Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Rod Serling: Six Feet Under

Interlaken, New York is a quiet farming community cut off from the modern world.  The Amish call it home, as evidenced by the horse-drawn buggies you'll pass as you traverse its main roads.  Local businesses are few and far between, but they do offer a number of wineries, perfect for a Sunday afternoon in the country.  Stop by Lucas Vineyards while you're there, and ask for a sample of the Tugboat Red.  Interlaken is also home to Lake View Cemetery, where you'll find one of the most iconic figures in pop culture history.

Rod Serling, known to multiple generations as the host, creator and producer of The Twilight Zone, was only 50 years old when he suffered two back-to-back heart attacks in the spring of 1975.  In an attempt to save his life, his doctors recommended open-heart surgery, but cautioned Serling that it too was a risky endeavor. Serling went ahead with the procedure.  While on the table, he suffered his third and final heart attack, which ultimately took his life on June 28, 1975. 

Serling was interred at Lake View, some 70 miles from his home town of Binghamton, on July 2.  A combat veteran of World War 2, he received full military

It seems a far cry from Hollywood, where Serling left his mark as a screenwriter, playwright and television producer.  The cemetery itself is in disrepair, and volunteers are always encouraged to come forward and help with general maintenance.  Lawn care assistance is greatly appreciated, and cash donations are always welcomed.

All this however, does not keep the faithful away.  Serling's grave was by far the most decorated one that our Six Feet Under staff saw on this day, appropriately enough over Memorial Day Weekend.

Location: Lake View Cemetery, Interlaken, New York
Plot: Lot G, 1044
Finding this grave isn't particularly difficult.  Enter through the main gate and head down the sloping hill.  At the bottom, look to your left for the sign for Lot G.  Park your car and make your way on foot towards the center, where you'll spot a large tree, near the foot of which you'll find Serling.

In 1982, Hollywood decided to re-visit The Twilight Zone, with disastrous results.  Three actors were killed during the production.  The film was also notable for the appearance of Serling's widow Carol as a frightened airline passenger during the segment "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet."  She passed in 2020 and is buried next to her husband.

Visitors to the grave often leave gifts and other mementos to Serling and the show, such as the hand-painted rock depicting the title sequence shown above.  The rock on the right paraphrases actor Jonathan Winters, appearing in the classic episode "A Game of Pool" as James L. "Fats" Brown," Heaven's greatest billiards player.

It's no secret that Serling was an avid smoker, as you'd often see him holding a cigarette as he set up the evening's tale.  Lost to history however, were the cigarette spots he did at the end of each episode, during their original run on CBS.  Watch one of them here.  And please kids, don't smoke.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Hidden Graves of the Rich and Famous

In our travels, we've encountered some truly opulent memorials and headstones, befitting their celebrity occupants.  Jackie Gleason's temple in Miami will always inspire.  Other markers are much more simple, suggesting an air of humbleness or geniality.  Harvey Korman comes to mind as one such example.  Still others have no marker at all, for reasons known only to them or their families.

These graves require some extra detective work to track down, and will require a lot of time and patience.  At least they did for those of us here at Six Feet Under Hollywood.  But our goal is to help YOU find these graves, so let's get started.  This week, we present five A-listers who would otherwise have absolutely nothing in common but for the fact that they're buried in anonymity.

Fred Gwynne will forever be identified as Herman Munster, the patriarch of a family that only survived two seasons on network TV.  He was never fond of the role, and in his later career, shunned interviews and questions regarding the series, an early sign of his desire for anonymity.  His career rebounded in the final years of his life, with character roles in such notable films as Fatal Attraction, and of course, My Cousin Vinny.  Here's a documentary of his life.

Gwynne died on July 2, 1993 at his home in Taneytown, Maryland.  The cause of death was pancreatic cancer.  Click here to see CNN's coverage of his death.

Sandy Mount United Methodist Church Cemetery
Finksburg, Maryland
Look for the dark stone that reads "Shannon."  Gwynne is directly in front of it.

Trivia: In addition to being an actor, Gwynne found later success as the author and illustrator of a series of children's books, including Easy to See Why, The King Who Rained, and A Chocolate Moose for Dinner.  Unlike most self-made celebrity publications, these are actually worthy of your time.

Fred "Rerun" Berry was the breakout star of the 70's hit What's Happening?.  He came to the show after spending years as a professional dancer with the Los Angeles-based troupe The Lockers.  Watch Rerun show off his moves here.  Berry returned to the role of Rerun in the mid-80s revival series What's Happening Now??, but left after one season when his salary demands were unmet.  Ironically, cast mates claim that Berry's demands led to the cancellation of BOTH versions of the show.

Death: Rerun passed on October 21, 2003 while recovering from a stroke.  He had recently been diagnosed with type-2 diabetes.

Location: Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills
Plot: Tribute Section, Lot 1015, Grave 4
Look for this statue and use it as a reference.  Look for a round, circular stone bearing the number 1015.  Berry is to the left of it, between two other markers.
Photo courtesy of FindaGrave.Com

Trivia:  After giving up show business in the 1990s, Berry became a Baptist minister, and later, a pitchman for the UniverSOUL Circus.  However, it's his turn as a contestant on Howard Stern's game show "Hooker Price is Right" for which he'll always be remembered.

Roy Orbison.  It feels like an artist of his stature deserves more than to be simply tossed in with this group, and perhaps one day, we'll devote more space to him.  Orbison's musical career is legendary, as much for his rich baritone voice as the air of mystery created by his persona.  In the 1960s, Life Magazine referred to him as the "anonymous celebrity," a star with so many hits for whom the public knew so little about.  So perhaps that makes him perfect for this column after all.

Death: Shortly after forming supergroup The Traveling Wilburys, Orbison suffered a fatal heart attack on December 6, 1988.  He was only 52.

Location: Pierce Brothers Westwood Village
Plot: Section D, #97
Roy is between two stones - "Frank Wright Tuttle" and "Grandma Martha Monroe."

Trivia: A common misconception about Orbison is that he was blind.  He wasn't, which explains why he was driving through Hazzard County in this famous TV clip, wherein he's forced to sing his signature song "Oh Pretty Woman" after being caught in a speed trap.  Incidentally, we believe that the same song was used in a Julia Roberts movie.  Updates to follow.

George C. Scott was actually a Marine before becoming an actor.  Born in Wise, Virginia, he enlisted in the service shortly after his 18th birthday in 1945.  When his tour was completed, he set out for Broadway, receiving numerous Tony award nominations for such productions as Richard III. Eventually landing in Hollywood, he'd land the signature role in the 1970 film Patton, for which he is best remembered.  Watch his stirring speech here.  Watch it lampooned by Jackie Gleason here.

Death: Throughout the 1980s, Scott suffered a series of heart attacks.  The last one came on September 22, 1999.  He was only 71 years old.

Location: Pierce Brothers Westwood Village
Celebrity Row, to the left of Walter Matthau

Trivia: Although Scott won the Academy Award for his portrayal of General Patton, he refused to accept it, stating that he was not in league with the other actors who were nominated (he wasn't belittling them, rather, he was being humble - kind of like his stone here).  The award was donated to the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington.

Frank Zappa was a self-taught guitarist/artist/filmmaker/etc.  To read his Wikipedia page, you'd think he'd cured cancer.  Born in Baltimore, he'd move with his family to the West Coast, finally settling in San Diego.  There in high school, he joined his first band, crafting an offbeat musical style that would be his personal trademark. 

Zappa passed from prostate cancer on December 4, 1993.  His family released a public statement that read "Composer Frank Zappa left for his final tour just before 6:00 pm on Saturday."  We approve.

Location: Pierce Brothers Westwood Village
Plot: Section D, #100 (three down from Roy Orbison)
GPS: 34.0582314, -118.4415970 (hddd.dddd)
Zappa is between actor Lew Ayres and nobody Christopher Denny Ziesmer.

Trivia: Really, who didn't love Zappa's daughter Moon's one-hit single, Valley Girl?

Tuesday, May 1, 2018


What can I say about this fantastic series that hasn't been said before?  A show that over 11 years showed us the true horrors of a war that in reality only lasted for three.  When it's final episode aired in February 1983, more than half the country was watching.  It's lead-in that night was an episode of Alice wherein dingy waitress Vera becomes convinced she's seen a UFO.  I'm probably the only person alive who remembers that.

M*A*S*H had a slew of fine actors, many of whom have sadly passed on.  Even sadder, most of them were cremated.  But you can still pay your respects to some of the notables, all of whom are buried within the Los Angeles area.

McLean Stevenson played Henry Blake during the first three seasons, but grew tired of playing second, even third banana.  He moved to starring roles in several short-lived sit-coms, none of which ever brought him as much success.  He'd later admit "I made the mistake of believing that people were enamored of McLean Stevenson when the person they were enamored of was Henry Blake." 

In early 1996, Stevenson checked in to Encino-Tarzana Regional Medical Center for surgery on his bladder, during which time he suffered a fatal heart attack.  He passed on February 15th.

Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills
Plot: Courts of Remembrance, Columbarium of Valor, Niche G64649

As most fans know, when Stevenson left the series, his character was killed off in a manner that forever changed the tone of the series.  Lost to history however, was his appearance just a few months later on Cher's variety show, wherein he appeared as Henry Blake, alive and well.  See it here.

After M*A*S*H, Stevenson segued into his own sit-com, appropriately titled The McLean Stevenson Show.  View the premiere episode here, complete with original 1976 commercials!

Ever wonder whatever happened to Henry's iconic fishing cap?  I'd love to know too, but here's a replica (?) I own.

Wayne Rogers played Trapper John McIntyre.  Like Stevenson, he left after just three seasons.  But whereas Stevenson had approached the producers during Season 3 asking to be released from his five-year contract, Rogers showed no such courtesy.  His abrupt departure before the beginning of Season 4 led to years of legal wrangling between him and the producers.

Rogers died on December 31, 2015 from pneumonia.  He was appropriately buried in Pierce Brothers Westwood Village.

Location: Pierce Brothers Westwood Village
Plot: Columbarium Wall

Trivia: Rogers was a successful businessman and investor even during the M*A*S*H years.  Years later, he'd turn that expertise into a co-hosting gig on the FOX News Channel program Cashin' In.  See a tribute to him here from his colleagues.

The Weeds

Larry Gelbart is not exactly a household name, but he is the man who got the show on the air, serving as producer, writer, and director for the first four seasons (aka the good years).  One of Gelbart's greatest contributions to the series was the character of Corporal Klinger, a man wearing women's dresses in order to be discharged from the Army.  Once his tour with M*A*S*H was over, Gelbart created a very similar character for the big screen, earning an academy award nomination for the 1982 film Tootsie.

Death: In June 2009, Gelbart was diagnosed with cancer.  His wife refuses to declare where he had it.  But he passed just a few months later on September 11.

Location: Hillside Memorial
Plot: Canaan Garden Mausoleum, Crypt F475

Trivia:  After leaving M*A*S*H, Gelbart helped created another 70's sit-com sensation, Three's Company.

Clete Roberts appeared as himself in one of the series more popular episodes "The Interview."  Years later, when M*A*S*H did the obligatory clip show, he was invited back to reprise the part.  Roberts was the perfect man for the part, having served as a war correspondent in both World War 2 and Korea.  Not surprisingly, he later rose through the ranks of the CBS News Department.

  No information available.

Location: Pierce Brothers Valley Oaks
Plot: Oak Vale Garden, Plot 73, Grave B

Right before his death in 1984, Roberts reprised his war correspondent role one last time in the failed M*A*S*H spin-off W*A*L*T*E*R, which centered on the life of Radar O'Reilly after his return from Korea.  CBS passed on the series, but you can see the pilot episode here.

Cremated Cast

Larry Linville left the series after five seasons.  Like McLean Stevenson, he'd never repeat the success he found at the 4077th.  He guest starred in a number of series, including the has-been trifecta of Love Boat, Fantasy Island, and Murder, She Wrote.  In 1981, he landed a co-starring spot on The Jeffersons spin-off Checking In, which only lasted a handful of episodes. See the introduction here.  (Caution: Marla Gibbs sings the theme song.)

Death: Linville, a lifelong smoker, died from complications of lung cancer surgery on April 10, 2000.  Next time you come across a rerun featuring old Ferret Face, look at his shirt pocket, and you'll often see the outline of a pack of Marlboros.  His ashes were scattered off Bodega Bay, California.

Trivia: In 1997, Linville joined Larry Gelbart and his successor David Ogden Stiers at a decommissioning ceremony for the last surviving M*A*S*H unit in Korea.

Harry Morgan joined the cast in Season 4, replacing the departed McLean Stevenson.  As most everyone knows, Morgan won the role after having previously appeared as an insane general during Season 3.  Watch him review the troops here. Ironically, he'd later cite it as his favorite episode.  When M*A*S*H concluded in 1983, Morgan transitioned to the short-lived spin-off AfterMASH, along with co-stars Jamie Farr and William Christopher.  Watch the pilot episode here.

Death: Morgan, age 96, died of pneumonia on December 7, 2011.  According to his son Charles, he passed peacefully in his sleep.  His cremated remains were given to the family.

Trivia: Ever wonder who the lady in the picture frame on Colonel Potter's desk was?  It was Morgan's first wife, Eileen Detchon.

William Christoper was the third actor to portray Father Mulcahy, having succeeded most notably Rene Auberjonois in the M*A*S*H feature film.  During M*A*S*H's final season, he worked with then-unknown actor Patrick Swayze, a patient who learns he has leukemia.  His best work in the series is probably the resulting scene shown here.  He'd later guest star on a number of series and commercials, including this memorable spot for Godfather's Pizza. 

Death: Christopher, age 84, passed from small-cell carcinoma on December 31, 2016, exactly one year after co-star Wayne Rogers.

Trivia: Christopher was an early promoter for the awareness of autism, his own adopted son Ned being an autistic child himself.  Along with his wife Barbara, he published a book for autistic families in 1985 entitled Mixed Blessings.  Buy a copy here.


David Ogden Stiers, who replaced Larry Linville as the pompous Major Charles Emerson Winchester, passed away on March 3, 2018, following complications from bladder cancer.  As of this posting, no information is available on the location or disposition of his remains.

Six Feet Under Hollywood Theory:
Stiers passed in his home town of Newport, Oregon, just a few hours from Eugene, where his parents were both laid to rest.  We suspect we'll inevitably learn that he too was interred at West Lawn Memorial Park in Eugene.

To be continued!