When it comes to pop culture and things that are cool, Orange County is a lot like an oyster: you have to put some effort into finding the pearls. I stumbled across a nifty little nugget of local cultural relevance one day while scanning the celebrity directory at findadeath.com, which meticulously chronicles the final minutes of Hollywood royalty, (in the case of Stan Laurel, his final breaths). Let it be known, the site comes highly recommended for you morbid types by this Feral blogger.
I was checking out the profile of 1950’s B-movie director Ed Wood, which features a scanned copy of his death certificate. Wood first became famous for his horrible science fiction and sexploitation films, which he directed in the 1950s and ’60s. He was introduced to a new generation of cinephiles in 1994 when director Tim Burton cast Johnny Depp to portray Wood as a cross-dressing eccentric.
Johnny Depp in still from Tim Burton’s 1994 bio pic of filmaker Ed Wood.
According to the death certificate posted on the findadeath site, the director behind such stinkers as Plan 9 From Outer Space and Orgy of the Dead, died of a heart attack in the apartment he shared with his wife in North Hollywood on December 10, 1978. His body was handed over to Utter Mckinley mortuary in Van Nuys, which provided his undertaking services.
But bearing an address far from the glamour of Tinseltown, the death certificate also featured a familiar OC address in one of its official boxes—that of Memory Garden Memorial Park and Mortuary in Brea. At this location, Wood was placed in an industrial-sized furnace and cremated. A quick phone call to the Brea body depository, not known for its rotting glitterati, confirmed that that they do indeed perform cremations, and that Utter McKinley in Van Nuys is a sister mortuary.
Take a spin past the cookie-cutter houses on Site Drive and consider that the blades of grass on those neatly-manicured lawns may have been fertilized by some of Wood’s ashes as they trickled from the sky.