Hollywood Forever Cemetery is sprinkled liberally with the graves of some of the most famous entertainers in history, like Rudolph Valentino, Douglas Fairbanks, and Cecil B. DeMille.
But by far, the cemetery’s most imposing gravesite doesn’t belong to someone whose name you would recognize. This massive afterlife estate, which graces the center of a man-made lake, is a classical limestone-columned structure large enough to make one of ancient Egypt’s god-kings drool.
The mausoleum houses the remains of William Andrews Clark, Jr.
W.A. Clark’s father – W.A. Clark, Sr. – made a fortune to rival the Rockefeller’s from mining copper in the 1800s, which he used to purchase respectability by becoming a U.S. Senator.
I had heard that he left it all to Junior, who went through it donating lavishly to several charities and building a mausoleum fit for a pharaoh. His first wife died giving birth to his only son, who died in a plane crash in 1932. He married again, but his second wife died young as well. End of the family story, right?
Not even close.
Had I not been a frequent visitor to Hollywood Forever over the years, I would have never heard of the Clark family, or of its progenitor. So imagine my surprise when I saw William A. Clark, Sr.’s name in the paper yesterday.
It turns out that the Clark fortune wasn’t eaten up by inheritance taxes or completely done in by mausoleum construction costs after all.
As I learned yesterday, Clark Sr. had a daughter by his second wife named Huguette, who died earlier this week at the age of 104!
Huguette also got half-a-billion of the old man’s money. Not only was she one of the richest women in the country, but also one of the most reclusive. After collecting a string of mansions on both coasts, she left most of them vacant, hiding away from the world for the past half-century in a 42-room apartment on 5th Avenue.
Which goes to show you … in America, old people still die, but old fortunes are eternal.
I haven’t heard where Huguette will be buried, but there’s certainly plenty of room in her half-brother’s spread in Hollywood Forever.
(BTW, if anyone would like a tour of Hollywood Forever, I’ll be there tomorrow at 2 pm with my film class. Post me a comment if you’d like to tag along.)