Hugh Hefner (L) and Marilyn Monroe (R).

Everett Collection/Shutterstock Bert Parry/Wikipedia (Licensed)

‘That’s surprisingly not the worst person to be buried by her’: Viral TikTok showing Hugh Hefner’s crypt next to Marilyn Monroe’s sparks debate

Hefner's resting place was widely reported when he died, but it's resurfacing on TikTok.

 

Michelle Jaworski

Internet Culture

Published Dec 15, 2021   Updated Dec 16, 2021, 11:12 am CST

When Playboy founder Hugh Hefner died in 2017, reports revealed that Hefner would be buried next to Marilyn Monroe at the Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park and Mortuary in Los Angeles, which some saw as a pointed nod to past history (Monroe appeared on the cover of the first-ever issue of Playboy) while others interpreted it as exploitive. Four years later, that factoid has made its way onto TikTok, where commenters are debating it.

A video posted by Rosie Grant, a digital archives intern, highlighted the connection between the two as SZA’s “I Hate You” plays in the background.

“To whoever sold Hugh Hefner the grave next to Marilyn Monroe: shitty of you,” a caption on the TikTok read.

Hefner revealed in 2009 that he purchased the plot next to Monroe’s back in 1992 for $75,000. Although Hefner never actually met Monroe—they spoke once by phone, but Monroe died in 1962 before Hefner came out to Los Angeles—he described the move in a 2012 KCAL interview as, “I will be spending the rest of my eternity with Marilyn.”

“I feel a double connection to her because she was the launching key to the beginning of Playboy,” Hefner told KCAL. “We were born the same year.”

Hefner’s story framed his connection to Monroe, both in life and then-future death, as something poetic. What his story didn’t mention was that how those Playboy photos came into Hefner’s position. As a 2017 Washington Post article details, Monroe, who posed for those nude photos before her acting career took off, used a different name when she was photographed and was only paid $50 by pinup photographer Tom Kelley before she signed the release forms. Those photos were sold and ended up in a wildly successful pinup calendar. Hefner then paid to obtain the images, which then ended up in Playboy. And while admitting that the photos certainly helped her career, Monroe never saw a dime beyond the original $50 modeling fee.

“Do people think this is what Marilyn would have wanted in death?” asked one TikTok user. “She was already unhappy and exploited in life, now in death too?”

Others highlighted other potential indignities such as how Monroe was buried, as well as how Joe DiMaggio—who Monroe was briefly married to in 1954 before she filed for divorce but with whom she had reconnected shortly before her death—handled Monroe’s funeral arrangements because of his past treatment of Monroe. (DiMaggio is said to have chosen the cemetery because it was the final resting place of Grace Goddard and Ana Lower, the women who helped to raise Monroe, and it turned into a place where many celebrities were buried later on.)

The outrage from TikTokers over how she was treated is yet another instance of people reevaluating how talented actresses were often exploited and sexualized in a society that is often blatantly misogynistic.

But, as other commenters chimed in, Hefner’s wish to rest next to Monroe for all eternity is only scratching the surface of Monroe’s afterlife indignities.

“That’s (surprisingly) not the worst person to be buried by her,” @syndeyphobia wrote. “That would be the guy who bought the tomb above hers and asked to be placed face down.” In a follow-up comment, @sydneyphobia added, “100% true. His name is Richard Poncher. His wife watched them turn his body over before being interred, and she is buried beside them.”

“Just remember all the men buried above and next to her requested to be facing her so they can be staring at her for eternity,” @rangatamer wrote.

Poncher died in 1986 at the age of 81. According to the Los Angeles Times, Poncher bought the crypt off of DiMaggio in 1954 during his and Monroe’s divorce and requested that he be buried face down before his death. In 2009, Elsie Poncher attempted to sell the crypt in an eBay auction to pay off her mortgage. While the auction for the spot ended at more than $4.6 million, the deal ultimately fell through.

But the idea of being buried near Marilyn Monroe can still draw big numbers. Memorabilia collector Tom Gregory bought the crypt to Monroe’s right for $350,000 before selling it for $699,000. And in 2021, the family of composer and lyricist Jerry Herman is trying to sell Herman’s crypt after he died in 2019 and was buried next to his mother in New Jersey. Their asking price? A cool $2 million.

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*First Published: Dec 15, 2021, 5:00 pm CST