Thursday, July 28, 2011

Meet Neil McNally, author of "The Daily Deceased"

The eighty fourth in a series
featuring a member of the
Graveyard Rabbit Association


The Daily Deceased

When I was younger I was a big admirer of Walt Disney, Mel Blanc (the voice of Looney Tunes) and L. Frank Baum (the author of “The Wizard of Oz). As I read more about them, two places always came up…“Hollywood Forever” and “Forest Lawn-Glendale” respectively. But, when you’re almost 3,000 miles away it’s hard to visualize what those places looked like, or where exactly they were in Los Angeles.

So, flash forward to three years ago when I moved to Los Angeles from New York. Once I got settled in, where do you think I headed? If you said “Hollywood Forever” and “Forest Lawn-Glendale” you’d be correct! It really was standing in front of these three men’s graves that were the impetus for exploring the rich history that Los Angeles’s cemeteries provide.

Obviously, when you live close to Hollywood, you’re reminded of what once was. If you scrape under the dust and crud, the glitz and glamour is still to be found. That’s where “The Daily Deceased” comes in, and a certain journalist named Dave Bury!

What Graveyard Rabbit site(s) do you run?
I run a Monday through Friday blog called “The Daily Deceased.” Its main purpose is to post a daily picture from my collection of headstones; be it movie stars, authors, politicians. It really doesn’t matter. I wanted each day to have affectionate, but light-hearted tributes to celebrities. At the same time, I did not at all want it to be morose. It was easier to do that in a newspaper format, and having an alter ego named Dave Bury as its head writer and editor.

What first interested you in joining the GYR Association?
I found the association online and was really impressed with how many other blogs and sites were out there. Obviously, there are big ones that most people know, such as “Find-A-Grave,” but GYR really opened my eyes to other smaller and lesser known blogs. How could I not join?

Did you always have a fascination with cemeteries?
I have actually. Growing up, I’d read a lot of books about Harry Houdini, s√©ances, and ghosts. I suppose that was the initial stages of it. Then when I’d be on vacations or trips, if it was convenient I’d always snap a picture of a celebrity grave like Elvis or Jim Morrison for instance. But, moving to Los Angeles really opened my eyes to how many are here. I do have to say that Los Angeles cemeteries are like none other, and for me the blog and visiting these places is a way of tipping the hat and saying thanks to these people.

Do your family members think you are a “little off center” with respect to your cemetery obsession?
No not at all. My parents have always been supportive of my eclectic interests and hobbies, and seem to be pleased with what I post every day. My girlfriend also says she’s learned more about the movie business and cemeteries in the two years she has known me than in her entire life. I work in film and television production out here, and I feel that was an extension of my love of pop culture and movies. So the blog is a way to combine all these things and add a “Daily Fun Fact” as well. So, yes I am a “little off center,” but in a good way!

What advice would you have for would-be cemetery rabbits?
You should always be respectful and don’t always be obvious about what you’re doing. That depends on the cemetery, of course, but the main Forest Lawns here in L.A. will throw you out if they catch wind of you. That has never happened to me personally but, I’ve heard of it occurring. Cemeteries aren’t Disneyland, and I’ve seen other grave hunters lose track of that in person and on other websites. Ultimately, I think if you enjoy history and respect what came before you then cemetery hunting is a worthy pursuit. I guess it’s a different way of putting it but, to me it’s like a treasure hunt; one where at the end I get to pay a mini-tribute to a person and hope maybe somewhere out there they can see that.

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