Tyler Cassity, the impresario behind Forever Fernwood and Hollywood Memorial Park, gets another portrait from this week's issue of The New Yorker, a much, much fleshier one than this recent article from The New York Times.
He is described as resembling Robert Downy, Jr. or a young J.F.K. with a voice that is “a velvety vibrato, like a leopard's purr,” which he no doubt used to devastating effect when he fired off his team of landscape architects, architects and ecologists that he had hired to develop Forever Fernwood into a prototype green cemetery.
“He stood there with this pleasant, smug little smile,” recalls one of the axed landscape architects.
Working for him must surely be aggravating but never uninteresting: “His assistant, Samantha Tibbs, has quit six times, and he likes hiring former sex workers and down-on-their-luck porn stars.” Could his mercurial temperament be a manifestation of latent family trauma? On two of his ancestors — one a Chinese girl and another a Cherokee — Cassity muses: “I'm assuming they were both raped.”
Of course, the article does devote a lot to the “green” cemetery movement wherein Tyler Cassity is arguably its most visible practitioner in the US. We also read how he and the unfortunate souls who happened to have crossed path with him want to bring sustainable burial practices out from its niche market to claim a bigger piece of the multi-billion dollar cemetery industry. Considering Cassity's Hollywood personality, however, that seems like a Promethean undertaking. Furthermore, he and his partners regularly go for long stretches of time without speaking to each other.
For what it's worth, you'll come away from reading the article knowing how to turn a tumbledown city of dead Hollywood moguls and superstars into a profitable venture. “Multi-purpose” is the key word. When Tyler Cassity bought the bankrupt Hollywood Memorial Park, whose famous residents include Rudolph Valentino and Cecil B DeMille, he started throwing parties, screened movies on the mausoleum, and basically turned it into an urban open space. That or you could always hire a starchitect.
The article is not available online but a Q&A between author Tad Friend and Amy Davidson is available. The two talk about green burials, graveyard tourism and the future of funerals.
Forever Fernwood, Part III