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Andy Warhol was a sphinx. His public pronouncements were often so bland as to be dumbfounding. Yet he is one of the most influential artists of the second half of the 20th century.

Because his public persona was so passive, we cast our ideas upon his blank slate: There are as many Warhols as there are viewers of his work.

To some, he was the great democratizer; his prints were — originally — affordable to all. To some, the great charlatan; he admitted his favorite thing was money.

To others, he was the harbinger of celebrity culture while to still more, he was a mocker of celebrity.

He either knocked off commercial imagery, or he allowed us to see that imagery for the first time as art. marilyn

Was he ironic or sincere?

We each have our own Warhol.

My Warhol is the best artist of the past 50 years, not only influential but unlike some other influential artists such as Joseph Beuys, Warhol also provides us with beauty. Like Picasso or Matisse, his work isn’t just about theory, but about pleasure.

The academicians and theorists point out that Warhol’s art is about repetition and multiple versions of the same thing: a dozen Maos or Marilyns. And although that is tangentially true, what is truly astounding in Warhol’s work is the variation. Each repetition is brand new. The artist’s inventiveness is magical. 1972 mao 1

You can look at a dozen Maos and see repetition, or you can see a dozen variations on a theme, ranging from Mao in blackface to Mao in green, each version with its own particular scribbles. Not repeated, but varied. jagger

1964 soup canThen, there’s the Mick Jagger series from 1975, in which the images are partly photographs, partly abstract shapes and partly line drawings — and make no mistake, Warhol’s line was as distinct and fluent as Picasso’s.

There are Campbell’s soup cans here, too. Warhol made his reputation with these.

It is the job of artists to direct our attention to what is going on around us, whether that is the grand landscape of 19th-century America or the commercial landscape of Pop Art. In this sense, Warhol is no different from Thomas Moran.

Once we’ve seen Warhol’s soup cans, we cannot be blind to the originals in the store: Instead of their disappearing into the background noise of our lives, we pay attention.

Paying attention is the sine qua non of art. car wreck five deaths

And though we think of Warhol as being the abettor of celebrity (and at his crassest, he provides “Warhol” portraits of anyone rich enough to commission one), the celebrities he chose for his uncommissioned work tended to be those with the aura of tragedy about them, like Marilyn Monroe. His early work often included car wrecks or disasters from the news. One of the sets is about the Kennedy assassination. geronimo

Warhol is more committed to the real world than he often is given credit for: Even the seemingly simple Pop images of cowboys and Indians remind us of the tragedy of Native America. There is Geronimo; there is John Wayne.

Or the series of “Jews in the 20th Century,” which may show us the Marx Brothers and George Gershwin as well as Martin Buber and Albert Einstein, but behind them all is our awareness of the tragedy of Jews in the century past.

As Percy Shelley said, “Our sincerest laughter with some pain is fraught.”

Warhol the celebrity was a bright blot, a blank face of banal utterance, but it was a mask he was forced into in order not to have to trivialize his work by talking about it. His famously obtuse interviews were a defense mechanism: When you have torn the veil, as Warhol had, how can you come back to this side?

Andy preferred to let his work speak for itself, and that is why everyone can have his own Warhol.

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Some people lament the passing of the old Hollywood. Others put it on their vacation schedules.

For the old Hollywood may be dead and buried, but it’s not gone. It is still there under the loamy earth of Los Angeles.

You can visit Cecil B. DeMille’s burial plot, Peter Lorre’s crypt site, even the final resting place of Hopalong Cassidy’s horse, Topper.

Lest you think this too ghoulish, I should mention that there are tours and theme parks devoted to the dear departed. You can find full-color tourism brochures at hotel check-in desks. Tourism is encouraged at some (though not all) celebrity graveyards.

You want to see Tyrone Power’s grave? Hollywood Forever Cemetery will give you a map to the tombstones of the famous dead.

Forest Lawn even has a gift shop.

So if you are tired of all the usual destinations in Southern California or if you want an offbeat vacation, try visiting some of these sites.

It works best if you have a sense of humor about it. But it should be a quiet sense of humor. These are working cemeteries and although they welcome visitors, rowdiness and impertinence — to say nothing of loud radios and beer drinking — can wind up in your being asked to leave.

Enjoy the peace and solitude but no picnicking.

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The largest and most famous cemetery in the Los Angeles area is Forest Lawn. Actually, there are five Forest Lawns, with sites in Glendale, Hollywood Hills, Cypress, Covina Hills and Sunnyside. Each has a different organizational theme.

But it is the original location in Glendale that should be visited first.

”So much to see for free!” says the memorial park’s brochure.

”Imagine, in one afternoon you can see exact replicas of Michelangelo’s greatest works … Leonardo da Vinci’s immortal Last Supper re-created in brilliant stained glass … two of the world’s largest paintings … original bronze and marble statuary, rare coins, valuable 13th-century stained glass, Old World architecture.”

And several suits of armor, to say nothing of a stone head named Henry from Easter Island. Forestlawn mosaic

The exhibits mix high art with religious kitsch and naive patriotism.

The Court of Freedom, for instance, includes a 20-foot-high mosaic of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, flanked by tablets engraved with selected highlights of the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence.

And make sure you get a copy of the event schedule at the gate so you don’t miss anything.

One season, Forest Lawn featured concerts by the Valleyaires Barber Shop Singers, the Burbank Chamber Orchestra and the Notre Dame Irish Knight Band.

”It’s Showtime!” the leaflet says. ”History comes alive at Forest Lawn.”

Sample shows include ”A Visit with Michelangelo,” with an actor impersonating the famous sculptor, and similar events with visits with Lincoln, Washington and Montezuma.

Each of the locations hosts a million visitors a year. mystery of life forest lawn

Forest Lawn probably could not have happened anywhere but Los Angeles.

The vision for Forest Lawn came to a former cowboy and miner named Hubert Easton. At age 31 in 1912, he came to a 55-acre cemetery in Tropico, now Glendale, as sales manager.

He found the cemetery business too dreary and decided to eliminate tombstones and add lots of rolling lawns, statues and fountains.

”Forest Lawn will be more than a cemetery,” he wrote. ”It will be a memorial park, a place for people young and old to visit and enjoy … a place where not only will the sorrowing be comforted but the spirits of all who enter will be uplifted.”

He also figured out that he could sell burial plots to the living in anticipation of later need — a revolutionary idea at the beginning of the century — and he added a working mortuary to the grounds on the principle that people would be attracted to one-stop shopping. Forestlawn David

His ideas caught fire. His sales jumped 250 percent the first year alone.

Over the years, the property was decorated with a huge quantity of art, mostly reproductions of famous pieces. Most of Michelangelo’s best-known statues can be found on-site.

Perhaps the most memorable art is not the most famous. What you never can forget once you have been through the memorial park is the incredible number of maudlin and sentimental statues, Victorian kitsch of angels protecting unbearably innocent little babes or mothers standing protectively over their children or faces of white-bread Sunday-school devotion.

They are everywhere in the park, which also is divided into sections with names such as Slumberland, Lullabyland and Inspiration Slope.

In many portions of the park, there is a continual murmur of devotional music, the kind of Mantovani Londonderry Air that makes the park into something very like a perpetual car dealership commercial.

The kitsch reaches high dudgeon at the Hall of the Crucifixion-Resurrection, which houses one of the world’s largest paintings, Polish artist Jan Styka’s 195-foot-long Crucifixioncrucifixion theater forest lawn

It dwarfs an IMAX film screen and shows a Victorian vision of the death of Christ with a cast of thousands. It is presented in a huge, very dark and reverent theater, complete with theater seats and a recorded narration that leaves you walking out of the building to the sounds of Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus.

The building also shares its space with Robert Clark’s Resurrection, which makes the Styka painting seem low-key and tasteful in comparison.

I am in no way intending to make fun of anyone’s religion. The reverence anyone feels toward these spiritual events is noble and understandable. It is the aesthetic garishness of the paintings that makes me turn my head in embarrassment.

Yet they must be seen. For to understand America, you must understand Hollywood, and to understand Hollywood, you must come to know Forest Lawn.

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Forest Lawn takes itself very seriously — I suppose it should.

But management there is reluctant to tell visitors where celebrities are buried. It is the final resting place of such Hollywood luminaries as Clark Gable, W.C. Fields, Nat ”King” Cole and Jean Harlow, but you will discover the grave sites only by luck.

At the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, 6000 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood, stop at the front office to get a photocopied map marked with many of the celebrity graves.

The atmosphere is very different from Forest Lawn. Gone is the grandiosity, gone is the perfect manicure. The graveyard is falling down and not always perfectly mowed. Many headstones are tumbling over, and even the larger monuments are looking kind of sad.

Yet it is the place to go to see Rudolph Valentino’s final resting place, a shoulder-high drawer in the Hollywood Cathedral Mausoleum. The famous ”Lady in Black” no longer visits, yet on the day I visited, there were fresh roses ornamenting the plaque.

Cecil B. DeMille’s plot is suitably gaudy, and Douglas Fairbanks Sr.’s grave has a reflecting pool although the water is rather murky. And both Darla Hood and Carl ”Alfalfa” Switzer are found here. Among the other celebrities are Edward G. Robinson, John Huston, Eleanor Powell, Janet Gaynor, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Adolphe Menjou, Paul Muni and Woody Herman. mel blanc grave

If you are a real Hollywood buff, you may notice the small, bronze plaque for Virginia Rappe. She was the unfortunate starlet who died in the Fatty Arbuckle scandal.

Someone besides me remembers, for the small cypress tree above the plaque was adorned with several red ribbons and there were flowers on the nameplate.

And Mel Blanc’s headstone actually says, ”That’s all folks.”

In all, about 400 celebrities are buried there.

The Hollywood Forever Cemetery was founded in 1899 and originally consisted of 100 acres. It has shrunk considerably and is backed now by a factory of corrugated tin.

Los Angeles Pet Memorial Park


”It’s sad, but Rudolph Valentino’s dog’s grave is better kept than his own,” says the woman at the Los Angeles Memorial Pet Cemetery in Calabasas.

Valentino’s Doberman pinscher, Kabar, is only one of many celebrity pets buried on the hillside next to the U.S. 101 freeway. The cemetery is immaculately well-kept. It was not always so. Kabar headstone pet cemetery

The park opened in 1928, and among the 30,000 or so animals interred there are the pets of Jimmy Durante, Mickey Rooney, Humphrey Bogart, Angie Dickinson, Bud Abbott and Eddie Fisher.

But by the late ’60s, the family who owned the cemetery no longer could keep it up and donated it to the Los Angeles Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which also found it too expensive and difficult to operate. They were in the process of selling the land to a developer when a group of the pet owners banded together to save the place.

In 1986, the consortium of pet lovers bought the land and managed in the process to persuade the California Legislature to pass a law declaring that all pet cemeteries must remain so in perpetuity, so no dog lover should worry that someday his Fido’s grave will be bulldozed over for a 7-Eleven. topper headstone pet cemetery

The entrance to the cemetery is obscure, and you must drive through some nasty industrial roads to get there, but once inside the gates, everything is sunlight and green hills.

There is a fountain and a statue of St. Francis, and you can tell that the non-profit S.O.P.H.I.E. Inc. (Save Our Pets’ History In Eternity) that operates the park really cares about the animals in its charge.

It does not encourage tourism and doesn’t want to be seen as a freak show, but it will accept visits from anyone interested in what it has been doing.

And perhaps you may find the grave of Hopalong Cassidy’s horse, Topper, or the modest plaque above the final resting place of Petey, the ring-eyed dog from the Our Gang comedies.


I once met Darryl Strawberry before he was Darryl Strawberry. That’s not technically true — even when I met him and he was a rookie outfielder for the Triple-A Tidewater Tides of Norfolk, Va., he had an aura of superstardom about him. He may have hit .235, but he had the glow. He was Darryl Strawberry.

Still, the meeting was awkwardly unsatisfactory. It always is when we meet someone famous. Before the game, Strawberry sat in a corridor at the stadium at a card table piled high with programs. He was there to sign them for the fans. It is a standard practice, and he showed neither enthusiasm nor disdain for the process. lucy ricardo

He smiled, signed the program, or the glove that the kids offered him, and said things like, ”Hi, glad to see you. Enjoy the game.”

Meeting a celebrity seems attractive at first, when you think you will get a chance to rub up against something bigger and greater than everyday life. But it never works out that way. What happens is that you shake hands with a goofy smile on your face, you say something like, ”I’m so happy to meet you. I’m your biggest fan.” And then you realize you are an idiot. It’s the Lucy Ricardo syndrome.

But what else is there to say? It isn’t as if you will discover some secret you have in common: ”Oh, Mr. Redford, you own a Pacer, too? Great car, isn’t it?”

Or that the bonds of friendship will open up: ”Sure, Ms. Taylor, I’d love to join you and Michael Jackson for dinner.”

Meeting a celebrity is a dead end.


I think I first learned this when I was in sixth grade. New York Yankee first-baseman Moose Skowron came to visit our Boy Scout troop one night. What I saw was a very large man with a permanent smile standing like an oak among the shrubbery of adoring Little Leaguers. They all wanted to talk to Skowron, but they didn’t have anything to say to him.

And, of course, he didn’t have anything to say to them, either. What was supposed to be a treat for the kids turned into an inarticulate dumb-show.

Later in life, I have come across various celebrities and semi-celebrities, and the result is invariably the same.

When I was unofficial staff photographer for the Eastern Music Festival in Greensboro, N.C., I was sent to the airport to pick up world-famous cellist Leonard Rose, who was going to give master classes. I carried his bags, put them in the trunk of the car — he carried his cello — and I drove him to his hotel. He sat as silent as a pumpkin for the entire ride.

What was I going to say — ”I love your Dvorak, but don’t you think a looser vibrato would add some warmth to the second movement?” Yeah, right.


It is all very different as a journalist, doing interviews.

In such cases, the celebrity does a well-rehearsed dance with the journalist. We have something to talk about — the upcoming book, play or concert. And the celebrity usually reiterates the best lines and choicest anecdotes from previous interviews. When you are lucky, something new, deeper or more genuine pops out. teller

But you haven’t really met the celebrity, you have used each other for your mutual gain.

Occasionally, the interview goes somewhere odd: When talking to the silent half of Penn and Teller recently, we got off on a long conversation about the difficulty of translating Virgil’s Aeneid. Teller is a former Latin teacher, though you would never know from their act that either of them can even read.

And even in an interview, Lucy isn’t always far away. Once, when interviewing Tom Seaver, I wound up asking for his autograph, and, what is worse, it was ”for a friend.” It really was. But I felt like a dweeb anyway.

I have made it a general rule of conduct never to bother a celebrity if we chance to come in contact. If I see Alice Cooper at a string-quartet concert, I leave him alone. If I see Hugh Downs forking pasta at a restaurant, I won’t even look his way.

What would be the use? Celebrity is a sort of wall around certain people, constructed of a palisade of smiling teeth.