Welcome to Hollywood graveyard where we set out to remember and celebrate the
lives of those who lived to entertain us, by visiting their final resting places.
Today we continue our tour of New York City, where we'll find such stars as Mae
West, Harry Houdini, Louis Armstrong, and many more. Join us, won't you?
In our previous video we kicked off our tour of New York City. Today we continue
our tour, picking up not far from where we left off, and making our way across
Brooklyn and Queens. If you haven't done so already, be sure to check out part 1.
In 1847 New York passed the Rural Cemetery Act, which allowed for the
development of commercial cemeteries outside Manhattan. Until that time the
dead, for the most part, had to be buried in either a churchyard or on private land.
The result of the new Rural Cemetery Act was that in the mid 1800s
large parcels of land bordering Brooklyn and Queens were developed as rural
cemeteries - dozens of them, many clustered together, making essentially a massive
borough of cemeteries. In Brooklyn and Queens the dead outnumber the living.
We'll begin our tour on the eastern edge of Brooklyn at the Evergreens Cemetery,
the westernmost in the largest concentration of cemeteries spanning
Brooklyn and Queens. Evergreens was founded in 1849 just after the passage
of New York's Rural Cemetery Act, and for a time it was New York's busiest
cemetery, hosting now some half a million souls. Not far in from the entrance we
take the first left and find Lawn Section on the right. Here we find the
grave of animation and cartoon pioneer Winsor McCay. He's considered America's
first great cartoon film animator, long before the days of Disney and Fleischer.
He gained renown with his 1905 comic strip Little Nemo in Slumberland, an
innovative and visually stunning comic which followed the adventures of a boy
named Nemo through his dreams. By 1911 he had branched out into animation creating
an animated short film with his Little Nemo characters - one of the earliest
cartoons ever produced. He began using these cartoons in his vaudeville act.
His best-known and most significant cartoon was Gertie the Dinosaur, produced in 1914.
Gertie was introduced in his vaudeville act as a tame, trained dinosaur, with
which McKay would interact. This film was innovative in that it was the first to
use detailed backgrounds separate from foreground characters, as well as
animation techniques like key framing, in-betweening, registration marks, and
animation loops. This little film would influence
generations of animators to follow.
Let's cross evergreens to the far east side.
At the intersection where Redemption section begins
we find legendary dancer Bill "Bojangles "Robinson,
one of vaudeville highest-paid and best known performers. It wasn't long until he
branched out into every major form of entertainment, from Broadway, Records,
radio, film, and television. He was considered the greatest tap dancer of
his era, known for his stare dance routine. Here he is performing that
routine with Shirley Temple.
Robinson used his fame to overcome racial
barriers of the era, from being one of vaudeville first Black solo performers,
to headlining Broadway, and appearing in the first interracial dance team on
screen, with Shirley Temple. The 1943 musical film Stormy Weather was based on
his life, and featured many other top African-American performers of his day,
including Lena Horne, Cab Calloway, and Dooley Wilson. National tap dance day is
May 25th, Bojangles birthday.
If we cross Cyprus Avenue to the Northeast we reach the next cemetery
in this cluster: Union Field Cemetery, a Jewish cemetery founded in 1878.
Following this pathway a short ways we find the grave of Bert Lahr on the right.
He was a comedic actor who worked his way through burlesque, vaudeville, and
Broadway. He's best remembered today for his role as the Cowardly Lion in
The Wizard of Oz.
"Why don't you come along with us? We're on our way to see the
Wizard now, to get him a heart."
"And him a brain."
"I'm sure he could give you some courage."
"Well, wouldn't you feel degraded to be seen in the company of a
Cowardly Lion? I would."
On Broadway Lahr won a Tony Award for his role in Roxy in 1964.
He died in 1967 while filming The Night They Raided Minsky's.
If we continue east through Union Field we'll pass into Beth El Cemetery.
These are some of those magnificent old cemeteries you'd best get out of your car and walk through.
Try and get lost --
after all, that's the best way to get somewhere you've never been.
Here at Beth El Cemetery, just northwest of the roundabout, is the Goodman family
mausoleum. This is where legendary actor Edward G. Robinson is entombed. Robinson
epitomized the tough-guy gangster of Hollywood's golden age. He shot to
stardom for his acclaimed performance as the sneering, psychotic, Rico Bandello
in 1931s Little Caesar.
"Ernie, you're through.
You hired these mugs, they missed, now you're through.
If you ain't out of town by tomorrow morning, you won't never leave it
except in a pine box.
I'm taking over this territory. From now on it's mine."
Other notable roles include Johnny Rocco in Key Largo,
Barton keys in Double Indemnity,
and Dathan in the Ten Commandments.
He died just weeks after finishing Soylent Green, and has since been ranked among
the greatest male stars of classic cinema.
Let's continue to enjoy this magnificent old necropolis as we turn south to
Not far from the entrance and the road is the grave of one of the most
legendary magicians in history: Harry Houdini. He was born Erik Weiss in
Budapest, his family arriving in the States when he was a child. He began
performing magic as a teenager in New York which is when he changed his name
to Houdini, after French magician Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin. He performed in
dime museums and sideshows, initially with card tricks, but soon began
experimenting with escape acts. He rose to fame with his handcuff escape acts,
and found himself performing in the biggest vaudeville houses in the country.
The escape acts he performed soon expanded to straitjackets, coffins, chains,
prisons, and more, becoming evermore spectacular.
He was also known for his submersion feats, like the milk-can escape, and the
Chinese water torture cell. In the 20s he appeared in several films which
showcased his magic, but live performance was always his bread and butter. The seal
on his tomb is the Society of American Magicians, for which he served as
president from 1917 until 1926. Every year the Society holds a broken wand
ceremony here at his grave. In later years Houdini shifted his efforts
towards studying and debunking spiritualism, mystics, and psychics --
an effort carried on today by other magicians such as James Randi and Penn & Teller --
to un-muddy the waters between skilled illusion for the sake of
entertainment, and fraud. So in this vein before his death Houdini agreed with his
wife, Bess, that after his death if he could find a way to communicate with her,
he would send her the secret message, "Rosabelle Believe." Harry Houdini died on
Halloween in 1926 at the age of 52. Days earlier he had been struck in
the gut by a man testing his strength. Houdini wasn't prepared for the blows,
and performed thereafter in great pain. He refused medical treatment, and days
later his appendix ruptured and he died of peritonitis. His wife, Bess, held a
seance annually for ten years after his death, but never heard the secret code
from Houdini from the other side. The tradition of holding a seance for
Houdini continues, held by magicians around the world on Halloween.
Bess was not only his wife but also a performer and his stage assistant.
She isn't actually buried here, though. She's at Gate of Heaven, further north.
Sadly, her family, who was Roman Catholic, would not allow her to be buried here in
a Jewish cemetery with her husband.
Continuing east across Cypress Hills Street we reach the last but oldest in
this cluster of cemeteries: Cypress Hills. It's about the same size as the
Evergreens, but was founded one year earlier in 1848, making it the first
nondenominational rural cemetery in the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens.
On the grounds are two mausoleums, including the grandiose Cypress Hills Abbey,
completed in 1931.
This is where we'll begin our tour...
Hmmm, but the doors appear to be locked.
Maybe if we ring the doorbell?
And we're in! The only living souls in this entire building.
Let's make our way up to the
second floor, then left and head all the way to the end of the corridor, then right.
Near the end on the left is the crypt of comedic actor Victor Moore.
He made his screen debut in 1915 and was a major Broadway star in the 20s and 30s,
including in the Gershwins' Of Thee I Sing. Some of his notable film roles include
Swing Time alongside Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, and It Happened on Fifth Avenue.
His final role was as the plumber in The Seven-Year Itch in 1955.
Back the way we came let's pass the stairway to the south side.
On the right we find the West family plot. Way up at the top is the queen of
innuendo, Mae West. She was an actress, writer, and comedian, whose career
entertaining audiences spans seven decades. She began performing at the age
of seven and by her teens was a professional on the vaudeville circuit.
As a young woman Mae wore her sexuality on her sleeve, and
began writing her own risque plays, including the 1926 play entitled Sex.
The play was a success, but it scandalized many viewers and locals for its immorality.
Mae was even arrested on an obscenity charge and sentenced to 10
days in a workhouse. The scandal only increased her popularity. Other plays
include The Drag in 1927, which dealt with homosexuality, and Diamond Lil in
1928, a Broadway hit. Hollywood soon came calling, launching her film career at
close to 40. She was a box-office hit in the early 1930s in films like She Done Him Wrong,
and I'm No Angel. As her film career took off film censors
from the production code were in full force. She continually pushed the limits
of censorship with her tawdry one-liners and dodged censors with naughty double entendres.
"Well, when I'm good, I'm very good, but when I'm bad I'm better.
"I see a man in your life."
"What, only one?"
"Aren't you forgetting that you're married?"
"I'm doing my best."
"You certainly know the way to a man's heart."
"Funny too because I don't know how to cook."
"I'll never forget you."
"No one ever does."
"You were wonderful tonight."
"I'm always wonderful at night."
"Why don't you come up sometime and see me?"
By the mid-1930s she was the
highest-paid woman in America, but the censors began to crack down so she left
film and returned to stage for a time. When censorship began to end in the 60s
she returned to film, like in Myra Breckinridge. After her death at age 87 a
service was held at Forest Lawn in Hollywood before being entombed here in
New York with her family. She's considered today one of the greatest
female stars of classic cinema.
That's all we find here in the Abbey.
Let's turn out the lights, lock the doors behind us,
and head back out into the rain.
We now sojourn south, pass under Jackie Robinson Parkway which
splits the cemetery, to find the grave of its namesake.
In section 6, next to the road, we find legendary number 42, Jackie Robinson.
He was a professional baseball player who broke the color barrier in 1947, becoming
the first African-American to play in the major leagues since it was
segregated in the 1880s. He played one season in the Negro Leagues before being
signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers. By the end of his first season he was awarded
Rookie of the Year, and in the years to come he'd be a six-time all-star and MVP
in 1949, the first black player to win the honor. Donning the Dodgers uniform
and playing in America's favorite sport, Robinson was a powerful and courageous
symbol of equality in an age when racial segregation still prevailed in this
country. His influence helped spark the civil rights movement in the decades
that followed. Robinson retired in 1956 and was inducted into the Baseball Hall
of Fame in 1962. And in 1997 MLB retired his number 42 across all major league teams.
He died of a heart attack in 1972 at the age of 53.
In 2013 the film 42 was released, chronicling the life of Jackie Robinson.
We've reached the end of this massive cluster of cemeteries, so let's leave the
entertainment world for a short time and enter the criminal underworld, to find a
few individuals who are more notorious than famous. North of Cypress Hills a few
miles is st. John Cemetery, a Catholic cemetery, where a large number of
organized crime figures are laid to rest. St. John Cemetery was consecrated in
1881 and now covers 190 acres here in the Middle Village area.
In Section 3, near the intersection, south of the St. John Cloister,
is the Lucania family mausoleum,
where the notorious Lucky Luciano is entombed. He was born
Salvatore Lucania in Sicily and his family emigrated to
New York when he was a child. He soon embarked on a budding career in crime.
As a teen he befriended Jewish mobsters Meyer Lansky and Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel.
Lucky worked for one of the prominent bosses of the era Joe "the Boss" Masseria.
But Masseria and rival boss Maranzano, who are known as "Mustache Petes," were
old-school in their approach to organized crime, refusing to branch out
and do business with Jewish or Irish gangs. During the Castellammarese War
in the early 30s which pitted Masseria and Maranzano against each other,
Lucky led and orchestrated the efforts to remove both of them, with the vision
of a national crime syndicate. Masseria was murdered, ending the war, and then
Maranzano was murdered, ending the era of the old-world Mustache Petes, and
ushering in an era of modern organized crime, with Lucky Luciano as the
prominent crime boss. He's therefore known as the father of modern organized
crime in America. He then formed The Commission, the governing body for
organized crime, composed of representatives of Five Families, one led
by him, the Luciano family, which later became the Genovese family.
In 1936 lucky was sent to prison for his crimes for 30 to 60 years. However, during
World War II he offered to help in the war effort, to use his criminal
connections to aid the Allies' causes against Italy, in exchange for a commuted
sentence. The offer was accepted, and after the war he was released from
prison, but deported back to Italy. He died of a heart attack at the Naples
Airport in 1962 where he had gone to meet with a producer to discuss a film
about his life.
In section 11, near the Resurrection Mausoleum, we find the man
who took over the Luciano family: Don Vito Genovese. He was an
Italian-American mobster who rose to power during Prohibition. Along with
Lucky, Genovese it was part of the Costellammarese War, and was one of
the men responsible for the assassination of Masseria. In 1957 he
took over the Luciano family, which then became known as the Genovese family.
He was known as "the boss of all bosses" in that era, leading what was, and remains to
this day, one of the most wealthy, powerful, and dangerous crime
organizations in the world. In 1959 he was convicted of smuggling and
distributing narcotics, and was sentenced to federal prison for 15 years. He would
continue to run the family and order hits from behind prison walls, where he
finally died of a heart attack in 1969.
Let's make our way over to the Magnificent St. John Cloister.
This mausoleum is unlike any we've seen before,
with many crypt faces actually covered in wood rather than marble, perhaps
symbolic of Jesus the carpenter, or the craftsmanship of old-world monasteries
Let's head up to the fifth floor, leaving the carpet and wood and
entering the familiar marble and concrete, into section 2.
Here we find Carlo Gambino.
After the formation of the Commission in 1931 he belonged to the
family formed by Vincent Mangano. Power struggles within the family led to a
succession of bosses, usually by murder, and in 1957 Gambino assumed command of
the family, which then bore his name. Don Carlo's preferred rackets included
extorting labor unions, gambling, loan-sharking, etc, but he forbade
narcotics trafficking. He led the family twenty years until his death. Unlike many
of his contemporaries who were either murdered or died in prison,
Gambino died at home of natural causes at the age of 74. He was one of the
inspirations for the Vito Corleone character in The Godfather.
"I'm gonna make him an offer he can't refuse."
Heading down to the third floor we find one of the men who succeeded Gambino.
Here we find John Gotti, who became head of the Gambino family in the 1980s.
Unlike other mob bosses, Gotti didn't shy away from the limelight, and kept a
genial public appearance, despite being one of the most dangerous and powerful
mob bosses in the country. He was known as the "Teflon Don" for his ability to
avoid prosecution... that is until his own underboss,
Sammy the Bull, turned against him and helped the FBI bring various charges against
Gotti, including murder, racketeering, and tax evasion. He was sentenced to life in
prison where he died of cancer in 2002. After his death his descendants were
featured in a reality TV show, Growing Up Gotti.
That's all we find today at St. John's.
Heading northwest now several miles in the Woodside area
of Queens is Calvary Cemetery. First Calvary Cemetery is where Don
Corleone's funeral took place in The Godfather.
Today we'll visit the new Calvary Cemetery, just next to it to the east, and
re-enter the entertainment world. Calvary Cemetery, a Catholic cemetery, was
consecrated in 1848, making it one of the oldest cemeteries in the country.
Over the years additional divisions were added, and there are now four, spanning
some 365 acres. It's the largest cemetery in the United
States, not by acreage, but by the number of interments - somewhere around 3 million.
In 2nd Calvary, section 42, adjacent to the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, is the
grave of funnyman Dom DeLuise. His early roles were in television, seen in
appearances on shows like Tinker's Workshop and The Munsters. He was good
friends with Mel Brooks, becoming a regular in Brooks's films, like Blazing
Saddles, Silent Movie, and History of the World Part 1. Dom was also good friends
with Burt Reynolds, and they appeared together in several
films, including The Cannonball Run, and Smokey and the Bandit II. Fans of
animation and Don Bluth films will also recognize his voice as a number of
lovable characters, from Itchy in All Dogs Go to Heaven, to Jeremy in
The Secret of NIMH.
"Hey, there's a cat out there!"
"Quiet! Does he ssee you?"
"Stand perfectly still."
"Everything's fine. He's headed right for us!"
"Don't panic! Fast or slow?"
"Medium... make that fast. Very fast! I have to go now, excuse me, I really..."
In addition to acting in comedy Dom was quite renowned as a chef. He died in 2009
at the age of 75.
From here we travel east several miles to Flushing Cemetery,
where the cool autumn rains have returned. This is a non-denominational
cemetery, founded in 1853, and covering around 75 acres.
In section 6, in the north end of the cemetery,
we find one of the great music legends of the last
century: Louis Armstrong, a stone trumpet adorning the top of his tombstone.
Born into poverty in New Orleans, young Louis performed on the streets as a
child for change. He rose to prominence in the 20s as a jazz trumpeter and
cornet player. He was innovative in that he shifted the focus of jazz music to
the solo performer and not just group improvisation. In 1925 he formed his own
band, Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five, recording some of his early hits, like
"Potato Head Blues." His nickname, Satchmo, was a shortening of another nickname he
had acquired as a child, "satchel mouth," though the accounts of how he acquired
this nickname vary. Louis Armstrong would become as well known for his distinctive
gravel singing voice and scat singing as for his trumpet playing, and by the 50s
he'd become a beloved American icon and jazz ambassador. Many of his biggest hits
came later in life, like Mack the Knife, Hello Dolly, and What a Wonderful World.
Our last cemetery of the day is just beyond the eastern limits of Queens in
Elmont: Beth David Cemetery. This is a large Jewish cemetery founded in 1917.
South of the entrance, in section 4 off of Lincoln Avenue, we find Dr. Joyce Brothers.
She was a psychologist, perhaps best remembered for her daily advice
column that ran in various newspapers from 1960 to 2013. And in the 1950s she
was given her own TV show where she dispensed relationship advice, becoming a
pioneer in the field. She appeared in a number of film and TV roles, often as
herself or as a self-parody. She was also the only woman to win the top prize on
the $64,000 Question gameshow. Dr. Joyce would influence other radio and TV
doctors, including Dr. Laura, and Dr. Phil.
Let's double back to the northern end of
the cemetery to section BB2. East along this path several rows then left
we find legendary film composer Bernard Herrmann. He was one of the most
innovative and unconventional composers of Hollywood's Golden Age, perhaps best
known for his scores with Alfred Hitchcock, including Vertigo and Psycho.
He's the man behind the shrieking strings in Psycho,
the low woodwinds in Orson Welles Citizen Kane,
the saxophone in Taxi Driver,
and the Twisted Nerve whistle.
Herrmann could hold you in suspense,
unnerve you and terrify you with his music, but at the same time
move you to tears with his stirring string writing, something no one did better,
like Scene D'Amour in Vertigo.
He was also an early experimenter of unconventional sounds in film scores,
like the theremin in the Day the Earth Stood Still.
He was nominated for five Oscars, winning for All That Money Can Buy. His work for
television includes music for the Twilight Zone, including the first
season's opening theme. He died just hours after finishing recording the
score for Taxi Driver.
South the handful of sections we reach section A.
South of the road, nearly hidden, is the grave of Abe Vigoda.
He was an actor who had a
number of notable and memorable roles throughout his career. He played
Salvatore Tessio in The Godfather.
"Barzini wants to arrange a meeting.
He says we can straighten any of our problems out."
"You talked to him?"
I can arrange security on my territory.
In the 70s and 80s he played Phil Fish on the popular sitcom Barney Miller,
a role which earned him three Emmy nominations.
Beginning the 80s Abe Vigoda was the subject of a number of
celebrity death hoaxes, being mistakenly
reported as having died, first in 1982, then again in 1987. This led to a running
gag Vigoda would play along with about whether or not he was still alive.
In the end he lived and performed into his 90s.
Continuing south to the second to last section, section 1-4, we find the Kaufman
family plot near the southwest corner. Here is actor and comedic performer Andy Kaufman.
His brand of comedy wasn't telling jokes but rather performance art
that borders on the absurd and irrational. He was one of the inaugural
performers on Saturday Night Live when it debuted in 1975.
"I think we should turn off the TV.
I don't know if you are laughing at me or with me."
He often performed as
an unnamed foreign man, which eventually evolved into the Latka Gravas character
on the 70s and 80s sitcom, Taxi. Other memorable characters include
lounge singer Tony Clifton.
At the young age of 35, Kaufman, a nonsmoker, was
diagnosed with a rare form of lung cancer which took his life in 1984.
Before his death Kaufmann had often spoken of faking his own death as a
grand hoax, so for years after he died many people believed he was still alive
preparing for a return. Sadly such was not the case. As a tribute
to Andy Kaufman the band REM wrote the song "Man on the Moon."
Man on the Moon would also be the title of the film about his
life starring Jim Carrey.
If you have a car now is definitely the time to get back in it; it's a long way
to our last stop in the far southeast corner of the cemetery, section H9.
Next to the road is the Landau family plot, where we find Martin Landau. He worked as
a cartoonist before breaking into acting in the 50s in films like Alfred
Hitchcock's North by Northwest. On television he made appearances on shows
like The Untouchables, The Outer Limits, and The Twilight Zone,
and was a series regular on the original Mission Impossible TV series, as master
of disguise Rollin Hand. The role made him a star and earned him three Emmy
nominations. In the late 80s he starred in a series of Oscar-nominated roles
culminating with the 1990 Tim Burton film Ed Wood, in which he played Bela Lugosi.
The role won him the Oscar.
"Children! I love children!"
"Trick or Treat!"
"Aren't you scared, little boy? I'm going drink your blood."
"You're not a real vampire. Those teeth don't frighten me."
Landau was also an acting coach who
mentored greats such as Jack Nicholson.
He died in 2017 at the age of 89.
And that concludes our tour.
What are some of your favorite memories of the stars we visited today?
Share them in the comments below, and be sure to like, share, and
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Thanks for watching! We'll see you on the next one.
Where the tombstones go when they die? Right here in a tombstone graveyard.