Cemetery Historian

Karie Bible researches—and shares—the stories behind the headstones at Hollywood Forever



 » “When I was growing up in Fort Worth, we didn’t have revival theaters, and the whole video revolution was in the future, so we saw old movies on TV. The first movie I remember seeing was Dracula, with Bela Lugosi. I was five or six, and I remember pointing at the TV and thinking, ‘That’s what I want!’ ”

» Bible has been the official guide at Hollywood Forever since 2002. On weekends her “Cemetery of the Stars” tour includes stops at the graves of Tyrone Power, Fay Wray, Rudolph Valentino, and John Huston. The “Jewish Heritage” tour highlights mob leader Bugsy Siegel and the Ritz Brothers. 

» “I had a group of Girl Scouts take the tour recently, and I was like, ‘I can’t talk about rape, murder, and suicide in front of these kids!’ I didn’t want to be the person to open Pandora’s box and show them all the evil and ill in the world. So I G-rate the tour a lot.”

» Developers Isaac Lankershim and his son-in-law, Isaac Van Nuys, founded Hollywood Memorial Park on Santa Monica Boulevard in 1899. The cemetery—and the star quality of its new arrivals—declined along with the neighborhood. St. Louis entrepreneur Tyler Cassity purchased the property in 1998, renovating and renaming it Hollywood Forever. He has broadened the site’s appeal with classic movie nights, concerts, Web-based tributes, and Bible’s guided tours.

» “I always wear black vintage when I give the tours. The Halloween before last, I went a little more gothic. I shouldn’t have worn a Victorian outfit from the late 1800s, because after about 70 years clothes start crumbling. I was pointing to a mausoleum and heard this horrific ripping. I looked down, and my whole shirt looked like a cat had slid down it with its claws out. Luckily, I had on a tank top and bra underneath.”

» One of the first Hollywood actresses to be interred here was Virginia Rappe, who died in 1921 following a party held by actor Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle in his San Francisco hotel suite. Arbuckle was acquitted of manslaughter in her death. The Golden Girls’ Estelle Getty, who died in 2008, is Hollywood Forever’s most recent celebrity burial.

» Bible’s research is not limited to cemeteries. She cowrote the book Location Filming in Los Angeles and runs Film
radar.com, which provides a calendar of special film screenings in L.A.

» Of all the celebrities buried at Hollywood Forever, punk guitarist Johnny Ramone is most likely to frustrate Bible’s presentation. “He wanted a grave that would compete with Jim Morrison’s in France. I have a certain order I go in for flow of information. I’ll be talking about Hattie McDaniel or Douglas Fairbanks, and people will stop listening to me and wander off to Johnny Ramone.
His grave is like a siren’s call.”

» Despite an offer from her bosses, Bible, who is 37, has declined to choose a final resting place. “They mentioned ages ago that I could pick out my spot and they would give it to me, but I had this fear that if you build it, it will come. If I were going to be buried here, though, I’d want to be in the Fairbanks/Valentino area. I try not to think too much about that stuff at the moment.”

Photograph by Ethan Pines

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