Friday, June 16, 2006
Movies for the Dead
I joined a group of friends at the cemetery for a movie the other night. Every summer, Hollywood Forever, cemetery to the stars, hosts movies on Saturday nights. Yes, it's rather appalling to think of "Philadelphia Story" (a great movie, by the way) being projected onto the wall of a mausoleum while picnickers enjoy wine and cheese not far from the tomb of Douglas Fairbanks and one of the Ramones. It's disrespectful, I suppose. When I discussed this outing with friends at work, they expressed a distaste for disturbing the dead in such a manner.
But I enjoyed it. I've always liked cemeteries -- they are not only peaceful, but fascinating. We're all so afraid of death. How we decide to mark our deaths provides a fascinating show for those left behind. And Hollywood Forever contains the remains of Rudolph Valentino and Mary Pickford. What better way to celebrate them than to watch the very medium that made them famous amongst their crypts? When I went to Paris, I visited Pere-Lachaise cemetery and found Oscar Wilde's tomb covered with lipstick kisses. I couldn't help wondering - were most of them put there by men or women? Was Oscar's shade uttering excoriating witticisms on this foolishness, or did he appreciate it? Just how long does a lipstick kiss last when smooched onto stone, anyway?
Just to clarify - at Hollywood Forever, picnickers are not actually seated on or near tombstones during the films. There's a big grassy area where you can drop your blanket or set up your beach chair. We established our enclave at the foot of a large mausoleum, but we did not touch it, since the resident had fortuitously built an iron fence around it to keep picnickers at bay. Port-a potties, with electric lights inside, stood by at the other end of the grassy area to accomodate those particular needs. Loud, bass-heavy dance music pounded incongruously at us as DJ continued to pick songs utterly inappropriate to either our location or the movie selection. I think I recognized a Prince song at one point, but the vocals and upper registers were so faint, it was nearly impossible to tell.
As Valerie and I ate grapes, salad, and cheese, sipped a fine merlot, and chatted with her friends Vanessa and Monty, a full golden moon rose over the palm trees. Night fell, and I reclined as the movie revved up and took the crowd by storm. At first the sound was almost too echoy to for comprehension. But my ears quickly assimilated. The only obstacles to enjoyment were my aching back (note to self: next time bring a beach chair), the couple in front of me, who would snuggle and kiss at unpredictable intervals, blocking my view at crucial dramatic moments (note to self: curse all couples for snuggling while I recline alone), and the fireworks, which began around 10:30 on the Paramount lot a few blocks away (note to self: develop contacts to get invited to cool Saturday parties on the Paramount lot that feature fireworks.) Normally I'm a fireworks fan, but the loud cracking and popping interfered with the ripsnorting dialogue that drives "Philadelphia Story" to its hilarious conclusion. Nonetheless, we all applauded as it flew to its end.