The Women of Westwood

Westwood Cemetery (officially Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery) is a small cemetery located on a tiny back alley, tucked behind large glass buildings and massive garbage dumpsters. It’s difficult to find, and if you aren’t looking for it, you certainly wouldn’t know it was there.

It’s a perfectly obscure resting place for people who were hounded by paparazzi in real life. It also happens to be a place where women from some of the more tragic of Hollywood stories are buried.

The Girls of Poltergeist

I remember when Dominique Dunne and Heather O’Rourke died, and all the speculation around the curse of Poltergeist. The two played sisters in the movies. The third sibling (Oliver Robins) had his own near-death experience while filming the puppet scene in the first movie.

Dominique Dunne, who played Dana in the movie, was strangled in 1982 by her boyfriend when she ended their relationship after it turned abusive. She was 21 years old.

Heather O’Rourke played Carol Anne in the movie. She died in 1988 of to septic shock caused by an obstructed bowel. She was only 11.

Hollywood’s Playmate and Bright Star

Dorothy Stratten was both a Playboy Playmate in 1979 and the Playmate of the Year for 1980. Critics and known personalities in Hollywood all thought she had tremendous potential and a future as an actress. Unfortunately, her jealous ex-boyfriend ended her life in August 1980 while she was filming her first (and only) film, They All Laughed. She was 20 years old.

There are two films about Dorothy Stratten: Death of a Centerfold (1981) and Star 80 (1983).

Tragedy on the Splendour

At age 9, Natalie Wood became an instant star with Miracle on 34th Street. Her career is the stuff of legend and her marriage to Robert Wagner had the paparazzi pull that Brad and Angelina have today.

On November 28, 1981, while aboard her personal yacht, Natalie fell into the water and is thought to have drowned, which is rather ironic because she had a terrifying fear of water. No one noticed she was missing until the next day. She was 43.

Natalie’s sister (Lana Wood) and the captain of the boat feel that there is more to her death than a simple drowning and have recently asked for the case to be reopened.

The Blonde Bombshell

The grave of Marilyn Monroe is probably the most visited grave at Westwood. You’d have to be completely out of touch to not know the story behind this legendary starlet. Marilyn (born Norma Jeane Baker) died on August 8, 1962, of a suspected barbiturate overdose; however, there has been much speculation and mystery around the circumstances surrounding her death.

After her death, Joe DiMaggio made her burial arrangements. Marilyn originally chose Westwood because the two people who had the most impact on her early life are buried there — Ana Lower and Grace Goddard. He also sent roses to her crypt three times a week for twenty years.

The crypts surrounding Marilyn’s are highly sought after. The one immediately to her left is owned by Hugh Hefner. The crypt directly above was once owned by her husband, Joe DiMaggio. It was sold to a California entrepreneur (Richard Poncher) when DiMaggio and Monroe divorced. It has been on and off the market over the years.

To the right of Poncher’s crypt is one belonging to Darbi Winters — a relatively unknown girl from South Dakota. This teen once told her mother that she wanted to be buried near Marilyn Monroe when she died. A few months after Marilyn died, Darbi was killed by her step-father (at age 16) and her mother fulfilled her wish.

Charlie’s Angel

Farrah Fawcett’s death isn’t as tragic as the stories above — yet for me it seems so very sad. Farrah was an icon of my childhood. She represents the spirit of the 70s and appeared in Charlie’s Angels, Cannonball Run, The Six Million Dollar Man, the Partridge Family, I Dream Of Jeannie, the Sonny And Cher Hour, the Brady Bunch and so so many commercials.

Her death just seems so wrong. As if she took the 70s with her when she died. Her death was mostly missed by the press because she succumbed to cancer the same day Michael Jackson died.

Finally, Westwood is also where Jennifer and Ava Syme Reeves are buried and where Janis Joplin was cremated. Janis is a member of the 27 Club.

6 comments on “The Women of WestwoodAdd yours →

  1. I’m not sure that Westwood was a particularly popular cemetery for stars until after Marilyn was buried there (there’s maybe one or two cinema people buried there from before).

    Also, the cost of a crypt for Darbi Winters when she died wasn’t prohibitive like it is now (of course I’m assuming — perhaps incorrectly — that her family didn’t have millions of dollars).

    The cemetery is so tiny. It’s literally a green space that the city grew around.

  2. I didn’t know this was such an obscure cemetary…and very sad that so many women there died by the hands of some angry boyfriend/dad/man. too sad. I didn’t know about this place so Thank You!!!

  3. Your information on the Poltergeist girls is partially wrong! Their ages when they sadly left this world, were 22 and 12 respectively. I may be a little pedantic, but it’s better to be right then wrong!

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