'Dearly Departed' tour speeds through L.A.'s most macabre death sites
Daily Breeze - Torrance, Calif.
Author: MELISSA HECKSCHER * RAVE!
Date: Oct 20, 2006
Start Page: R.20
Text Word Count: 720
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Copyright Copley Press, Inc. Oct 20, 2006

As far as Hollywood tour guide Scott Michaels is concerned, how celebrities live isn't nearly as interesting as how they die.

Which is why, five days a week, Michaels conducts his Dearly Departed Tours of Hollywood's most notorious -- and not so notorious -- spots of murder, suicide, death and scandal.

"You can go to 15 of Frank Sinatra's houses in the Los Angeles area, but the one he lived in when he died is the most significant," says Michaels, sitting in the driver's seat of the 14-person Dearly Departed tour van and looking appropriately morose in black pants, a black shirt and a dark mustache that curls past the corners of his mouth.

"I think where people die -- I hate to sound melodramatic but -- it's sacred."

With the fast-talking confidence of an auctioneer, Michaels packs in more than 100 Trivial Pursuit-worthy locales into a three-hour tour around L.A. His carefully scripted monologue leaves not a block unaccounted for (whether it's relevant or not, Michaels likely will tell you what happened there).

"My job is to find the interesting things about people you think you know everything about," he says.

There are the infamous sites, including the Benedict Canyon home where members of the Manson family brutally murdered actress Sharon Tate and four others; the Franklin Avenue house of Dr. George Hodel, a Los Angeles doctor who was one of many suspects in the murder of Elizabeth Short (aka the Black Dahlia); and The Viper Room, the Sunset Boulevard nightclub where actor River Phoenix fatally overdosed on Halloween morning in 1993.

And there are the not-so-infamous, including the beauty salon where Marilyn Monroe first dyed her hair blond (Get it? She "dyed" there?); and the home of Peg Entwistle, a little-known actress who jumped off the Hollywood sign in 1932.

"She walked all the way up the hill to the top of the 50-foot tall letter 'H' and dove to her death," Michaels says grimly as he stops the van at the foot of Entwistle's former Beachwood Canyon home. ... "[Thereby] becoming very famous, eventually, in a way she never would have planned."

To add to the gloom, Michaels plays audio tapes at various points during the tour, including a recording of the frantic 9-1-1 call placed by Phoenix's brother, Joaquin, on the night of his death; an eerie 9-1-1 call placed by Lyle Menendez after he and his brother murdered their parents Aug. 20, 1989; and an even eerier recording of Charles Manson singing "Cease to Exist," a song the Beach Boys later modified and produced on their "20/20" album under the title "Never Learn Not to Love."

Michaels also shows pictures of grisly murder scenes, including the sawed body of the Black Dahlia, and the Beverly Hills crime scene of Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel's murder in 1947.

"I'm lucky, what I do is interesting to people," says Michaels, who will be featured Sunday on the E! special "The 20 Most Horrifying Hollywood Murders."

But it's not all macabre. Michaels also tosses some irreverence into the tour.

Cases in point: the newsstand where Paris Hilton stole her own porn DVD; Marilyn Monroe's favorite flower shop; and the football field that served as the set for the graduation carnival in "Grease."DEARLY DEPARTED TOUR INCLUDES:

* Chateau Marmont, the Sunset Boulevard hotel where comedian John Belushi died of a drug overdose in 1982.

* The perfectly manicured Hollywood house that played Jamie Lee Curtis' home in 1978's "Halloween."

* The service station where James Dean picked up his Porsche less than 12 hours before his fatal crash in 1955.

* Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, "where the rich and famous go to die," says tour host Scott Michaels. (Celebrities who have died there include Frank Sinatra, Groucho Marx and Lucille Ball.)

* The Beverly Hills home where the Menendez brothers killed their parents in 1989.

* The Los Feliz home where Charles Manson's followers killed Leno and Rosemary LaBianca.

* The Beverly Hills public restroom where singer George Michael was arrested for "lewd conduct" in 1998.

* John Marshall High School in Silverlake, the campus in the "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" movie and "Grease."

What: Dearly Departed Tours.

When: Tours begin at 1 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays.

Where: Departs from 6741 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood.

Tickets: $35.

Information and reservations: 323-466-3696 or www.dearlydepartedtours.com.

 Abstract (Document Summary)

With the fast-talking confidence of an auctioneer, [Scott Michaels] packs in more than 100 Trivial Pursuit-worthy locales into a three-hour tour around L.A. His carefully scripted monologue leaves not a block unaccounted for (whether it's relevant or not, Michaels likely will tell you what happened there).

There are the infamous sites, including the Benedict Canyon home where members of the Manson family brutally murdered actress Sharon Tate and four others; the Franklin Avenue house of Dr. George Hodel, a Los Angeles doctor who was one of many suspects in the murder of Elizabeth Short (aka the Black Dahlia); and The Viper Room, the Sunset Boulevard nightclub where actor River Phoenix fatally overdosed on Halloween morning in 1993.

To add to the gloom, Michaels plays audio tapes at various points during the tour, including a recording of the frantic 9-1-1 call placed by Phoenix's brother, Joaquin, on the night of his death; an eerie 9-1-1 call placed by Lyle Menendez after he and his brother murdered their parents Aug. 20, 1989; and an even eerier recording of Charles Manson singing "Cease to Exist," a song the Beach Boys later modified and produced on their "20/20" album under the title "Never Learn Not to Love."