Bizarro Saturday Nite
We are going where???
"It's at the
cemetery" was the response... AT NIGHT?? I looked
at Jim and he just shrugged his shoulders. That's all he knew...
I'd been living in LA for 20 years and thought Id seen it all.
This gig sounded really weird. A jazz concert on a Saturday
night held at Hollywood Memorial Cemetery?? Earlier, Jim calls up and says
we're going to a concert but he won't say where. I'll get the rest of the
info after he picks me up. I've known Jim a long time, since we worked on
our first "spec" film together in NY — 1976. Those were bonding
experiences and we've remained good friends since. More so as of late due
to the parallels of our personal lives but that's another story anyway...
Jim ain't gonna steer me wrong however the idea of a cemetery on a Saturday
night? I've been to a cemetery three times in the past 5 years and
it wasn't fun. I'm really not seeing this as an exciting night out.
Besides it's game one of the World Series and I'd be fine hangin' at the house
with a few cocktails and snackies. Jim comes over we do the
cocktails and watch of bit of the game. "Ok... lets head over and see
what all this is about"
As we drive over Jim shows me the flyer. "An Autumn Night's Eve
Tribute to Woody Herman" Playing is the Woody Herman big band
with Shelby Lynn. We drive through Hollywood not sure where this
place is. Jim remembers it being near the Paramount lot. I think
it's near the Sunset-Gower studio, formerly known as Colombia Studios. The
only reason I think it's there was the memory of looking at the cemetery
sign as we'd leave blitzed thru the back door of Lucy's Mexican restaurant.
When one worked at Sunset-Gower, one would go to Lucy's for lunch. Not
wanting to rock the boat we did... and those were some great margo lunches.
We are in old Hollywood and this cemetery is the resting place for many old (and
some new) Hollywood celebrities. I've heard of this place, seen it
on TV had tourist ask directions to it however I've never been there.
Tickets were 75 bucks. Jim got em for free so there's nothing to
lose. I started thinking this could be a most interesting evening...
We park and approach the cemetery front gate. The sign now read "Hollywood
Forever Cemetery". Jim explains the place went belly up several years
ago and this new company from the Tennessee took it over. I wondered if
they also ran Grace land. "Tickets, please".
Jim flashes them to the attendant. "Right this way gentleman".
The attendant points us toward the waiting area where golf carts are ushering
people to the concert area, which is on the other side of the cemetery.
What's the point of going to a concert in a cemetery if you can't walk thru the
graveyard? Jim and I start hoofing it. About 3 minutes in it hits me
I'm in a freaking cemetery! It's night and it's chilly. However
the place is lit up like a movie set. It looks cool... There are lights
everywhere; strategically placed for dramatic effect. They light the
rims of the headstone. For as far as one can see headstones and fog.
In the distance, music from a big band jazz group. We keep walking.
All I can think of is the Michael Jackson "Thriller" video. The place
looks like every cheesy horror film I've ever seen. We keep walking...
The music gets louder. You can't help but stop and look at a headstone
all so weird. Finally we reach a clearing where we can see the lay out.
Sure enough, there' a stage with a band, chairs set up for the audience and lots
of lights and trucks. There was even a film crew taping the show for some
later broadcast, that'll be interesting — "Live From Hollywood Forever,
final home of the Stars". This is too weird.
Behind the audience is an area with tents representing various high-end
restaurants from the area. The whole thing is so surreal.
I've been to all these events, cemeteries, restaurants and concerts but never at
the same time. Jim and I absorbed the setting and decide the best thing to
do is wander about and find the cocktail area. We start recalling stories
of our working on graveyard movie scenes. One in St. Mary's, Maryland back
in 1977 — a spec. film for which we never saw any money. We were film
gaffers, which meant we were part of the lighting crew. On this film we
were the entire lighting crew. Needless to say, it was low budget and it
was the first time I saw gravestones out of Styrofoam. We joked about the
whole experience and how stupid we were. Not for working on a really bad
movie and never getting paid but failing to realize the female art college in
St. Mary's was a golden opportunity to meet some young ladies. Instead, on
our off days we kept driving to Annapolis, Maryland thinking wed sync up with
real high brow women. What idiots we were! Those women wouldn't give
us the time of day unless we could point to our yacht parked off shore.
Neither of us packed our Thurston Howell III blue blazer so our scruffy look was
less than vogue. What were we thinking? Jim goes, "And you
should have known better!" A clear reference to my years spent at an
art college in Philly. I shook my head in disgrace. My feeble
excuse: trying to explore new ground meet new people. Four years
of art school and the art school women were enough. "Besides,
wouldn't it have been fun to meet someone in a dress — NOT covered in paint or
ceramic dust!" We laughed at the whole escapade. As it
was, when our loser film finished shooting, we did have a big wrap party and we
did invite as many of the St. Mary's art students as we could. They came
en mass, which is why the next morning we concluded what total idiots we were
for not linking up with them sooner.
We wandered over to the cocktail booth "Are you VIP?" "
Excuse me? I ask. "Yes, VIP your cocktails are free for
VIP". We flashed our tickets and sure enough we're VIP.
So here we are, in a cemetery walking around drinking brewskis listening
to jazz. Is this for real? The jazz was ok the Woody
Herman band was good but could it really compare to looking for Valentino's
grave? With brewskis? We stocked up and headed into the darkness in
search of celebs dead celebs.
We wandered about — found Tyrone Power, Cecil B. DeMille and Marion Davis.
Here they were, names I'd heard for ages. Some how standing before their
graves — there was a connection, which put years of Hollywood lore in
prospective. We stumbled upon Douglas Fairbanks and John Houston WOW!!
Perhaps after twenty years in LA, none of this stuff would matter. It was
the opposite. You see the names etched in stone and it sinks in. These were real
people, not just names from a seven second video clip on Entertainment Tonight.
This is the real Douglas Fairbanks. And the real Peter Lorre and the real
Jane Mansfield. Hers was particularly touching. She had several
dried red roses lying on her stone. Probably from her ex-husband, Mickey
Haggerty the former Mr. America, who owns a little flower shop 6 blocks away.
It was touching...
We didn't find Valentino he was somewhere on the other side of the cemetery
plus the beers were settling in. I was getting tired. We stopped
back at the concert area and listened to some jazz. Shelby Lynn was good
but somehow the music felt overshadowed by the surrounding. It was
all so surreal. I kept thinking how surreal as we drove back to my home
and where this ranks for Hollywood experiences. In 20 years I've had a few wild
experiences. It may even top the Roosevelt Hotel...
The Roosevelt was where Bobby and Sirhan crossed paths. For the 15 years
since the hotel has been closed, it's been available for film locations and
special events. It's where we were filming my creature movie with these
seven-foot monsters. It's also where they were holding the Los Angeles
Transvestite Ball and Soiree on our last day of shooting. Me, my crew
and creatures all ended up at the Ball. Every transvestite in Cali was
there. So were we. It was so bizarre seeing my creatures mix it up
with the trans. I never thought that evening would ever be topped for pure
visual overload. Plus, as you get older — the harder it is to be held in
awe. So... It's nice to know an experience still can come along and remind
me — "Dude, you're still in Hollywood and you ain't seen it all."
It was a good night...