The world lost not only a legendary screen talent but an unstoppable humanitarian and all-around Hollywood goddess when Dame Elizabeth Taylor passed away this week. Her family and those who knew her personally lost much more: a loving mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and loyal friend.
Amid the tears, this one-of-a-kind Dame had the last laugh. She not only arranged to show up late to her own funeral, she kept media hounds and grave hunters guessing as to her final resting place until the very end.
Despite persisent rumors that a "major star" (did we really need three guesses?) had engaged the services of Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale after being impressed with their handling of Michael Jackson's 2009 funeral, TMZ initially and erroneousy reported she'd be buried in a crypt beside her beloved parents Francis and Sara at Westwood Memorial Park as if it were a done deal before discovering the real story.
Thus, most everyone was caught off guard when her funeral came together within 24 hours of her death (in keeping with Jewish burial rites) at the Memorial Terrace of Forest Lawn's Great Mausoleum, the eternal resting place of her dear friend Michael who rests in the Sanctuary of Ascension at the GM's Holly Terrace.
Tough luck for the hideous Westboro gnats who had neither the time nor a prayer to mobilize. God really does work in mysterious ways.
My first hunch was that perhaps she had purchased a seemingly empty family room at the end of the Sanctuary of Bendiction across from MGM Boy Wonder Irving Thalberg, but I was wrong.
After all was said and done, and Dame Elizabeth was laid to rest in a very private ceremony, Los Angeles sister news stations KCAL9 and KCBS2 reported that she was entombed beneath the statue of an angel (or in its base), also described as a "soaring Michelangelo angel." (Original source re: beneath the statue was Dame Elizabeth's publicist, Sally Morrison.)
The only angel I know of that would be Dame worthy on Memorial Terrace and anywhere else inside the GM is the mighty "In Memoria" - located in the Hall of Memory, facing down Cathedral Corridor where she's been greeting visitors on their way to the infamous Last Supper Stained Glass Window since 1931.
Standing 15 feet tall on its base (the statue itself is a tad over 10 feet high) "In Memoria" is mesmerizing, just like Dame Elizabeth. I have to admit that in all the years I've studied the GM, I never once thought of it as being an entombment spot, and most every seasoned grave hunter I've spoken to couldn't figure it out either when we first heard the news tonight. But as we've come to realize, the GM holds many twists, turns and surprises within her immortal walls.
"She gives the promise of a new day which shall know no night; she offers the pledge that no name shall perish; she does not offer death, but eternity and a life remembered. She is the Angel of Memory." ~ excerpt from Art Guide of Forest Lawn (1941)
At first glance the setting behind this amazing creation, sculpted from Porracci marble by Italian sculptor Professor Ermenegildo Luppi (not Michelangelo), appears to be just a wall. But if you look closer, there appears to be two crypt fronts on either side of the base. Architecture-wise, there's room behind the wall for entombments.
Will Dame Elizabeth's name and epitaph eventually appear on one of them or on the base? I'm guessing yes. Time will tell. It is interesting to note that she chose a location that is accessible to the public. Back in the day when Memorial Terrace was first opened, you had to get tickets to see the Last Supper window show because it was so popular. Don't be surprised if its popularity rises again.
3/28/2011 Update: See post-funeral photo of "In Memoria" surrounded with flowers at Findagrave.com.
Thank you, Dame Elizabeth, for not only choosing a place where your fans can pay respects (unless something changes policy-wise) but for also exposing everyone, by default, to the amazing array of art and cultural history that this area of the Great Mausoleum has to offer.
According to every Michael Jackson fan I talked to (or read online) their sorrow for the loss of his unquestionably best friend was comforted by the fact that the two will now rest together forever in immortality in the same structure, albiet on different terraces. His fans continue to show their devotion with pilgrimmage to Forest Lawn and from what I've heard Dame Elizabeth will get from them the same royal treatment and respect.
Rest well, Dame Elizabeth. Thank you for every good deed you did for others, for caring for and loving people with AIDS at a time when the world shunned them, for fighting the good fight through your foundation and for being one of Hollywood's authentic, fascinating stars with a capital S-T-A-R.
In lieu of flowers, her family has requested that donations be made to The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation.
"In Memoria" images were donated by Cemetery Historians Anonymous and are not for media reproduction without permission/linkback, please and thank you. Thank you to the Hollywood Underground for your assistance on this story.