealogy look-ups for someone back home. That included visiting a few cemeteries. I love cemeteries, if you didn’t know. Fun fact about me.

My task took me to Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California. After I found the information I was there for, I decided to go on a celebrity hunt. I knew there were quite a few celebrities buried there, and I was eager to find them. I love movies and television. Celebrity hunting at cemeteries is something I’ve been doing for years ever since I started coming out to California.  Holy Cross Cemetery was a new one for me.

I found a lot of celebrities at Holy Cross.  I have the sunburned shoulders to prove it. Before I realized it,  I had been walking and searching for 3 hours. I used two sources, Find a Grave, and a website called Seeing-Stars to help me locate my top searches.

Rita Hayworth

I didn’t even realize Rita Hayworth was here. I was looking for Bing Crosby at the time. When I saw her marker, I wasn’t even sure if it was THE Rita Hayworth. For whatever reason, I thought she was buried under her real name Margarita Carmen Cansino. But there she was. You can’t see it in this photo, but there were several pennies in the dirt around her stone, as well as some dried up flowers. I got the sense that she is regularly visited, which is very nice. She is located along side a tranquil grotto on a small patch of grass. Bing Crosby is around the other side of the grotto.

Rita Hayworth grave, Holy Cross Cemetery, Culver City, California

John Candy

Have you ever blocked out of your mind the reality that a celebrity who you loved has died? Three come to mind, to me. Robin Williams and John Ritter are two. And John Candy is the third. John Candy is located in a beautiful mausoleum at Holy Cross. His crypt is two above actor Fred McMurray–best known for his role as the father on the TV show, My Three Sons. I can count so many John Candy films as my favorites. I got emotional seeing John Candy’s final resting place. What a loss.

Mary Astor

So here’s my convoluted Mary Astor brush with fame. If you don’t know who Mary is, learn about her HERE. Her most famous role was opposite Humphrey Bogart in the film, The Maltese Falcon.

In 1987, when I was 21,  I spent the summer living in Los Angeles, interning at Entertainment Tonight at Paramount Studios. You can read more about that in a past blog post of mine,  I’m in a Hollywood State of Mind. The internship wasn’t paid. So I had to get a job. I interned 3 days a week at ET, and worked 4 days a week at the Motion Picture County Home in Woodland Hills doing housekeeping. The beach? What was that?

I was crazy about old movies then. Still am. There was no internet back then, but somehow I had found out that Wilfred Hyde-White was a resident at the Motion Picture County Home.  He was a British character actor who had done many, many films. You can learn more about him HERE.

Wilfred worked with Marilyn Monroe in the 1960’s and I was a big Marilyn fan. I collected Marilyn memorabilia at the time, in fact. I really wanted to meet him and ask him about her.

One of the beautiful statues around Holy Cross Cemetery.

So what does this have to do with Mary Astor?

Mary resided in a separate bungalow building outside of the main building. I wanted to meet her as well, but there were special housekeepers for those buildings. I figured I really didn’t have a chance of ever seeing her. Wilfred wasn’t on my regular housekeeping wing either, but I had managed to wheel my cart over to his wing one afternoon on the guise of emptying his trash. I knocked on the door and heard a voice saying to come in. There Wilfred was, in his bed, with a giant fur coat on, watching TV. I smiled and introduced myself and said I was there to empty his trash. He smiled and nodded and went back to watching his TV show.

I knew I only had a few moments before the other housekeepers noticed I was infringing on their turf. I went around and gathered his trash and said to him, “Did you know Marilyn Monroe?”  He smiled and nodded again and looked wistful as he said, “She was a lovely, gentle soul. Completely misunderstood.”

At that moment, the head housekeeper came in. Busted.

But she looked at me and said, “Oh good…we are short staffed today and I came in to do trash. Do you have a few minutes to go vacuum one of the bungalows?” I said yes. Maybe I could sneak a peak of Mary Astor while I was over there, I thought to myself. She told me where I needed to go. I said goodbye to Wilfred Hyde-White. He waved his hand and said, “Goodbye dearie.”

I walked over to the bungalow areas and grabbed the vacuum out of the housekeeping closet nearby. I knocked on the door and I heard a faint, “Come in” from the other side. I stepped inside and there she was…Mary Astor. She looked very frail and ill, but lovely. She was sitting up in a chair looking out the window. I told her I was there to vacuum. She nodded. I felt so badly making so much noise with the vaccum when she seemed to be so peaceful and pensive.  I finished quickly and asked her if she needed anything else. She shook her head and thanked me. She smiled. I said goodbye.

When I came back to Connecticut the next month to begin my senior year in college, I read in the newspaper that Mary Astor had died. She was 81.

I knew she was one of the celebrities buried at Holy Cross Cemetery, so I made a point of finding her and saying hello. Other celebrities at Holy Cross are Ray Bolger, Bela Lugosi, Loretta Young, Lawrence Welk, Sharon Tate, Jimmy Durante and more.

I have joined an online challenge by Amy Johnson Crow to write about 52 ancestors in 52 weeks. I’m writing about the prompt “At the Cemetery.”  I am hopelessly behind on participating, but Amy says there really is no “behind.” Writing at your pace and getting something out on the page is what is most important.   You can join any time and find all the details here: 

Click here to sign up for the 52 Ancestors Challenge 

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