Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Marilyn's grave at Westwood Village Memorial Park

When I was driving to Westwood Memorial, I prepped myself for sadness. Westwood is often dubbed the "graveyard of tragic females", because of the women buried there whose lives were cut dramatically short- Marilyn Monroe, Minnie Ripperton, Dominique Dunne, Farrah Fawcett and one of my faves, Natalie Wood. When I first entered, it seemed my expectations would be met. Westwood is a tiny, quiet, shaded park, hidden beneath the tall buildings of Wilshire Blvd. In contrast to the Disneyworld behemoths of Forest Lawn and Hollywood Forever, it is an understated and elegant community cemetery. Oh, but what a community it is!

First, let's get the Marilyn part over with. I really like Marilyn Monroe. I think her comic timing was impeccable. She was, bar none, the most photogenic person ever, and it seems she was also really smart. She is buried in a mausoleum of white stone, but her crypt is light pink marble which makes it quite haunting since it stands out rather sadly, much like she did in life. Pennies were pressed in the grooves of her crypt, and there were fresh flowers. The crypt next to her is empty, waiting for Hugh Hefner to claw his way in some day, probably in 3050.

So I walked around, rather morosely, pondering fame and mental breakdowns until I realized that I was getting more bang for my movie star buck than the Walk of Fame. On one side of the park Truman Capote is buried above Mel Torme, who is ten paces from Eva Gabor,(Eva Darling, according to her headstone) who is buried a stones throw away from John Cassavetes...go figure. On the other side, across the main lawn where the mere mortals (LOTS of doctors) rest, is where the real fun is to be had...because that's where the frat boys are!

The Northwest corner of the cemetery reads like a who's who of Hollywood good old boys in the 60's and 70's, and the fun is contagious. It's seems they all decided to try to one- up each other one more time in the funny department. It's like Dean Martin is presiding over one more booze filled Celebrity Roast. In a way he is, since he is buried here and his epitaph reads "everybody loves somebody sometime." Then there is "Miss Peggy Lee," Walter Matthau, Farrah Fawcett, Karl Malden, Jack Lemmon ( whose grave reads" JACK LEMMON IN), Billy Wilder ("I'm a writer, but nobody's perfect")," Rodney Dangerfield ("There goes the neighborhood"), and my favorite, Merv Griffin ("I will NOT be right back").

It made me really love Hollywood- here was this family of consummate entertainers, who were so effervescent that they were making me laugh out loud at their very graves and put me in a giddy mood as I was driving away. If that's not some kind of gift to humanity, then I don't know what is.

Ease:D( It took me FOUR times to find it...)
Content: A+
Subjective Coolness: A+
Overall: A-

Directions: Oh boy, just go to this website and follow what they say exactly- http://www.seeing-stars.com/buried2/PierceBros5.shtml#directions.
Price: Free, just park inside.

Other great epitaphs from Westwood:
Jeffery Craig Burkhart: "Darling, you should have been there."
Dorothy McKee Wray: "She passed the good around."
Hannah Russell: "...And life goes on."

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Norton Simon Muesem

Personal Taste. We all have it. Mine is a penchant for brightly colored furniture, sundresses and pearls. A unifying aesthetic that gives an art collection a distinct personality is often lacking in big corporate museums like the Getty and my beloved LACMA. There are just too many curators, overly involved trustees and board members. That's why the Norton Simon Museum is such a delight. And I apologize in advance if I sound a bit pretentious or high minded today, but Pasadena always puts me in that mood. It's such a god dang CLASSY place.

As an art lover, I have a passion for soft and melancholy paintings. I am drawn to solitary figures- be they a pretty girl, a struggling sailboat or a grand old tree. Apparently, those who shaped the collections at Norton Simon (including his wife, the movie star Jenifer Jones: see the movie, "Beat the Devil"!), have exactly the same taste. The gallery of 19th century works sometimes smacks of the "greatest hits" collection of names that plagues many small museums, with its abundance of Degas, Pissaro's and Monet's. But it also has several beautifully wistful paintings. Some highlights include spectacular Van Gogh's, a lovely Renoir and a chic Mogdolini.

I mean the gallery even smells like class.

Downstairs is another major treat- a huge collection of the often humorous, always grand 19th century Japanese artist, Hiroshige. Hiroshige was a major inspiration to the artists in the "impressionist" gallery above. There was one weak gallery upstairs. It was filled with my least favorite and seemingly the most plentiful kind of art- 18th and 19th century Dutch genre paintings. I find their dark backgrounds, highly theatrical depictions of the bible or those terrible still life's of rotting fruit or dead animals depressing. I mean, who the hell wants to see a poor dead bunny hanging by the legs, or some ho cutting off John the Baptist's head?

But in the back of that gallery was a real treat- a small but well selected group of Medieval, Flemish and Renaissance religious works and the ethereal and graceful Cowper Madonna by Raphael, which was on loan from the National Gallery in DC.

The crowd was very decidedly un-LA and thoroughly un-hip chill and chubby suburban. There is a very romantic and misty sculpture garden surrounding a lake, a great store with cheap, high quality prints and best of all, it was free! Every first Friday night of the month is free, my friends,so go have yourself a tasteful, grown-up and economical night.

Travel: D ( I had a late but lovely Thursday night and was super tired, and I HATE the 1-10, so Jess was kind enough to drive back...seriously, Friday night traffic was a nightmare.)

Ease: B
Content: A
Subjective Coolness: A
Overall: A-

Directions: Take the 101-South to the 1-10 North to the 66 East. Museum is on the left at 411 East Colorado Blvd.
Hours: Monday-Sunday 12-6. Friday 12-9. Closed on Tuesday.

Price: Adults: $8, Seniors: $4, children up to 18: free, valid student ID( I know some of y'all still have those...liars): free. Parking free in lot. Free first Fridays of each month.