Close Up the Cat Poses For Tours In the Hollywood Forever Cemetery

A striking black cat named “Close Up” resides at the 123-year-old iconic Hollywood Forever cemetery in Los Angeles, a final resting place for many Hollywood legends. 

“My panther profile is on a flag! This should cement my status as a true icon. (Photo and flag by @ecosherri)”

Each year, the cemetery, founded in 1899, receives thousands of visitors who come to pay respects to Hollywood royalty like Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, Burt Reynolds, and Rudolph Valentino. If they’re lucky, they may also get a glimpse of the resident cat ready for his close-up.

“I took a moment to enjoy the beautiful spring weather with @cemeterytourguide Photo by @sarah_calavera from @ordergooddeath.

Sometimes, Close Up may be seen near the director and producer Cecil B. DeMille’s grave, which is where he got his name.

“Cecil B. DeMille’s grave is one of my most favorite spots in the cemetery. It is where I earned my name “Close Up.”

When tour groups come through, the friendly cat will sometimes follow along, striking poses on the headstones. As you can see below, the cat’s bestie will sometimes strike a pose too!

“A girl and her panther 💕🪦🐈‍⬛💕🪦🐈‍⬛”

Karie Bible, who hosts the cemetery’s walking tours, gave the cat his name after noticing he frequently hung out at director and producer Cecil B. DeMille’s grave. It’s a reference to Sunset Boulevard (1950)—in which DeMille played himself—and disgraced film star Norma Desmond’s (Gloria Swanson) famous line, “All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.” 

According to staff, Close Up has become a “minor celebrity” in the cemetery, with visitors who come just to see him and give him a treat. 

“He does visit a lot with people who have loved ones buried there. He seems to have turned into more of a comforting cat to people, an emotional support cat, so to speak. There are several families that he will cuddle up with their laps or sit with them in a chair. And, of course, he gets lots of food and treats. He’s really spoiled,” said Michelene Cherie, who volunteered to help the cats in 2007.

However, he wasn’t always so friendly. When he arrived about four years ago, he was called “Mr. Growly.”

“We used to call him Mr. Growly,” He was so feral and territorial that when he ate, he would growl to keep the other cats away. But he’s gotten so much attention that he’s become friendly,” Cherie said.

Hollywood Forever’s Feral Cat Colonies

When visitors arrive, they may expect to see many cats like Close Up, as the cemetery has managed as many as five feral cat colonies on the 65-acre property. 

“Along with stars of Hollywood’s golden age, the cemetery has also been home to colonies of feral cats, who can be spotted resting on gravestones and near mausoleums,” The Guardian reports.

Below, Close Up poses for a dramatic picture during a nighttime tour.

“Tonight I have a night tour. I love making a dramatic entrance and taking over. I was born to be in the spotlight! 🌛🪦🐈‍⬛”

Life in Hollywood Forever

Here, the feral cats have everything they could ever need. Shelters, ten feeding stations stocked with wet and dry food, and water are available for the cats. Generally, the cats hang out at the front wall of the cemetery near Santa Monica Blvd. If he feels like it, Close Up may pose for a picture or two but it’s up to him.

“I spend my days greeting fans, posing for photos, giving TV interviews and leading tours. Sometimes I need to rest, and like Greta Garbo, I want to be alone. When you visit the cemetery, I will approach you if I feel like being in the limelight. If not, please understand my need for privacy. Being famous can be exhausting!! 

Also, my caretakers give me excellent food, so please avoid loading me up with treats. My team works hard to make sure I am in peak condition. As always, I greatly appreciate my many adoring fans.”

TNR (trap, neuter, release) programs at Hollywood Forever are ongoing. Through the efforts, Michelene Cherie and nonprofit FixNation help to control the cat population with a consistent 60 to 65 cats in 2021. 

“We’re pretty busy, but we have managed to carve out time over the years to do this because we think it’s important,” Cherie said. “We love animals and we like helping the cemetery,” she said. 

As part of their efforts, they helped over 60 cats and kittens find homes.

Unlike most cemeteries, this one is very active and alive, with lots of activity in the California sunshine. Along with cats, visitors may see over 50 peacocks, Zeus and Helen, the swans, geese, ducks, turtles, koi, raccoons, squirrels, possums, and rabbits. Somehow, they all tend to get along in a little peaceable kingdom.

“It’s sort of a microcosm of nature. [A]ll of the animals get along really well, and you can observe their respect for each other. The cats don’t go after the birds. In fact, it’s the opposite. Sometimes, the birds will chase the cats around,” Cherie said.

“Sometimes I stand by the pond and enjoy the beauty of my vast kingdom. 🪦🐈‍⬛🪦🐈‍⬛🪦🐈‍⬛🪦🐈‍⬛🪦🐈‍⬛”

Surprisingly, the birds tend to hang out in the area adjacent to the cat feeding stations.

“Watching over the newest members of my kingdom. Video by @marcilashway

Every day, people come and go amid the palm trees, walking on the Fairbanks Lawn in a unique ethereal atmosphere. 

Unlike most burial grounds, the site is also a cultural events center, holding concerts, movie screenings, yoga meditation, and other events. Yoga instructor Mary DeCaro sometimes holds “Kitty Yoga” classes to raise funds for the Hollywood Forever cat colony and FixNation. This year, the cemetery was even designated a historic-cultural monument.

“Sunset in my beautiful kingdom. Photo by @graveyard_girlfriend⭐️💕🪦🐈‍⬛”

Keeping watch over my kingdom.

Over the years, Hollywood Forever has become a staple of LA culture, with the “most popular outdoor cinema event in Southern California,” writes Los Angeles Magazine.

One annual event is the Dia De Los Muertos celebration, the largest outside Mexico, which Michelene Cherie helps plan. This year marked the 23rd annual celebration, which lasts for two days in November. As people enjoy celebrating the lives of loved ones who have passed away, it has become one of the biggest celebrations in the area.

Below, Close Up enjoys some perks of all the festivities.

“I ate brunch on my pretty Dia De Los Muertos plate!”

As you can see, there are many reasons for visitors to come enjoy Hollywood Forever, including an “elegant panther.”

“Sometimes I stop to admire my own image. Why not? I’m a very elegant panther! Photo by @ecosherri⭐️🪦🐈‍⬛⭐️🪦🐈‍⬛⭐️🪦







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