Many an artist has lived in anonymity only to find recognition after death; but when it comes to megastars like Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston, fame can come early in life and sticks into the hereafter. Celebrity gravesites become popular attractions, visited by tourists hoping to connect with their once living idol.
Nearly a year ago, shortly after Houston – a six-time Grammy Award winner – shockingly was found dead in her Los Angeles hotel room the day before the Grammys; her body was taken to New Jersey where it was buried next to her father at Fairview Cemetery. The next day, fans in droves flocked to her gravesite, so much so that the cemetery became overwhelmed and closed its gates.
A Fairview Cemetery representative declined to answer questions specific to Houston's grave but told CNBC that the cemetery does not accept gifts from Houston's fans and does not allow unapproved visitors to her grave. Yet such privacy isn't always the case. Devotees constantly adorn a long list of celebrity gravesites with flowers, gifts and in-person tributes and the constant traffic can make keeping a popular memorial in good condition difficult.
Click to see some of the most popular celebrity gravesites of all time.
Death: It's a Living premieres Thursday, Jan. 31 9 p.m.EST/PST
By Jeanine Ibrahim
Posted 28 Jan. 2013
One of the best-known sex-symbols ever, Marilyn Monroe was laid to rest in a simple crypt at Westwood Village Memorial Park in Los Angeles after her untimely death at age 36. Fifty years later, adoring fans still visit her crypt, often kissing and touching her memorial so much so that it has become darker than those surrounding it.
The model and actress remains a pop icon today, widely recognized for her voluptuous curves and platinum blond hair. Monroe's vixen-like qualities captivated men, even after her death. Ex-husband Joe DiMaggio, who never remarried after their 274-day marriage, reportedly had roses sent to her crypt weekly for 20 years until he died.
The explosively wild front-man of "The Doors," Jim Morrison was known for his charismatic personality and off-the-cuff poetry he'd improvise during his 1960s live sets. At just 27, the rock legend died, reportedly from a heroin overdose, while in Paris, where his body now rests.
His gravesite, located in the "Poet's Corner" of the Pere Lachaise Cemetery, is one of the city's most-visited tourist attractions. Fans from across the world pay tribute daily with flowers and poems; some have left behind graffiti and drug paraphernalia, causing cemetery officials to erect metal barricades around the plot.
Responsible for spreading Jamaican music to audiences worldwide, Robert Nesta Marley remains a music legend forever synonymous with reggae. Writing songs with political and social undertones specific to his beloved Jamaica, Marley was an international success in life; but it wasn't until three years after his death that he struck better than gold when his compilation album "Legend" went 10 times Platinum.
In 2012, the "One Love" believer and singer made $17 million, earning him the number five spot on Forbes list of "Top-Earning Dead Celebrities." Today, thousands pay homage to Marley by visiting the mausoleum where he rests near his childhood home in Saint Ann.
Princess Diana's tragic death after paparazzi chased her down in Paris 15 years ago rocked not just Britain, but the world. More than a million mourners flooded London for her funeral, where Elton John performed "Candle in the Wind," which he originally wrote for Marilyn Monroe but rewrote for Diana. The song has since become the second-best selling single of all time at 33 million copies.
A few days before his wedding, Prince William is said to have taken Kate Middleton to visit the island where his mother's grave sits on the Althorp Estate in Northhampshire, England. A temple with limited visiting times for the public serves as a shrine to the late princess, who was known for her philanthropic work -- especially AIDS -- and for transforming the British monarchy.
Known for his good looks, hip-shaking moves and bluesy voice, King of Rock 'n' Roll Elvis Presley is the top selling individual artist of all time. With 18 number one hits, such as "Hound Dog" and "Love me Tender," Presley received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award at only 36 years old. But just six years later he died Aug. 16, 1977, after an overdose of prescription medication.
Initially Presley was buried in Memphis, Tenn., at the Forest Hills Cemetery, but after too much tampering, his body was moved to his beloved Graceland. Today, fans visit his final resting place year round, but it's the annual celebration in August known as "Elvis Week" that draws the biggest crowds. This past year marked the 35th anniversary of Presley's death; a reported 500 fans per hour toured the mansion while an estimated 75,000 attended the candlelight vigil, according to Memphis newspaper The Commercial Appeal.
"Be happy, but never satisfied." Words to live by from Bruce Lee, the late kung-fu master, film star and cultural icon who pioneered his own form of the art called jeet kune do. Lee was only 32 when he died in 1973 shortly before the release of "Enter the Dragon," which would become the action-hero's last film and a hit, eventually grossing $90 million worldwide.
Lee's official cause of death was a brain edema caused by an allergic reaction to medication, but rumor has it that an evil curse got him. Lee died while at his home in Hong Kong, which supposedly had been haunted by demon spirits for generations. Twenty years later, the curse rumors grew after his son Brandon Lee died a mysterious death while filming "The Crow" when he was fatally shot by a prop gun that should have contained blanks.
Today, fans from all over the world visit Bruce and Brandon Lee's graves at the Lake View Cemetery in Seattle where father and son are buried next to each other.
Author of such classics as "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" and "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," Mark Twain still plays a heavy influence in the minds of countless school children more than a century after his death. Known as one of America's greatest authors, Twain filled his writings with wit and humor. His beloved Mississippi River served as the backdrop to many of his novels.
Twain, who was actually born Samuel Langhorne Clemens, would eventually end up in New York where he'd spend many summers with his family at their upstate home in Elmira. It's there that he wrote many of his great works, and where he was buried after his death in 1910. Fans who visit his grave at Woodlawn Cemetery often pay homage by leaving some of the author's favorite things -- cigars and whiskey. Rather than throw the objectionable mementos away, the cemetery began collecting the items for part of a museum exhibit.
A true American idol, Frank Sinatra grew up outside New York City as the only child of Italian immigrants. He began singing professionally as a teenager and by the 1940s he found major success as a solo artist. A decade later, Ol' Blue Eyes proved himself an extraordinary actor when he won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in 1954 for "From Here to Eternity." The big band singer of such songs as "New York, New York," "My Way," and "Strangers in the Night," Sinatra captivated audiences garnering legions of fans, many of them swooning women.
Sinatra died of a heart attack at age 82. He now rests in a grave at Desert Memorial Park in Cathedral City, Calif., where he was buried with a bottle of Jack Daniels and a pack of Camel cigarettes.
Nearly 16 years after his death, he's still idolized. One fan even set up a trust to have flowers delivered twice a week to his grave. His simple headstone reads, "The best is yet to come."
One of the best-known musicians of all time, Michael Jackson is The King of Pop. A pioneer in music, dance and videos, Jackson showcased this triple talent with both the song and the album "Thriller," which remains the best-selling album of all time. It won a record-breaking eight Grammys in 1984.
On June 25, 2009, the world was stunned when the iconic legend died at age 50. And as the details later emerged that Jackson had died due to a cardiac arrest from a fatal dose of the drug propofol, sadness turned to anger.
Today, devotees from around the world flock to the Great Mausoleum at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, Calif., where Jackson is memorialized. Last summer, on the third anniversary of his death, fans gathered at the cemetery and adorned the lawn with nearly 11,000 long-stem roses, posters and teddy bears in what has become an annual event to remember The King.
Death: It's a Living premieres Thursday, Jan. 31 9 p.m.EST/PST