When friends come from out of town and want to see Los Angeles, I show them a good time by taking them to a graveyard.
Hollywood Forever (www.hollywoodforever.com) is still a working cemetery and crematorium (George Harrison was turned to ashes here) filled with famous movie stars and moguls, early Los Angeles civic leaders and others.
There's something for every generation. My 9-year-old daughter goes to see the memorials for Johnny and Dee Dee Ramone, two members of the Ramones. She knows all the words to "Sheena Is a Punk Rocker," "Rockaway Beach" and her favorite, "KKK Took My Baby Away."
We saw Johnny's marker, called a cenotaph, with a bust of him playing guitar (he was cremated after his death from prostate cancer in 2004). It's right next to a memorial to Academy Award winner Hattie McDaniel (Mammy in "Gone With the Wind") and across a narrow road from the reflecting pool of the crypt for Douglas Fairbanks (Sr. and Jr.). Dee Dee's headstone, black and inscribed "OK ... I gotta go now," was across a lake from Johnny, past Tyrone Power and Cecil B. DeMille. Dee Dee was buried after dying of a heroin overdose in 2002. My wife and daughter performed the traditional kiss of Dee Dee's gravestone (it's covered with lipstick).
The oddest grave in Southern California houses a graphic artist and missile enthusiast named Carl Morgan Bigsby, who had his headstone carved into a 20-foot replica of an Atlas rocket.
Hollywood Forever fully embraces its tourist attraction role. In the summer, it shows movies on the grounds. The cemetery is the final resting spot of silent-era heartthrob Rudolph Valentino, studio head Harry Cohn, gangster Bugsy Siegel and dozens of other famous folks. The whole thing backs up against the Paramount backlot.
As a journalist, there are two areas of interest when I visit Hollywood Forever Cemetery. The first is the mausoleum of Marion Davies, the actress who was the mistress of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, inspiration of Orson Welles' "Citizen Kane."
Then there is the Los Angeles Times. There's the obelisk to Harrison Gray Otis, leader of the paper soon after it was founded in 1881 and owner from 1884. He died in 1917. Next to his monument is a curving marble memorial dedicated to his daughter Marian Otis and her husband, Harry Chandler, publisher from 1917 to 1944.
There's also a memorial to the 20 employees killed by a bombing of the Times in 1910 during an ugly struggle between Otis and local labor activists..
And, as you drive out of the cemetery, you pass the grave of legendary voicemeister Mel Blanc (Bugs Bunny and a hundred other cartoon characters), whose stone is inscribed with perhaps his most famous line:
"That's All Folks."