Michael Jackson's Resting Place Among Greats

Forest Lawn Guards Singer's Privacy in Death

Forest Lawn is notable for its lack of headstones and for a tight-lipped policy about celebrities' grave sites.
Forest Lawn is notable for its lack of headstones and for a tight-lipped policy about celebrities' grave sites. (By Kevork Djansezian -- Getty Images)
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By Sue Manning
Associated Press
Friday, September 4, 2009

GLENDALE, Calif. -- Michael Jackson's life played out on a world stage, headlines screaming his every move, frenzy following his footsteps.

His death, memorial and investigation amplified the delirium and prolonged the anguish of family and fans. On Thursday, he was to be interred at Forest Lawn Glendale in a hidden monument in a mausoleum made of marble and mortar.

No marquees, no spotlights, no paparazzi. And yet, there were stars.

As Michael Jackson's family arrived more than an hour late for the pop singer's funeral, celebrities such as 77-year-old Elizabeth Taylor endured the hot summer night.

Temperatures hovered at 90 just before sunset, with some mourners fanning themselves with programs for the service. Other mourners included ex-wife Lisa Marie Presley, baseball star Barry Bonds, actors Macaulay Culkin and Mila Kunis, choreographer Kenny Ortega and the Rev. Al Sharpton.

A police escort ushered a motorcade of 31 cars from the Jacksons' Encino compound to Forest Lawn Glendale. Jackson's parents, Joe and Katherine, and the singer's children, 12-year-old Prince Michael, 10-year-old Paris Michael and 7-year-old Prince Michael II, known as Blanket, were in the front rows for the service.

Jackson will be enveloped by the grandeur of the grounds, the majesty of the buildings and the significance of history.

In the Great Mausoleum, he joins such Hollywood legends of yesteryear as Clark Gable, Jean Harlow, W.C. Fields and Red Skelton, as well as "The Last Supper Window," a life-size stained-glass re-creation of Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece, and "Moses," a reproduction of Michelangelo's sculpture for the tomb of Pope Julius II in Rome.

On a hilltop nearby, in a building the size of a sports arena, hang two of the world's largest paintings, "The Crucifixion" and "The Resurrection." Like so many of the people in it, the park has also become fabled. Founded in 1906 by a group of businessmen on 55 hillside acres in the town of Tropico (later Glendale), there was no forest and no lawn, just a traditional dusty graveyard with granite tombstones and elaborate messages.

By the time Hubert Eaton arrived in 1912 at the age of 31, according to Forest Lawn literature, he had graduated from college in Missouri, punched cattle in Montana and lost a small fortune on a silver mine in Nevada. He took the job as sales manager at the cemetery so he could repay his mine backers.

He persuaded people to buy plots before they died. After just a year, he had increased sales 250 percent. After three years, his sales had multiplied so much, he was able to buy a stake in the company and was named general manager.

Despite resistance from his board of directors, monument-makers, the community and customers, Eaton eliminated tombstones so grass could be planted and lawns mowed; he renounced the name "cemetery," changing it to "memorial park"; he started collecting world-class art or detailed reproductions; and he added mausoleums, acres, trees, a florist, a gift shop and chapels that are used for funerals and weddings.

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