A LIVING LEGEND
"ONLY IN DREAMS, IN BEAUTIFUL DREAMS"
Roy Orbison's life story is one of the strangest and most tragic in all of rock. His wide-ranging tenor voice and haunting ballads of lost love touched millions in the sixties and earned him the enduring respect of some of the greatest stars of rock, including the Beatles and Bruce Springsteen. But after horrifying accidental deaths in his family Orbison's career went into a near eclipse in the seventies, only to be revived to even greater heights in the mid-eighties, shortly before his own early death.
Roy Kelton Orbison was born in Vernon, but grew up in the small West Texas oil town of Wink. By age six he was learning to play guitar from his father and soon showed a precocious talent, performing on the radio and for school friends. While still in high school he formed the Wink Westerners, but didn't get serious about music until he left for North Texas State College. There he met fellow student Pat Boone and backed him on guitar in an early recording. Boone's quick success with rhythm and blues covers in 1955 was an object lesson. Orbison left college after two years, transformed the Wink Westerners into the Teen Kings, and began to tour West Texas.
On the strength of a recording of "Ooby Dooby" done at Norman Petty's studio, Orbison and the Teen Kings received a contract from Sun Records. There his only success was a rerecording of "Ooby Dooby," which was a hit in 1956. Deciding to concentrate on his writing talents, Orbison dissolved the Teen Kings and started composing songs, among them "Claudette," a paean to his wife that the Everly Brothers made into a 1958 hit, allowing Orbison to buy out his Sun contract. In 1959 the Monument Records label offered a recording contract, and by 1960 the company's international hits began to flow, nearly all penned by Roy Orbison. Between 1960 and 1964 Orbison produced the classics "Only the Lonely," "Blue Angel," "Running Scared," "Blue Bayou," "It's Over," and "Oh, Pretty Woman." In addition, Orbison won influential friends: While touring England in 1963 he met the Beatles, who were great admirers of his work.
A series of personal tragedies began in 1966 when his wife, Claudette, died in a motorcycle accident. Two years later, two of their three sons died in a fire that destroyed his home. Although Orbison remarried in 1969 and continued to tour in the seventies, the hit records would not come. Health problems complicated the end of the decade, and in 1979 he had to have heart surgery.
Orbison's popularity was renewed by singers such as Linda Ronstadt and Van Halen, who recorded his sixties songs in the late seventies and eighties, a 1980 duet with Emmylou Harris ("That Lovin' You Feelin' Again") that won a Grammy, and his 1987 induction into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame. The next year promised a full renewal of his career, with the release of The Traveling Wilburys, Volume One, a collaboration with George Harrison, Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, and Jeff Lynne. But within a month Orbison was dead of a heart attack, Hendersonville, TN. A posthumous collection contained the last great song of Orbison's career, "You Got It."
Roy Kelton Orbison (April 23, 1936 – December 6, 1988), nicknamed "The Big O," was an influential American singer-songwriter, guitarist and a pioneer of rock and roll whose recording career spanned more than four decades. By the mid-1960s Orbison was internationally recognized for his ballads of lost love, rhythmically advanced melodies, characteristic dark sunglasses, and his taut, powerful alto voice coupled with his occasional distinctive usage of falsetto, typified in songs such as "Ooby Dooby," "Only The Lonely," "In Dreams," "Oh, Pretty Woman," "Crying," "Running Scared," and "You Got It." Elvis Presley once said Orbison had the best singing voice he'd ever heard and wanted to sing with with him if he had the chance. In 1987 he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and posthumously in 1989 into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
* Biography - Early life and career
Orbison was born in Vernon, the seat of Wilbarger County in north Texas. He was the second son of Nadine Shults and Orbie Lee Orbison. After having first moved to Fort Worth about 1943 to find work in the munitions and aircraft factories which had expanded during Second World War, the family moved to the West Texas oil town of Wink in Winkler County near the border of New Mexico, in late 1946. Music was an important part of his family life.
At the age of thirteen in 1949, Orbison organized his first band, "The Wink Westerners". When not singing with the band he played guitar and wrote songs. The band appeared weekly on KERB radio in Kermit, Texas. Orbison graduated from Wink High School in 1954. He attended North Texas State College in Denton, Texas for a year, and enrolled at Odessa Junior College in Odessa, the seat of Ector County, in 1955 to study history and English. The Wink Westerners had some success on local television, and were given 30 minute weekly shows on KMID and KOSA. One guest on their show was Johnny Cash, who advised them to seek a contract with his record producer, Sam Phillips, of Sun Records. At first Phillips turned them down ("Johnny Cash doesn't run my record company!"), but he agreed to add them to Sun Records' roster after hearing a recording made at Norman Petty's studio in Clovis, New Mexico. The Wink Westerners were renamed "The Teen Kings", and Orbison left college in March of 1956, determined to have a career in music. He ultimately headed for Sun Records in Memphis, Tennessee.
Orbison achieved his first commercial success in June 1956 with "Ooby Dooby", written by Orbison's friends from college, and produced at Norman Petty's studio in Clovis, New Mexico. Many of the earliest songs he recorded were produced by Sam Phillips, who also produced Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, and Elvis Presley. Named after his first wife, his song "Claudette" was recorded by the Everly Brothers as the B-side to their Number 1 hit "All I Have To Do Is Dream." The rockabilly and blues sound of Sun's artists brought Orbison little success and his career seemed over, although fans of rockabilly count his records among the best of this genre. He worked at Acuff-Rose Music in Nashville, Tennessee as a songwriter, and then was given a contract by RCA. Eventually Chet Atkins referred him to Fred Foster, the owner of Monument Records, where he moved after his contract with RCA ended in 1959.
In 1957 Orbison met songwriter Joe Melson in Odessa. After hearing a song Melson had written entitled "Raindrops," which featured melodic twists and lyrical styling, Roy soon asked him to write with him. Together they created a sound unheard of in rock and roll at the time: the dramatic rock ballad. They created many hits for Monument Records. Fred Foster liked the new direction and assisted with the writing team's vision. Roy's first record, "Uptown," was moderately successful. With the release of "Only the Lonely" and its immediate rise to the top of the charts (#2 in the US, #1 in the UK), he went on to become an international rock and roll star. His single, "Runnin' Scared" became a US #1. Later, Roy wrote many songs with writer Bill Dees including "Oh, Pretty Woman" which may be the most well-known song of Roy's career. Throughout his stay at Monument Records his backup band was a group of outstanding studio musicians led by Bob Moore. The play of Orbison's voice against the dynamic yet uncluttered sound of the band gave Orbison's records a unique and identifiable sound.
Orbison was a powerful influence on contemporaries such as The Rolling Stones. In 1963 he headlined a European tour with The Beatles. He became lifelong friends with the band, especially John Lennon and George Harrison. Orbison would later record with Harrison in the Traveling Wilburys. During their tour of Europe, Orbison encouraged the Beatles to come to the United States. When they toured America, they asked Orbison to manage their tour, but his schedule forced him to decline.
Unlike many artists, Orbison maintained his success as the British Invasion swept America in 1964. His single "Oh, Pretty Woman" broke the The Beatles stranglehold on the Top 10, soaring to No. 1 on the Billboard charts. The record sold more copies in its first ten days of release than any 45rpm up to that time, and eventually sold over seven million copies. The song later became the signature tune for the film 'Pretty Woman', named for his song, which brought fame to actress Julia Roberts.
He toured with The Beach Boys in 1964, and with The Rolling Stones in Australia in 1965. He was successful in England, logging three No.1 hit singles and was several times voted top male vocalist of the year.
Orbison signed a contract with MGM Records in 1965, and starred in MGM Studios' western-musical motion picture 'The Fastest Guitar Alive' in which he performed several songs from an album of the same name. Due to changes in musical taste he had no hits in the U.S. after 1967. He remained popular elsewhere, but his American popularity did not recover until the 1980s.
Orbison endured a great deal of tragedy in his relatively short life. His first wife Claudette (Frady) (b. 1941-09-07) died in a motorcycle accident on 1966-06-06 in Gallatin, TN. Two years later, on 1968-09-14 the family home at Old Hickory Lake in Hendersonville, Tennessee, burned to the ground while Orbison was touring in England. Two of his three sons, Roy Jr. (b. 1958) and Anthony (b. 1962-06-29), died in the fire in Hendersonville. His youngest son Wesley (b. 1965-05-23), three at the time, was saved by Orbison's parents.
Orbison met his second wife Barbara Orbison in August 1968 in Batley, Yorkshire, England. They were married in Nashville on 1969-05-25, and built a new house one block away from where Roy's old house had once stood.
Songs that had limited success in North America, such as "Penny Arcade" and "Working for the Man" would go to Number 1 on the Australian charts, and "Too Soon to Know" was Number 3 in England. His popularity extended to Germany, and he recorded his hit song "Mama" in German. His records were in great demand on the "black market" behind the Iron Curtain. In France, he was viewed as the master of the ballad of lost love in the vein of that country's most popular singer Édith Piaf. A cover version of Orbison's "Blue Bayou" sung in French by Mireille Mathieu went to the top of France's record charts. Fans in the Netherlands founded his largest world-wide fan club. He continued to perform in Ireland, despite the constant terrorist activities in Northern Ireland. A rendition of the popular ballad "Danny Boy" on the 1972 Memphis album is considered one of the best recordings ever made of this much-recorded song.
His contract with MGM ended in 1973 and he signed with Mercury Records. He released on there a country style album entitled I'm Still In Love With You. The original liner notes even said how Roy's career was suffering and the lack of hits he had in the states, and according to the notes, that was to change with the release of the songs on the LP. The song "Sweet Mama Blue" which is considered another rare and overlooked song was a single from the LP and like all the other songs of that era of Roy's failed to chart.
He re-signed with Monument in 1976 hoping to revive his career, once again with Fred Foster at the helm of his recording sessions. The music from the sessions gave us the LP Regeneration. The LP is classic Orbison through and through, but once again the public failed to find the songs or Roy. There was enough material yet for another lp to be released, but Roy asked Fred to be released from his contract in 1978.
In 1977, multi-Grammy winning vocalist Linda Ronstadt, included "Blue Bayou" in her triple-platinum album (3 million copies in US) Simple Dreams. The single reached No. 3 on the Billboard singles chart and was RIAA certified platinum (over 1 million US copies sold). Ronstadt's interpretion of "Blue Bayou" is Orbison's greatest commercial songwriting success with the single itself having reported sales of over 7 million copies sold worldwide.
Roy continued to tour heavily in the late 1970's and at times non-stop for weeks at a time. That all came to a halt in late 1977 when Roy had discovered that he needed open heart surgery following a heart attack at the age 41. On January 18, 1978, Roy underwent the operation and until he passed away in 1988, Roy had a new lease on life and his voice and music would become as big, if not bigger than it did in the early 60s.
Roy's last contract in the 1970's came in 1979, with Electra-Asylum where he finished the LP Laminar Flow. The LP was a new direction for Roy, as it was his attempt at doing disco. The LP also has a beautiful tribute to Elvis Presley, "Hound Dog Man".
* Resurgence in the 1980s
In 1980 Orbison teamed with Emmylou Harris to win the 1981 Grammy Award for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal for their song "That Lovin' You Feelin' Again". In 1985 Orbison recorded "Wild Hearts" for the Nicolas Roeg film Insignificance, released on the ZTT Records label, produced by David Briggs and Will Jennings. The inclusion of "In Dreams" in the 1986 David Lynch film Blue Velvet also aided Orbison's return to popularity. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, with the induction speech made by Bruce Springsteen (who had famously referenced Orbison and "Only the Lonely" in his 1975 song "Thunder Road"). His pioneering contribution was also recognized by the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. Having signed a recording contract for the first time in 10 years, with Virgin Records, he re-recorded his 1961 hit song "Crying" as a duet with k.d. lang in 1987 for the soundtrack of the motion picture Hiding Out. The song would earn the Grammy Award for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals.
Roy Orbison and Friends, A Black and White Night, a black-and-white HBO television special recorded at the Coconut Grove in the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles in 1988, brought Orbison to the attention of a younger generation. Orbison was accompanied by a who's-who supporting cast organized by musical director T-Bone Burnett. All were fans and all were volunteers who lobbied to participate. On piano was Glen Hardin, who played for Buddy Holly as well as Elvis Presley for several years. Lead guitarist James Burton had also played with Presley and Ricky Nelson. Male background vocals, with some also playing the guitar or piano, came from Bruce Springsteen, Tom Waits, Elvis Costello, Jackson Browne, J.D. Souther and Steven Soles. Jennifer Warnes, k.d. lang and Bonnie Raitt provided female background vocals. He was also joined by percussionist Michael Utley, a long time member of Jimmy Buffett's Coral Reefer Band.
Shortly after this critically acclaimed performance, while working with Jeff Lynne of Electric Light Orchestra on tracks for a new album, Orbison joined Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne and Tom Petty to form the Traveling Wilburys, achieving substantial commercial and critical success. He subsequently recorded a new solo album, Mystery Girl, produced by Orbison, Mike Campbell (of Tom Petty's Heartbreakers) and Jeff Lynne. It included one track by U2's Bono (who also wears trademark dark glasses and co-wrote the song "She's A Mystery to Me" with the Edge specifically for Orbison). At an awards ceremony in Antwerp a few days before his death, Roy Orbison gave his only public rendition of the hit "You Got It" to the applause of a huge crowd.
Orbison had triple heart bypass surgery on January 18, 1978. On December 6, 1988, at the age of 52, he suffered a fatal heart attack while visiting his mother in the Nashville suburb of Hendersonville, Tennessee. At the direction of his wife Barbara, Orbison was interred at the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Westwood, California on December 15, 1988. His two sons and their mother Claudette, who predeceased him, had been laid to rest at his request in the Woodlawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Nashville. His new album, Mystery Girl, and the single from it, "You Got It," were posthumous hits, and are generally regarded as Orbison's best work since the 1960s. At the time of his death, he was the first person since Elvis Presley to have two LPs in the top 5 (Mystery Girl and Traveling Wilburys). He was the posthumous winner of the 1991 Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance and in 1992 the popular "I Drove All Night" and "Heartbreak Radio" appeared on the posthumous album, King of Hearts, produced by Jeff Lynne.
Orbison is best remembered for his ballads of lost love, and in the music community he is revered for his song writing ability. Record producer and Orbison fan Don Was, commenting on Orbison's writing skills, said: "He defied the rules of modern composition". Songwriters such as Elton John and Bernie Taupin along with many others referred to Orbison as "far ahead of the times, creating lyrics and music in a manner that broke with all traditions". Roy Orbison's vocal range was impressive (four octaves), his voice effortlessly powerful, and his songs were melodically and rhythmically advanced and lyrically sophisticated, often incorporating the bolero form. Three songs written and recorded by Orbison, "Only The Lonely", "Oh, Pretty Woman" and "Crying" are in the Grammy Hall of Fame. In 2004, Rolling Stone named those three songs plus "In Dreams" on its list of the "500 Greatest Songs of All Time". In 1989 he was inducted posthumously into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
From the stage in Las Vegas in 1976, Elvis Presley called Orbison "the greatest singer in the world", and Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees referred to him as the "Voice of God". Multiple Academy Award–winning songwriter Will Jennings ("My Heart Will Go On", from the Titanic soundtrack) called him a "poet, a songwriter, a vision" after working with him and co-writing "Wild Hearts." Bob Dylan, later a band mate of Orbison's in the Traveling Wilburys, wrote "Orbison … transcended all the genres. … With Roy, you didn't know if you were listening to Mariachi or opera. He kept you on your toes. … He sang his compositions in three or four octaves that made you want to drive your car over a cliff. He sang like a professional criminal. … His voice could jar a corpse, always leave you muttering to yourself something like, 'Man, I don't believe it'. His songs had songs within songs. Orbison was deadly serious–no pollywog and no fledgling juvenile. There wasn't anything else on the radio like him". Bill Kenwright referred to him as "the Caruso of Pop" on the BBC program Any Dream Will Do after one of the candidates sung Orbisons's "Crying".
The seminal punk band The Ramones adapted some of his ballad style, as well as his style of dress.
In 1998, Orbison was honored with the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2004, Rolling Stone Magazine ranked him #37 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.
In 2006, Roy was remembered with a new book that fans from around the world came together and wrote with main author Chris O'Neil. The book titled Straight From Our Hearts was a hit among fans on both sides of the Atlantic and even Barbara Orbison has asked for a copy to keep at the Orbison office located in Nashville. The book was a series of stories from fans describing how Roy impacted their lives and many tributes were also contained in the book. On December 7th, it was announced that a second volume of the book would be published. It is set to be released in 2008, which will mark the 20th anniversary of Roy's passing. In addition to the book, The Essential Roy Orbison CD collection was released to huge fan praise; it contained many rare songs including "Life Fades Away", which was previously only available on the long-out-of-print soundtrack to Less Than Zero. The collection charted into the top ten in seven countries and has opened the door to upcoming releases of unheard Orbison material that fans have been longing for.
In addition to Roy's many commercial releases, there have been many bootlegged releases that have surfaced over the years. One of the most popular Orbison bootlegs is the 1981 recording of his Country Club concert, which was originally slated to be released as a made-for-TV comeback concert. The concert footage has never been officially released, but it is considered by fans to be one of the best Orbison bootlegs available.
On June 12, 2007 The Traveling Wilburys DVD box set was released worldwide to huge sales topping over one million copies plus. It was also the first time in more than ten years that the original masters were available.
Also set for October 23, 2007, is the reissue of Mystery Girl/King Of Hearts collection. It is Roy's final two studio albums. It will be the first time in more than fifteen years that King Of Hearts will be available again to the public.
Toured with both Elvis Presley and the The Beatles early in their careers.
According to the Rockabilly Hall of Fame, at a press conference in Vancouver, British Columbia, Sam Orbison said that his brother Roy Orbison was always "saddened by the sordid treatment of Elvis Presley in the aftermath of his death in 1977."
The song "Please Please Me" by The Beatles was inspired by "Only the Lonely" as Paul and John explained it in the The Beatles Anthology series.
Was good friends with k.d. Lang. Lang lent her vocals in a remake of the 1961 classic, "Crying".
The well-known Spider-Man villain Doctor Octopus is supposedly based on Orbison, especially his thick glasses and multiple vision disorders.
He was well known in the smaller world of radio controlled model aircraft as a champion modeler and flier.
Chris de Burgh, accompanied by an orchestra, covered Orbison's "In Dreams" on his Beautiful Dreams album, 1995.
Bruce Springsteen refers to Orbison in his 1975 hit song "Thunder Road" in the lyric, "as the radio plays, Roy Orbison's singing for the lonely".
His song "In Dreams" was used extensively in the David Lynch film Blue Velvet, and Lynch would later feature a bravura Spanish unaccompanied solo version of "Crying" ("Llorando") by Rebekah del Rio in his film, Mulholland Drive.
His early Sun side "Domino" was used repeatedly in Jim Jarmusch's Mystery Train.
Orbison was portrayed by Johnathan Rice in the Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line and Tony Rickards in the television version of Stephen King's short story You Know They Got a Hell of a Band..
The character Roy Koopa from Super Mario Bros. 3 was named after Roy Orbison.
In the Adam Sandler film The Waterboy, Coach Klein (Henry Winkler) has a tattoo of Orbison on his rear end.
Van Halen covered "Oh, Pretty Woman" on their Diver Down album.
Orbison performed "Oh, Pretty Woman" in the Season 3 Dukes of Hazzard episode "The Great Hazzard Hijack."
"Ooby Dooby" is featured as the favorite song of Zefram Cochrane in Star Trek: First Contact.
His posthumously-released music video for "I Drove All Night" featured Jennifer Connelly and Jason Priestley.
He owned one of the two or three interchangeable pickup guitars built by John Birch and John Diggins. One of them was featured in the John Birch catalog, the other was made for Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath. The Orbison guitar is now in possession of Greg Dorsett of Rock Stars' Guitars.
Roy contributed very recognizable backup vocals on the Jimmy Buffett song "Beyond the End" from the album Last Mango in Paris.
Comedy metal band Bad News attempted a cover version of 'Oh, Pretty Woman' on their eponymous album. Comedian Adrian Edmondson, who plays lead guitarist/vocalist Vim Fuego, stated that the only lyrics to "Pretty Woman" were to repeat 'Pretty Woman' over and over again. The song was, unsurprisingly, terribly covered.
Michael Kelly, under the pen name Ulrich Haarbürste, released a novel entitled Ulrich Haarbürste's Novel of Roy Orbison in Clingfilm in 2007.
Two misconceptions about Orbison's appearance continue to surface: that he was an albino, and that he wore his trademark dark glasses because he was blind or nearly so. Neither is correct, though his poor vision required him to wear thick corrective lenses. From childhood he suffered from a combination of hyperopia, severe astigmatism, anisometropia, and strabismus. He wore sunglasses rather than ordinary glasses as a fashion statement.
Birth: Apr. 23, 1936
Death: Dec. 6, 1988
Singer, Songwriter. He is best remembered for his songs, "Oh, Pretty Woman," and "Only the Lonely." He wrote "Claudette" (1958) which went to No. 30 when sung by the Everly Brothers. His trademark image included wearing dark sunglasses. His grave has no marker. Born in Wink, Texas, for his sixth birthday his parents gave him a guitar, and his father taught him how to play it. About 1942, the Orbisons moved to Fort Worth, Texas, where his father found work in the aircraft industry during World War II. An epidemic in 1944 had his parents sending the children back to live with their grandmother in Vernon, where Roy wrote his first song, "A Vow of Love" (1945). He formed his first band when he was 13, in 1949, calling themselves, "The Wink Westerners." Over the next few years, his band began playing for local schools and radio stations, slowing gaining some recognition. He graduated from Wink High School in 1954, and his band friends had put together a new song called, "The Ooby Dooby," which Roy agreed to record at a local studio in Dallas. It became his first big hit record, in 1955. In 1957, he married Claudette Frady, with whom he had three sons. Claudette was killed in a motorcycle accident in 1966, and two years later, he lost two of his sons in a house fire. He toured in England with the Beatles in 1962, before their first breakthrough, and had a major hit with "Oh, Pretty Woman" (1964). On May 25, 1969, he remarried, to a German girl, Barbara Anne Marie Welhonnen Jakobs, whom he had met in England, and they remained together until his death in 1988. Near the end of his life, he was a very close friend with Canadian singer k.d. lang. One of his last recordings was a version of "Crying," sung by the two of them as a duet, for which he was awarded a Grammy. He was on tour with a group called the "Traveling Willburys," which included former Beatle George Harrison, when he suffered a heart attack and died at his mother's house. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.
Cause of death: Heart attack
Westwood Memorial Park
Los Angeles County
Plot: Section D, #97 [unmarked]
The unexpected death of the extraordinarily talented Roy Orbison came as a complete shock to everyone.
While visiting the Nashville-area home of his mother, Roy began complaining about pains in his chest. He was rushed by ambulance to nearby Hendersonville Hospital, but too much damage had already been done to his organs.
Orbison died that night, December 6, 1988, the official cause of death being a massive heart attack.
Roy Orbison's life lasted only 52 years, and about eight months.
+++ HIS FINAL HOME: +++
Westwood Village Memorial Park,CA,USA -Roy Orbison's unmarked grave
Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park (1218 Glendon Ave.; 310-474-1579) is small and tucked behind a movie theater in the very heart of Westwood. It's so crammed full of famous people that we don't know where to begin. Oh, wait, it's obvious: Marilyn Monroe. But here, too, are the gravesites of Natalie Wood, Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, Truman Capote, Frank Zappa and Roy Orbison (both are unmarked), John Cassavetes, Bob "Hogan's Heroes" Crane, Will and Ariel Durant, Eva Gabor, Joseph Heller (author ofCatch 22), Dean Martin, Carroll O'Connor, Donna Reed, and Dorothy Stratten. The cemetery is visitor friendly, and if workers aren't busy, they're often happy to point out the park's famous residents.
The Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park (1218 Glendon Avenue, south of Wilshire, in Westwood, 310-474-1579)
Visiting any of Los Angeles’ cemeteries makes for a unique (and to some, morbid), visit with the famously dead. Stand where their famous friends stood, place flowers where a famous spouse might have and consummate a dead celebrity obsession that has been going on for some time now.
Just a headstone’s throw from UCLA and Westwood Village, sits the final resting-place for many of the famously dead. The Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park is home to an eclectic group of actors, musicians, filmmakers, and other famous mortals. Visitors may be surprised and puzzled as to whom they’ll find buried in Westwood.
As a reminder, please keep in mind that cemetaries are not museums. Families for both the famous and non visit as well. So maintain an un-L.A. attitude that is both respectful and discrete.
Marilyn Monroe’s (1926 – 1962) life and death is thought of as one of tragedy and mystery. With cause of death declared as an overdose of Nembutal, a barbiturate, the coroner signed it off as probable suicide. But missing personal documents (including her diary) and the sudden stop of the investigation to her death, along with missing phone records, a lost routine death report, the quick destruction of organ specimens, and lack of remaining medical photos, lead many to believe murder as a more probable cause. (Corridor of Memories, #24)
Famous for her angelic face and catchy mantra, “they’re here” from Poltergeist, Heather O’Rourke (1975 – 1988) died at the age of 13 of intestinal stenosis. The story is that she was discovered by Steven Spielberg in the MGM commissary. (New Mausoleum, outside along the bottom)
The death of Dominique Dunne (1959 – 1982) follows a trend started in such films as Rebel Without A Cause and The Barbarian where many cast members of an entire film die unexpectedly. On-screen sister of Heather O’Rourke's in Poltergeist, Dominique Dunne, daughter of Vanity Fair writer cum laude, Dominick Dunne, was strangled in her driveway by her estranged boyfriend. (Section D, #189)
As previously mentioned, the untimely and strange deaths of celebrities can affect an entire film’s cast. Natalie Wood’s (1938 – 1981) death off Catalina Island completes the trinity of dead prinicipal cast members from A Rebel Without A Cause. Preceded by Porsche-crashing James Dean and the murdered Sal Mineo, Natalie Wood’s body was found floating in the Pacific Ocean, dressed only in a nightgown, woolen socks, and a red down jacket (Section D, #60).
Although a supporting cast member of A Rebel Without A Cause, Jim Backus’s (1913 – 1989) death was neither sudden nor strange. Better known for his roles as the Millionaire in Gilligan’s Island and the lead voice of the animated cartoon Mr. Magoo, Jim Backus died of Pneumonia and Parkinson’s disease. (Section D, #203)
Maybe one of the last people expected to be buried in L.A., let alone Westwood, Truman Capote (1924 – 1984), Southern Gothic novelist, journalist, and darling-about-town, is entombed a number of steps from that cute pixie, Heather O’Rourke. Allegedly, his cremated remains were in the possession of dear friend, JoAnne Carson (ex-wife of Johnny Carson). when they were stolen along with her jewelry. Although later returned, sans jewelry, half of his ashes now reside at Westwood Village, while the other half remains in Ms. Carson’s possession. (New Mausoleum)
Big Band drummer extroidinaire, Buddy Rich (1916 – 1986) had the natural knack and rythmn to be what many consider as the greatest drummer of all time. Raised by vaudvillian parents, Buddy Rich picked up the drums at a young age and became a child star known as “Traps, The Drum Wonder”. Roommates with Frank Sinatra during the Big Band era, Buddy Rich was a member of Tommy Dorsey’s Band and was especially known for being “resoundingly disliked”, to put it nicely. (Sanctuary of Tranquility)
Burt Lancaster (1913 – 1994) didn’t start acting until he was in his 30’s, which may be part of what led him to take greater control of his career. He is perhaps best known for his performances in Birdman of Alcatraz, From Here To Eternity, and Elmer Gantry, the latter winning him an Academy Award for his performance opposite Shirley Jones.
Another performer who died at a young age, Minnie Ripperton (1947 – 1979), is most famous for her song "Loving You". She died at the age of 31, of breast cancer. (Section D, #41).
Remembered for her performances in It’s A Wonderful Life and From Here To Eternity, Donna Reed came to Los Angeles at the age of 16 to complete her education and become an actress. Although she was in over 40 films during her career, she will probably be best known as the quintessential 50’s T.V. mom in the show that bore her name, The Donna Reed Show. She passed away from Pancreatic Cancer at the age of 65. (Section D, #142)
At the opposite end of the cultural icon spectrum from Donna Reed lies Playboy model, Dorothy Stratten (1960 – 1980). Before her death, she entered the acting world via the sci-fi comedy Galaxina, but the world came to know her more through the film story of her life, Star 80. Although the sentiment rings true, Dorothy Stratten’s headstone is a/the unique example of a rambling and contradictory epitaph. (Section D, #170)
One of rock and roll’s most diverse, satirical, and non-conformist renegades, Frank Zappa (1940 – 1993) is buried in an unmarked section of the cemetery. Known for his distrust of authority both on the record and on the record, he lead the charge against the Parents Music Resource Center, calling them “a group of bored Washington housewives” who wanted to “housebreak all composers and performers because of the lyrics of a few.” He died of prostate cancer. (Section D, #100, unmarked)
+++ Texan rocker ROY ORBISON (1936 – 1988) follows Westwood Memorial’s rocker trend by being buried in an unmarked area of the cemetery. Although he knew of his heart troubles for a while, Roy Orbison refused to cut short his exhausting comeback tour. He died of a massive heart attack. (Section D, #97, unmarked) +++
Although her grave doesn’t give her birth date, it is believed that Eva Gabor (1921/1922 – 1995) was 74 when she died.
Best known for the television and radio versions of the play, Our Miss Brooks, Eve Arden (1908 – 1990) is also remembered for her portrayals in Stage Door, Mildred Pierce, and the film version of Grease. (Section D, #81)
One of the last of the 1930’s male stars, Lew Ayres (1908 – 1996), may be remembered by some audiences for his work in the 70’s and 80’s on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Highway To Heaven, Damien: Omen II, and Battle for the Planet of the Apes. Others may remember him as Dr. James Kildare in the nine Kildare movies. But he will probably be best remembered for his work in the 1930’s anti-war Oscar winning film, All Quiet on the Western Front as the disillusioned German solider. Later when he declared himself a WWII conscientious objector, he was shunned by the studios and movie audiences, only to revive his career when he eventually volunteered as a medic and chaplain’s aide (earning three battle stars)
Everyone’s favorite nanny, Mr. French, from Family Affair is buried here. Granted, his headstone reads Sebastian Cabot (1918 – 1977). He was also the voices of Bagheera from The Jungle Book, the narrator in The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, and Sir Ector in The Sword in the Stone. He died of a stroke. (Large Urn Garden, near front of office, top row, nine from right)
Many people remember John Cassavetes (1929 – 1989) for his acting work in such films as Rosemary’s Baby and his Oscar nominated performance in The Dirty Dozen. But it is his work as a director, where he was most prolific. Films like Faces and Shadows from the early part of his directing career as well as Opening Night and A Woman Under the Influence are considered not only his best work, but important films of the American independent cinema. (Lot 308)
WHAT LIES BENEATH by Carolina Reyes
Every August, the Marilyn Remembered fan club holds a memorial service at the Pierce Brothers Westwood Memorial Park, where Marilyn Monroe, the blond bombshell and timeless sex symbol, enjoys her eternal rest in a white mausoleum crypt, according to Steve Sann, Westwood historian and UCLA alumnus.
Idolized and worshiped in life by thousands of fans, Monroe still receives admiration even after 47 years.
“Joe Dimaggio had red roses sent to her crypt for decades after her death,” Sann said. “Fans make pilgrimages and in almost any given week, people leave flowers, notes, pictures and an occasional lipstick mark on her crypt.”
But Monroe isn’t the only celebrity buried in the 2.9-acre expanse of prime ground. Many stars, who had lucky breaks and tragic ends, call the cemetery home.
Marilyn Monroe’s crypt is also located at the Pierce Brothers Westwood Memorial Park.
Yet despite the myriad well-known people buried there, most students don’t know that a cemetery lies nestled between the tall buildings on Glendon Avenue and Wilshire Boulevard.
Frank Nevarez, program coordinator of the Center for Academic and Research Excellence, is one of the few people on campus who has heard of the cemetery.
“Yeah, that’s the place where Marilyn Monroe is buried and where Joe Dimaggio would bring her flowers,” he said.
The cemetery is a unique oasis of tranquility and is one of Westwood’s famous cemeteries besides the Veteran Memorial Cemetery, Sann said.
Pierce Brothers Westwood Memorial Park and Mortuary is one of the oldest and smallest developments in Westwood.
Established in the late 1800s, the cemetery was known as the Sunset Memorial Cemetery.
In 1904 the current owners, the Pierce Brothers, took over the cemetery and gave it a new name. Since that time, it has become the final resting place of many celebrity figures including Burt Lancaster, Frank Zappa and Roy Orbison, according to cemetery records.
Today, people are jumping ahead of their time to choose a plot.
Recently, Hugh Hefner, founder of Playboy Magazine, purchased the crypt next to Monroe, according to Sann. “Hugh Hefner launched her career,” he said.
Monroe’s stint as the first Playboy centerfold helped establish her fame.
But Randy Ziegler, general manager of Westwood Memorial, said he was not aware of such a purchase.
As a burial place for so many celebrities, the cemetery has attracted various “grave hunters” whose main hobby includes touring sites where famous people are buried.
Although Monroe’s crypt receives a plethora of visitors, Natalie Wood, another well-known actress, gets her share of fans, according to the Seeing Stars, a grave-hunter information Web site.
Wood was nominated twice for the Academy Award for Best Actress and starred in such movies as “Rebel Without a Cause,” “West Side Story” and “Miracle on 34th Street.”
In 1981, at the age of 43, Wood accidentally drowned at Catalina Island off the yacht owned by her husband, Robert Wagner.
Young or tragic deaths appear to be common threads linking many of the celebrities buried at the cemetery.
Dominique Dunne, who played the older sister in “Poltergeist” is also buried there. Dunne, then 22, was strangled by her boyfriend when she tried to break off the relationship.
But the apparent curse on “Poltergeist” actors doesn’t stop there.
Heather O’Rourke, who played Carol Anne in the movies, is buried nearby in a crypt above ground. O’Rourke died in 1988 from complications with an intestinal infection.
In the past, Metro Goldwyn-Mayer studios worried that tabloids would scare people into believing the “Poltergeist” movies where responsible for their deaths, since an actor died after the making of each of the three films.
Julian Beck, who played the evil Rev. Kane in “Poltergeist II,” died in 1985.
Also buried there is Playboy model and 1980 Playmate of the Year Dorothy Stratton, who was brutally killed in 1980 by her estranged husband.
Her headstone contains an epitaph from Ernest Hemingway’s novel “A Farewell to Arms.”
Part of it reads: “(The world) kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure that it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.”
Other celebrity figures buried at the park include, Donna Reed, Armand Hammer, Eva Gabor and most recently Walter Matthau, known for his work in “Grumpy Old Men” and as Mr. Wilson in “Dennis the Menace.”
Because of the notoriety of its buried clientele, the cemetery has had problems in the past.
In 1976, vandals tried to pry off the brass plaque of Monroe’s tomb which is located here in Westwood, according to a 1976 issue of The Los Angeles Times.
To prevent such incidents, many gravesites at the burial grounds are unmarked.
Family members often prefer unmarked graves because they want to keep the sites from turning into shrines.
For example, rock musician Jim Morrison’s grave, which is located in Paris at the Piere la Chaise graveyard, has fallen victim to numerous acts of vandalism. In the past, people would carry out drug parties, black masses and trysts with prostitutes, according to the Oct. 8 issue of The Los Angeles Times.
Singer Roy Orbison who sang such hit songs as “Oh Pretty Woman,” “Only the Lonely” and “Crying” is buried in an unmarked grave.
The cemetery is active and funerals services are still held there. It is also open to the public.
“If people visit the cemetery, they should remember to be mindful and hold the utmost respect for family members and loved ones,” Sann said.
++++++++++ FOR ROY - WORDS FROM THE BOOK OF MEMORIES:
Tonight I light a candle in your memory... I wish that you were here to rejoice in the re-release of the Wulburys music.. We will never forget the powerful voice that brought forth such great songs.... You are loved....
- Pamela Parrish
May the Lord have you always in his Choir. Your voice was truly heavenly and will be missed forever. Bless You and Rest Forever with our Master.
How truly lucky, anyone who ever knew you personally, is for life!!! You are the most "pure of heart" anyone could ever possibly be. Your voice is that god given gift, that is sprinled on so few people. Bless you, eternal happiness to you, you certainly deserve it.
- Barb H
Words can't describe how much you're missed & still loved. May you always rest in blessed peace dear Roy.
- God Bless & R.I.P. ~ Carol C. from Mass.
So Much Sadness In Your Life! Now You Can Rest In Perfect Peace & Happiness~There Is Only One Roy Orbison.
lieve Roy,ik geniet nog dagelijks van jou prachtige muziek met jou onbeschrijfelijke zuivere,mooie,indrukwekkende stem en zal altijd een grote fan van jou blijven for always BIG O.
- Ad vd Heuvel
So please,listen to me carefully....1st when I heard your voice it wasn't given me before I learned about you. It was sad and something that never given to someone before I learned you left us..was a pain that never given me before than I dreamed,I sweared to come to see you I sweared to be on your ground I sweared to lay my soul on it. I sweared to sing your songs wherever you are or you've been. I learned that you have no mark. I was in the mood to be the closest to you now I see that I never understood you. You gave us which's never given before and you wanted the same you're right...that's yours a tombstone full such a shame in fact I loved much cindy & celine, but such a shame to try to sing like the dark suited boogie from our sleep sleep well we lived that days so we'll ever know you'll be standing the same place where you made love to our dreams. That's yours your tombstone full of tears.
- Fuat Oral
roy,alias "the voice" ot "the big o",you have one of the greatest voices,ever! loved your music! say hello to Elvis and george harrison for me! always a fan.r.i.p.
- dennis hauser
Thinking of you on your birthday Roy. You are greatly missed. You were a wonderful person and I was lucky enough to be a friend of yours and still treasure the many letters and photo's I have from you. I listen to your records all the time. Happy Birthday!
- Heather Tew
You have brought the world so much happiness and comfort with your music. You had so much sadness and gave us so much joy. Rest in God's blessed love. You are truly one of His special angels that walked among us.
- Barbara Hammons Davis, Dalton's Mom
Dear Roy, It is such a shame that you were buried so far from your home and your first wife Claudette, who you loved more than Life. It also does not seem right you are resting in an unmarked grave in California. Roy, thank you so very much for songs like, "Only the Lonely", "Dream Baby", "Oh Pretty Woman", "Crying", "Leah", "Blue Bayou", "It's Over", "Shadhdaroba". And as last but not least, "Love Hurts". Your Musical genius even now is still celebrated and your music lives on, though you are gone, you are and never will be forgotten. Rest In peace my friend, may you also have joined the heavenly choir singing for God eternally. Your Friend And fan still.
- David Carrasquillo
I wish you had a tombstone. I don't understand why you don't have one? My mother in law used to deliver your newspaper in Odessa, TX. She told me all about the "Ooby Dooby" song and that you sang for a furniture store in Odessa. R.I.P.
I remember the day of your passing i was in Nashville and my son was born a couple of days after you died in the hospital you died in. I also cared for your mother when she was in the same hospital. She was special. RIP.
- lori Jones
Mr. Orbison, God called you home 18 years ago today. However, you and the timeless music that you left behind will remain forever ingrained in our culture, for past and future generations to enjoy. My father ABSOLUTELY LOVES your music, and I am starting to become exposed to your classics. I wish I could've met and saw you perform. I'll gladly wait for God's heavenly realm. May God Bless and watch over you and those you love then, now, and always. RIP.
When I heard your duet with k.d. lang, I was emotionally moved. It's sad that many performers of today, have not idea how to touch the hearts of their listeners the way you did. You are remembered my friend.
- Major Fan
The first music video I ever saw was when I was eight years old and living in England with my grandmother. They showed "Pretty Woman" on TV. I've loved you ever since. Your singing did something to me that nobody else's ever could. There will never be anyone else like you. I hope we meet someday.Love, Debra
Roy, you suffered many tragedies in your life and you have my deepest sympathy. You were an Icon to me with your fantastic singing voice and talented song writing.No one will ever replace you in my eyes, Rest in Peace my friend. Classic entertainer.
Roy, your music was a gift from God and your life seemed to be one of such tragedy.... yet you seemed to cope with such enormous strength and character....your music will continue through the generations simply because it is from the heart...bless you and may God keep you.
The world cried when you left us. What a wonderful voice. I have no doubt you dwell with the angels.
You were truly a very remarkable and gifted artist who suffered great loss in this world...may you rest in peace with your boys.
No stone on your resting place...and you are laid to rest away from Claudette and your two boys - how unfair. We love you Roy, and know that you are actually with them on the otherside...no one from earth can change that.
Tears still come to my eyes when I hear your beautiful music... what a brilliant talent you were! One of the very best in all of music history! You certainly knew a lot of tragedy while in this world... yet, you went on! What a pity, you were taken away from us so early in your life.May GOD Bless You, Forever!
To hear your voice and your music made me glad to be growing up in the sixties. There will never. . ever be another Roy Orbison. I own most of your original albums and I just bought a CD which I listen to every night. It's the Ride Away album with you on your motorcycle on the cover. Thank you for the memories and feelings you gave us. Some day, we'll visit your grave site. I read that Elvis said you were the "greatest voice he'd ever heard". You left us too soon. God Bless.
- Tom Stallmer
No stone on your resting place? Oh, I didn't know that, wow, that is a shame. I thought you might have gotton a big statue.
- Larry, TN.
ROY ORBISON POSTAL STAMP PETITION
How is it possible that legendary singer Roy Orbison, a great American, has not been commemorated with a postal stamp yet? Friends and fans of Roy have put up a Web site where you can sign a petition to make Roy’s trademark profile in sunglasses a first class stamp. And why not? He was a first class musician! Check it out at: www.petitiononline.com/royvote/petition.html.
Petition for new Roy Orbison stamp [ 3/28/2007 ]
You may be aware that Roy Orbison is being considered for a stamp in America - and in the next 3 months it is up for review by the postal commission. Supporters have created an online petition (20,000 names already!) and I would love you to sign yourself on and forward this message to your entire address book to do the same.
All info is at Roy's website <http://www.royorbison.com/> or direct link to petition at http://www.petitiononline.com/royvote/petition.html
Thank you for your help and support. We are gonna get Roy his stamp!
All my love,
Roy Orbison's "was a voice like no other ever heard in rock--silky, soaring, tender, gritty, haunted with pain. And durable."
A LIVING LEGEND
"ONLY IN DREAMS, IN BEAUTIFUL DREAMS"