L.A. Stories/The Roving Eye

Grave Problem

Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Mortuary has approached the Los Angeles Planning Department and the Westwood Homeowners Association with plans to nearly triple its capacity, according to planning department documents. The 2.9-acre cemetery contains 1,100 gravesites, including those of Hollywood luminaries like Marilyn Monroe, Dean Martin and Natalie Wood.

Because the cemetery, which has been at its Glendon Avenue location for more than 100 years, is near capacity, the plans involve the construction of 18-foot-high mausoleums that would total more than 23,000 square feet and house 2,000 bodies. They would sit 10 feet from the south property line separating the mortuary from Wellworth Avenue. Since the city's minimum distance between burial sites and homes is 300 feet, its owner is seeking a variance from the planning commission.

"The company has been in contact with local residents and the Westwood Homeowners Association to assure them that this construction will have no adverse impact on the surrounding area," read a statement from Houston-based Service Corporation International, the cemetery's owner.

Not exactly, according to the homeowners association, which voted unanimously against the plans last Thursday.

"I will be able to see a 20-foot-high mausoleum from the rear," said Elliot Lewis, whose Wellworth Avenue home sits right behind the Pierce Brothers property. "Very nice."

Royal Blue

He's never hit a home run, thrown a shutout or even hit fungos, but golden-throated broadcaster Vin Scully is the most popular Los Angeles Dodger of all time, according to a poll recently taken on the team's Web site.

Scully, who just started his 53rd year calling Dodger games, is a member of both the National Baseball Hall of Fame and the Broadcasting Hall of Fame.

Some of the most beloved Dodgers, such as Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella and Duke Snider, never played in L.A, but Scully still topped a fairly impressive list. Longtime manager and current front-office executive Tommy Lasorda came in second place, followed by Sandy Koufax, Fernando Valenzuela and Steve Garvey.

Dodgers spokesman Derrick Hall said the results were not exactly a surprise.

"Any poll we have that includes Vin Scully, he's going to win," Hall said, pointing out that fans in a 1976 poll named Scully the most memorable personality in franchise history. We think he's the best broadcaster of all time and he really epitomizes what the Dodgers are all about."

Split Screening

So, your ex took every dime you had in the divorce.

Don't fret. You can still go to the movies for free and you might find the topic more than interesting.

A local filmmaker is inviting men and women who were officially divorced in April or May to get in free to his first feature film, "Divorce: The Musical."

The independent comedy is runs from April 19 to May 3 at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica, said Steve Dworman, the writer and director who also plays the father in the movie. Regular tickets, for non-divorcees, are $8 each.

Dworman said he wanted to let divorcees in free to help relieve pain through comedy.

When he set the attendance parameters, Dworman considered the vast number of divorced people in L.A.

"(That's) one out of two people," he said.

Sulu on Secession

L.A. Mayor James Hahn has a new ally in the fight against Hollywood secession: actor George Takei, aka "Lt. Sulu" of "Star Trek" fame.

In a lengthy column on his web-site (www.georgetakei.com), Takei reminisces on his Hollywood experiences, from "hanging out" in bookstores and record shops on Hollywood Boulevard as a kid and attending summer school at Hollywood High to getting his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame back in 1986.

Takei, who lives in Los Angeles but not in the boundaries of the proposed Hollywood city, extols the virtues of Hollywood's landmarks.

Then he lowers the boom:

"There are people politicking to have Hollywood secede from the City of Los Angeles I say to the activists trying to break away, 'give it up.' Your effort is misguided."

The Roving Eye

Going, Going Googie

What do you get when you cross grass-roots style activism with a dose of California car culture?

Probably something that looks like the rally outside of the former Johnie's Broiler in Downey last week.

A 30-member community group protested the partial demolition of the diner, whose huge cursive red sign and googie (50s-style) architecture has been a part of the Firestone Boulevard streetscape for 44 years.

The restaurant, originally called Harvey's Broiler, closed about three months ago. The current owner, Chris Smyrniotis, who ran Johnie's since 1966, rented the property to a used car dealer.

Ken Bernstein of the Los Angeles Conservancy said the owner has gutted the coffee shop's interior and even begun taking down the famous Johnie's sign despite orders to stop work by the city of Downey.

Last Wednesday, a concerned citizen summoned police when he saw workers tinkering with the sign.

"It was quite outrageous that this was happening in the dead of night," Bernstein said. "The city is aware of the architectural significance of this site and they need to follow through to prevent its wanton destruction."

Downey officials said they did issue a stop work order because no permits were obtained prior to the interior work.

Smyrniotis could be not be reached for comment, but Dave Dhillon, president of The Car Outlet, vehemently denied that anything illegal had taken place. Dhillon, who said he has been unable to get insurance for the building in its present condition, said Smyrniotis does not believe the building has historical significance.

"(Smyrniotis) said to me, 'Dave, if L.A. Conservancy has a problem, they can buy the property,'" Dhillon said.

Danny King and Darrell Satzman

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