The idea of watching a movie outdoors at night in an LA cemetery might at first seem a little odd to some. And I must admit, it did at first to me, too. But that’s exactly what I did this past Saturday night for a screening of Pee Wee’s Big Adventure at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. My best friend Kylee, who attended the screening with me, said she just couldn’t wrap her head around celebrities and Pee Wee’s Big Adventure all coming together outdoors at a cemetery. I guess it’s just something you have to see to believe. My acting mentor, Diane Louise Salinger, who played Simone in the 1985 cult classic, invited me and my fellow classmates to the Pee Wee screening, which is shown annually at the legendary cemetery.
The cemetery screenings were started in 2001 by a company called Cinespia, which was founded by set designer and classic movie buff John Wyatt. Each Saturday night during the summer season, Wyatt screens old time movies at Hollywood Forever. The movies are projected onto the walls of the mausoleum where Rudolph Valentino is interred. Tickets are $10 per person, and I must say it is $10 well spent. The atmosphere is fabulous and I can’t think of a better way I could have spent a Saturday night with my best friend. Guests bring wine, beer and food and sit on blankets and beach chairs under (and above) the stars, eating, drinking and watching classic Hollywood movies.
Before arriving at the cemetery last night I really had no idea what to expect. While driving there we got stuck in some major traffic on Santa Monica Boulevard and we were joking that all of the traffic must be for the Pee Wee screening. Turns out it actually was!!!! I had no idea what a humongous following Pee Wee had! The line to enter the cemetery literally wrapped around the block. Because we were attending the screening with Diane, we got the total VIP treatment – VIP parking and the best seats in the house!!! Pictured above are my best friend Kylee and up and coming actor Justin Dray (look for him in an upcoming episode of ICarly) hanging out before the show.
While waiting for the movie to start, I got to meet and talk with Jay Boileau, owner of the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. In 1998 Jay and his partner, Tyler Cassity, of Forever Productions, purchased the cemetery after it had fallen into serious disrepair and bankruptcy. The California government had even stepped in to cease the further sales of cemetery plots. Jay and Tyler painstakingly refurbished the 62-acre property to its former grandeur and have made it what it is today. Countless celebrities are buried at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, including Marion Davies, Cecil B. DeMille, former Columbia Pictures president Harry Cohn, Tyrone Power, Mel Blanc, Lana Clarkson, Estelle Getty, Bugsy Siegel, Johnny Ramone, Rudolph Valentino, Douglas Fairbanks, Peter Lorre, and sisters Norma and Constance Talmadge, among many others. The cemetery has also been featured in countless television and movie productions, including Charmed, The Player, LA Story, Brothers & Sisters, Frasier, Nip/Tuck, Bonfire of the Vanities, Hot Shots!, The Prestige, The Young and the Dead, and Virtuosity.
The highlight of the night for me had to be when, thanks to Diane, I got to meet Pee Wee himself, Paul Ruebens!!!! 🙂 Paul could not have been kinder or more down to earth. I half expected him to be a bit off the wall, like his character, but in reality he was very calm and almost on the shy side. Couldn’t have been a nicer guy! Diane even got him to pose for a photo with me – the only photo he took all night – and I could not have been more excited! 🙂 Also in the photograph is my teacher, Diane, and Elizabeth Daily, who played Dottie in the film.
Before the show, Paul gave a brief introduction, during which he talked about the original premiere of Pee Wee’s Big Adventure back in ’85. I must say it was very cool watching the movie with all of the stars in attendance. Very cool!!! All in all, it was a great night and I highly recommend stalking the cemetery during future summer screenings!! While it may seem strange to be watching movies in a graveyard, after experiencing it for myself, I now actually want to be buried at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery – eternally resting in the heart of Hollywood while forever watching classic movies under and among the stars. 🙂
Until next time, Happy Stalking! 🙂
Stalk It: Hollywood Forever Cemetery is located at 6000 Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood. The Cinespia screenings are over for Summer 2008, but you can check this website in 2009 for next summer’s schedule. The cemetery is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. You can purchase a map of the stars’ graves at the flower shop near the cemetery’s main entrance.