Originally published July 1, 2001 The public has always had a profound curiosity about Hollywood life off the screen, and sometimes it transcends glamour alone. The idea of dressing to the nines for the Academy Awards or owning a hidden, gated mansion just off Mulholland might be fascinating enough, but the underside of Hollywood generates a dark lure all its own. Understandably so. When someone who has talent, fame, wealth and a boundless future departs this world early through suicide, murder, accident or overdose, it’s as if we want to slow down as we pass by, as guilty for glimpsing the carnage as we are perplexed by the waste. So in Hollywood, for every 10 tourists who insist on seeing the Chinese Theatre’s concrete impressions or the lacy iron of Paramount’s Bronson Gate, there are probably two or three who want to find the exact spot where Sal Mineo was knifed to death by a robber or the grave where Vic Morrow lies. If you enjoy playing tourist in L.A., or if your out-of-town guests are intrigued by the rich, the famous and the dead, there are ample opportunities to plumb these depths. The options for a formal tour are pretty limited, however. A company called Graveline Tours used to ferry tourists around town in a vintage hearse but went out of business. So did Oh Heavenly Tours. Beyond the Glitz Tours used to offer a regular cemetery tour, but now schedules them only by special request. But you can still explore on your own. Serious enthusiasts might want to pick up a copy of “California Babylon” (St. Martin’s Griffin; $15.95). Since its release last October, it has quickly emerged as a bible to all things nefarious in Los Angeles history. Authors Kristan Lawson and Anneli Rufus were exhaustive in their fact-checking – something that can’t often be said of the legions who conduct tours in Hollywood. For those seeking a sampling of Tinseltown sites involving various figures who came to untimely ends, here is a suggested circle tour. It can be accomplished in an afternoon, although the ideal day to undertake it is Sunday, when L.A.’s vehicle traffic is relatively light and most of the parking meters are free. Candles in the wind: Most tours would probably end dramatically with Marilyn Monroe, but because her life and death are such a fitting metaphor for the Hollywood fairy tale turned upside down, we’ll begin with her. The suicide with sleeping pills occurred in a Spanish-style Brentwood home on a street so remote it looks like an alley. Just off Carmelina Avenue, as it runs from San Vicente to Sunset, there is a series of 25 short cul-de-sac stubs, all named Helena Drive. In 1962, at the time of her despondency, Monroe was living at 12305 5th Helena Drive. The current owners have taken down the address number out front, and the house is almost completely obscured from prying eyes. It hides behind a tall white stucco wall, a solid gate, a forbidding blue door in the wall, and a thicket of bamboo that has been allowed to bush out riotously. A few miles farther east, in the shadow of Westwood office buildings and multiple parking structures, is Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park and Mortuary (1218 Glendon Ave., about 100 feet south of Wilshire Boulevard). Monroe is entombed in a crypt here. You’ll find it in the extreme northeast corner of the tiny cemetery. Just follow the tourists. They seem to arrive here at regular intervals, often in twos. And often with lipstick. The marble of the crypt is smudged dark from repeated kisses. General manager Mike Ross said attempts have been made to clean the marble, but it is a rare travertine grade that is very porous, and has begun to break down from the repeated scrubbings. The company has decided to just let the lipstick build up, although the crypt plate, which bears Monroe’s name, is occasionally removed and cleaned. Interest in all things Marilyn figures to be more pronounced than ever this year, since June 1 marked what would have been her 75th birthday. With the airwaves humming with tributes and retrospectives, tourist traffic at the grave and death site figures to be heavier than usual. Also resting in this cemetery are two other glamour queens who died of unnatural causes. The grave of Natalie Wood, who drowned off Catalina Island one night in 1981 after apparently stumbling off the yacht she owned with husband Robert Wagner, is in the north-central part of the cemetery. The grave of Playboy playmate Dorothy Stratten, who was murdered in 1980 by a jealous husband, is in the southeast portion; it was bedecked with flowers during our visit. That’s Ben to you: Mobster Bugsy Siegel had leading-man looks and a hearty appetite for Hollywood glitter. When in Las Vegas, where he was a pioneer of the gambling Strip, he was scrupulous about security. In Beverly Hills late one night in 1947, he let his guard down, and paid with his life. Siegel was shot through the back of the head while sitting in the living room of the home at 810 Linden Drive (just south of Sunset off Whittier Drive). The exterior of the house is little changed since then. The killer, who was never identified, fired a .30-caliber Army rifle through one of the arched windows to the right of the front door. Siegel is often credited with conceiving or founding Las Vegas. He didn’t, but he did help put the glitz into it, sparing no expense to make the Flamingo attractive to high rollers. By the way, no one called him “Bugsy” to his face, according to a Las Vegas Review-Journal profile. It was “Ben” if you wanted to keep your teeth. Introducing Dorothy: At a time when there were few African-American faces on the big screen (and most of them playing bit parts as servants), Dorothy Dandridge accomplished in the film industry what Jackie Robinson did in baseball. For her work in the 1954 movie “Carmen Jones,” a derivation of the opera by Georges Bizet, she earned a best-actress Oscar nomination. But she came to a sad end. After making some unfortunate choices in men and investments, a penniless Dandridge committed suicide in 1965 at age 42, overdosing on prescription barbiturates in her West Hollywood apartment. The complex, El Palacio Apartments, at the northeast corner of La Cienega Boulevard and Fountain Avenue, is an enchanting place that screams early Hollywood – all Spanish arches and lush greenery. Amid such beauty, it’s difficult to imagine Dandridge’s despair within, which makes it an appropriate symbol for her life. The final binge: In the 1950s and earlier, the untimely ends of Hollywood stars were often the result of suicide or car or plane crashes. With the 1960s came another avenue: reckless recreation. The sites begin to stack up as you make your way into Hollywood. River Phoenix collapsed of an overdose of cocaine and heroin in front of the Viper Room (8852 Sunset Blvd.). John Belushi conducted the same fatal experiment (a speedball direct to the grave) at the Chateau Marmont (8221 Sunset Blvd.). Janis Joplin fell to a mix of extraordinarily pure heroin and alcohol in the now-dumpy Highland Gardens Hotel (7047 Franklin Ave.). If you stop by the Chateau Marmont, don’t expect to be able to visit the scene of Belushi’s demise – unless you plan on staying the night. Belushi was riding a crest of popularity in 1982, and had more than enough money to hole up in one of the hotel’s exclusive bungalows, which are accessible only to guests holding room keys. But if you slip around behind the hotel and walk the sidewalk along Monteel Road, you can peer down into the area of the tree-shaded bungalows. Belushi’s last binge occurred either in Bungalow 3 or Bungalow 2 – there seems to be an equal number of contentions for each locale. Dashed dreams: It’s become a Hollywood cliche: Hopeful young woman from the heartland comes west with visions of stardom, only to be confronted by the silver screen’s cruel vagaries of random selection. Unfortunately, there have been some dreadfully sad realities to underscore that story line. You can be reminded of one every time you look north toward the Hollywood sign. In 1932, a disillusioned actress named Peg Entwistle climbed a worker’s ladder to the top of the “H” and leaped off in a suicide attempt. But according to the book “Lost Hollywood,” by David Wallace, Entwistle missed the rocks that were five stories below and instead landed on a cactus. She underwent a series of operations but died painfully several days later. At the time, there was a letter in her mail from the Beverly Hills Community Players offering her a role in their next play. The most enduring symbol for the Hollywood dream turned nightmare, however, is the Black Dahlia, one of the most infamous unsolved crimes in Los Angeles history. The victim, Betty Short, was murdered in 1947, her body found severed in a vacant lot. She was never known as the Black Dahlia in life. That came after the crime. At the time, five newspapers in Los Angeles competed vigorously for lurid stories, and one, for the sake of rack sales, contrived the nickname because Short had dyed her hair black. According to “California Babylon,” she lived at the Alto Nido Apartments, at 1851 Ivar Ave. (just south of Franklin). The building and the sign out front appear unchanged since the time of the crime. A long, steep sidewalk climbs from Franklin to the front door. And on a recent visit, it was nothing short of creepy to see half a dozen unsavory-looking men milling about out front. Final resting place: Some cemeteries (notably Forest Lawn) do not encourage star-struck tourists, citing a desire to maintain family privacy. But Hollywood Memorial Park, at 6000 Santa Monica Blvd., has gone to the other extreme. It changed its name to Hollywood Forever and freely dispenses celebrity lists and maps at its gift store or office. “First time here?” asked an ebullient woman at the entry kiosk. When told that, yes, it was, she exclaimed, “Whooo! Well, we have Rudolph Valentino in the crypt and Bugsy Siegel out back.” Hollywood Forever lists more than 100 celebrities, including the crypt of Valentino (some idiots have scratched graffiti in the marble) and a veritable shrine, including reflecting pool, to Douglas Fairbanks Sr. For the grave of a starlet who died young, head to the lagoon and look for the marker for Jayne Mansfield, who died in a car wreck in 1967. Incredibly, the headstone includes a faded picture of her in all her busty glory, clad in a clingy gown and fur boa that are as platinum as her hair. Several miles south of Hollywood, Holy Cross Cemetery and Mausoleum (5835 W. Slauson Ave., just east of the 405 Freeway) also hands out celebrity lists and maps. The directions to the sites are confounding, but staff members are helpful. In the mausoleum, after a sharp right turn inside the front door, you can make your way to the crypt of John Candy, the rotund Hollywood funny man who died of a heart attack in 1994. Under the inscription (“One heart and one soul”) is an inlaid gold heart – a big one. Out in the cemetery, a number of Hollywood celebrities can be found in the area of the grotto (upon entering the grounds, take a hard left up a road marked “Sacred Heart – D” and you’ll find the grotto on the left nearly at the top of the hill). Slightly west of the grotto is a polished black headstone that is likely to give you a chill. It is that of Sharon Tate Polanski, a victim of a horrific rampage by the Manson Family at her Benedict Canyon home in 1969. Tate, the wife of director Roman Polanski, was pregnant at the time. Her baby was also buried here and at least afforded the dignity of a name on the headstone: Paul Richard Polanski. A short distance away, three long rows south of the grotto, is the grave of Bela Lugosi, famed for his portrayals of Dracula. On the day of my visit, some blood-red rose petals from a bouquet several feet away had fallen and been blown across the ground by the wind. There were grave sites all around, but somehow all eight petals came to rest on Lugosi’s headstone and grave. It seemed a good time to call a halt to the tour. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORE11 theater productions to see in Southern California this week, Dec. 27-Jan. 2160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!