Stairway to Heaven
JANUARY 8, 1935-AUGUST 16, 1977
CAUSE OF DEATH: Hypertensive heart disease.
RESTING PLACE: Graceland Mansion's Meditation Garden, Memphis, Tenn.
FORMERLY BURIED: In Forest Hill Cemetery in Memphis. Moved Oct. 2, 1977, after vandals tried to steal his body. "It was a nightmare of insanity," says Graceland spokesman Todd Morgan. "So Elvis's father got special clearance to move him here."
BURIED NEAR: Mother Gladys; dad Vernon; grandmother Minnie Mae. (Jesse Garon Presley, Elvis's twin who was stillborn, is buried in Tupelo, Miss.)
VISITORS: More than 700,000 per year (part of the Graceland tour).
COST OF 90-MINUTE TOUR: $9 for adults; $4.75 for children.
MEMENTOS: Fans leave cards, teddy bears, elaborate floral arrangements.
MYTH: Middle name is, not misspelled on gravestone. In his lifetime, Elvis preferred "Aaron" to the original "Aron."
OCTOBER 9, 1940-DECEMBER 8, 1980
CAUSE OF DEATH: Shot by deranged fan Mark David Chapman.
MEMORIAL: Strawberry Fields, a 2.5-acre plot in New York City's Central Park, with 161 thriving plants from countries all around the world. Widow Yoko Ono donated $1 million for landscaping and maintenance. "It happens to be where John and I took our last walk together," she said in 1981. "John would be glad this was given to him, an island named after his song, rather than a statue or a monument."
VISITORS: Some 2-3 million per year.
CONTROVERSY: In 1981, conservative city councilmen suggested the area be named in memory of Bing Crosby. They were outvoted.
RESTING PLACE: Lennon's ashes are with Ono, who denies a persistent rumor that she keeps them beneath her bed.
NOVEMBER 8, 1947-JULY 12, 1979
CAUSE OF DEATH: Cancer, following a mastectomy in 1976.
RESTING PLACE: The three-acre West-wood Memorial Park in L.A., near the graves of murdered actress Dorothy Stratten and historians Will and Ariel Durant.
FUNERAL: Jose Feliciano and Stevie Wonder sang; Wonder was a pallbearer. Recalls cemetery manager Bill Pierce: "A blind pallbearer...only time we've ever had one."
INSCRIPTION: On her headstone, from the singer's 1975 No.l hit: "Lovin' You Is Easy 'Cause You're Beautiful."
VISITORS: "People who come to the park don't remember her until they see the lyrics on the marker," says Pierce. "Then they say, 'Oh, yes!' "
INFLATION: Riperton was buried for around $5,000; a grave now costs between $18,000 and $21,000; a crypt (currently unavailable) goes for $15-50,000.
SEPTEMBER 9, 1941-DECEMBER 10, 1967
CAUSE OF DEATH: The soul singer's plane crashed in an icy Wisconsin lake.
RESTING PLACE: A marble mausoleum in the front yard of his 500-acre Big O Ranch, Round Oak, Ga.
VISITORS: More than 100 each summer. Some get a tour by Redding's widow, Zelma, of the memento-filled den where Otis wrote his hits. "They act like they're walking through the White House," says Zelma, who often is given perfume and cards. "They come from so far away."
IMPROVEMENTS: Each year, Zelma and the couple's four children add to the memorial. Enhancements include a perpetual flame and a plaque reading, " 'Ten thousand miles I roamed just to make this dock my home.' Your spirit lives on within us."
MAY 13 1941-FEBRUARY 3, 1959
CAUSE OF DEATH: Plane crash that also killed the Big Bopper and Buddy Holly.
GRAVESITE: Section C, grave 2, lot 248, across from the flower shop at San Fernando Mission Cemetery, Mission Hills, Calif.
BURIED NEAR: Shares a headstone with his mother, Connie; grave is not far from I Love Lucy's William Frawley (Fred Mertz).
INSCRIPTIONS: "La Bamba," his 1959 hit, and 1958's "Come On Let's Go."
VISITORS: About 250 per year, according to his aunt Ernestine Reyes, who helps care for the grave with the rest of the family. "There's always someone there," says Ernestine. "I tell them I'm Ritchie's aunt, and then come the questions. I try to make their day a little better."
MEMORIES: The crash was memorialized in Don McLean's 1971 anthem, "American Pie."
NOVEMBER 5, 1946-SEPTEMBER 19, 1973
CAUSE OF DEATH: Heroin overdose.
RESTING PLACES: Garden of Memories, Metairie, La., and Cap Rock in Joshua Tree National Monument, Calif.
LAST RITES: A few days after the death, pal Philip Kaufman stole the Byrds singer-songwriter's casket from the L.A. airport. He cremated the body at Cap Rock. "We made a deal that if one of us should die, the other would take the body out to Joshua Tree, have a couple hundred beers and burn it and let the ashes go where they may," says Kaufman. The unburned bones were buried in Metairie by Parsons' family. "They wouldn't tell me where he was," Kaufman notes. "Now that I know, maybe I'll go out there and dig him up again and take him back to the desert."
DECEMBER 8, 1943-JULY 3, 1971
CAUSE OF DEATH: Heart failure while in the bathtub of his Paris apartment.
RESTING PLACE: Illustrious Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, near the graves of Oscar Wilde and Gertrude Stein.
VISITORS: The Doors' lead singer draws about 1 million per year. Despite a TV camera and guards patrolling with dogs at night, teens and twentysomethings still gather at his grave to get drunk, take drugs and deface his monument—and nearby markers—with lipstick and spray paint. Near his summer death date, crowds get so large that police reinforcements are called in. "It's hell," says a morose guard. "I go on vacation then."
IN TRANSIT: Morrison's 30-year cemetery lease expires in 2001, none too soon for city officials. It is rumored that the family may transfer his remains to Venice, Calif. A permanent Pere Lachaise plot costs approximately $8,637.
NOVEMBER 27, 1942-SEPTEMBER 18, 1970
CAUSE OF DEATH: Suffocation due to acute barbiturate intoxication.
RESTING PLACE: Greenwood Memorial Park, Renton, Wash.
INSCRIPTION: On the blue-pearl granite, a left-handed guitar and the words "Forever in our Hearts."
INTERMENT: Police told the family to keep it quiet; as a result, some 200 people showed up, not the 10,000 expected. The Beatles sent a guitar-shaped arrangement of carnations.
VISITORS: About 40 tie-dyed fans per day, who take handfuls of dirt and grass as keepsakes. They leave love beads, joints and other drug paraphernalia. Says cemetery manager Twila Hardy: "We haven't gotten the tour buses yet." Some fans have held séances and, says Hardy, others take LSD to commune with Jimi's spirit: "At least we think that happens."
MARCH 2, 1950-FEBRUARY 4, 1983
CAUSE OF DEATH: Cardiac arrest, a result of severe anorexia, which can strain the heart.
RESTING PLACE: She shares a crypt with her father, Harold, in a mausoleum at Forest Lawn Cemetery, Cypress, Calif.
FUNERAL: Some 700 mourners, including Dionne Warwick, Herb Alpert, Burt Bacharach and Olivia Newton-John attended the service in the Downey United Methodist Church in Downey, Calif. Karen's pastor and friend, Rev. Charles A. Neal, noted the "spontaneous outpouring of love and grief for one of God's truly talented and gifted daughters who has died so young."
INSCRIPTION: "A star on earth. A star in Heaven."
VISITORS: A few, quiet fans.
IRONY: She collapsed and died on her Closet floor while dressing. Her mom had planned to take her clothes-shopping since she had recently gained weight.
SEPTEMBER 7, 1938-FEBRUARY 3, 1959
CAUSE OF DEATH: A plane crash in an Iowa cornfield that also took the lives of J.P. (the Big Bopper) Richardson and Ritchie Valens.
RESTING PLACE: Lubbock City Cemetery, Texas (his hometown). The gravestone says "Holley," his birth name. He changed it to Holly when he signed his first contract.
VISITORS: Some 50 people per month, from as far away as Germany and Australia. "We never have trouble with the folks who come," says cemetery supervisor Susie Howard.
ODDITIES: Those who visit leave candles, coins, crosses, cigarette lighters, Holly-style horn-rim glasses and, occasionally, a plastic cricket (his band was named the Crickets).
MYSTERIES: "We never bother anything that's Out there," says Howard. "But we come back after the weekend, and it's all gone."