Five Places to See Dead Celebrities

More than 600,000 people visit Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee, each year to pay homage to “the king,” Elvis Presley. But he certainly doesn’t have the market cornered. Here are five other noteworthy celebrity cemeteries worth a visit.
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Pere Lachaise cemetery, Paris, France
Pere Lachaise cemetery, Paris, France  (iStockphoto)

Fame is a funny thing. It doesn’t dry up and slink away when a celebrity body goes cold. In fact, death can sometimes rocket C-list celebrities into the A-list stratosphere. And when big stars like Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, and Elvis Presley die, they unwittingly become the engines that fuel entire industries, feeding a ravenous fandom that never seems sated.

Dead famous people also kick into gear a robust tourist trade around celebrity cemeteries. In fact, hundreds of fans recently showed up at Marilyn Monroe’s final resting place, Westwood Memorial Park, in Los Angeles, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of her untimely death. Here are a few other cemeteries with noteworthy residents.

1. Père Lachaise: Paris, France
An eclectic high-low cultural mix is what makes Père Lachaise the most fascinating cemetery destination in the world. In one corner lie the remains of the French playwright Molière; in another corner, the actor Yves Montand rests for eternity. There lie the composer Chopin and the painter David; here, the ever young and ever beautiful rock star Jim Morrison. Upon Morrison’s grave were sprinkled the ashes of punk rocker Stiv Bators, who was hit by a taxi in Paris but lamentably left the hospital before his concussion proved fatal. Also in residence: the great actress Sarah Bernhardt; French racecar drivers; Napoleonic-era journalists; the celebrated mime Marcel Marceau; Irish novelist, playwright, and poet Oscar Wilde; and the Little Sparrow herself, French chanteuse Edith Piaf. All these incredibly talented artists share space in this beautifully atmospheric 1804 cimetière in the city’s 20th arrondissement (district). After paying your respects, head to the Latin Quarter and ruminate on art and celebrity at one of the city’s famous cafes.

2. Green-Wood: Brooklyn, New York
Founded in 1838, the sprawling 478-acre Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York, is handsomely landscaped as a park, with glassy ponds and elaborate mausoleums. The entrance alone has the Gothic grandeur of a cathedral, and the permanent residents number in the hundreds of thousands. Although the cemetery has its share of grandiose tombs and local celebrities—including Boss Tweed and Horace Greeley—many of its most famous and flamboyant residents rest in simple, contemplative spots. Leonard Bernstein, for one, lies beneath an unadorned stone marker. Even Jean-Michel Basquiat, cutting-edge 1980s artist, and Louis Comfort Tiffany, designer of gloriously decorative stained glass, have standard-issue tombstones. Green-Wood, a National Historic Landmark, is an easy subway ride from Manhattan. After, head to one of Brooklyn’s many hip neighborhoods, such as Park Slope or Fort Greene, for a post-cemetery memorial in a pub or restaurant.

Published: 17 Sep 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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