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Spring 2008 | Lasting Inspiration

Spring 2008 | Lasting Inspiration

Pay Memorial Day respects at these destination-worthy grave sites of our LGBT forerunners.

1. OSCAR WILDE (1854?1900)
P?re-Lachaise Cemetery, Paris
Wind through the mausoleum-lined paths of Paris's largest cemetery -- one of the most famous in the world -- to the legendary gay novelist and playwright's tomb, with its modernist angel relief on the front and moving tribute on the back. One of Wilde's former lovers, Robert Ross, commissioned its construction and is buried in a compartment set into the sculpture. Lipstick stains left by adoring fans speckle the stone.

2. GERTRUDE STEIN (1874?1946)
P?re-Lachaise Cemetery, Paris
Only a few yards from Oscar Wilde is the grave of esteemed writer Gertrude Stein, who is buried next to her longtime partner, Alice B. Toklas. How apropos that the woman who famously said, "A rose is a rose is a rose," has a flower box at her grave marker where visitors are encouraged to plant their floral offerings.

3. JAMES BALDWIN (1924?1987)
Ferncliff, Hartsdale, N.Y.
In this tree-filled suburban cemetery 25 miles north of New York City -- where upright headstones aren't allowed -- writer and activist James Baldwin's subtle floral-ringed bronze marker (Hillcrest A, grave 1203) is a pleasant stroll from the granite Ferncliff Mausoleum, where Judy Garland and Joan Crawford are interred.

4. W.H. AUDEN (1907?1973)
Cemetery at Kirchstetten, Austria
From 1958 until his death, Auden spent his summers at his home in this small eastern Austrian town less than 30 minutes from Vienna, and he is now buried in its center. A medley of flowers and plants cloak the grave, marked with an ornate wrought-iron cross and plaque. Also worth a look: The town's Auden museum displays a remodeled version of the poet's workroom.

5. TALLULAH BANKHEAD (1902?1968)
St. Paul Churchyard, Chestertown, Md.
After an unstable life -- her infamous last words were "codeine? bourbon" -- the bisexual American actress rests in peace near a millpond in the shady northeast corner of the "new cemetery," a small section within St. Paul's 19-acre tree-lined churchyard.

6. LORD BYRON (1788?1824)
St. Mary Magdalene Church, Hucknall, England
The flamboyant romantic poet is interred in an historic town center church adorned with stained glass from Victorian artist C.E. Kempe and flanked by a Byron Memorial Garden. Tributes surround his tomb in the Byron family vault, including a marble slab from the king of Greece and quotes from poets Lord Alfred Tennyson and Percy Bysshe Shelley.

7. WALT WHITMAN (1819?1892)
Harleigh Cemetery, Camden, N.J.
Take a guided tour that travels from Whitman's (pictured, left) former Camden home to his grave via the Haddon Avenue route of his funeral procession. Designed by Whitman himself, the tomb looks like a small house within a forest, emulating the gay poet's passion for the relationship between humanity and nature.

8. RAINER FASSBINDER (1946?1982)
Cemetery St. Georg, Munich
In this idyllic final resting place where each grave is different, the gay German director found a stylistic match for a career of unconventional filmmaking ("Querelle", "The Marriage of Maria Braun"): a polished stone bearing his name rests amid ivy-strewn gardens right out of a fairy tale.

9. JEAN GENET (1910?1986)
Larache Christian Cemetery, Larache, Morocco
Southwest of the coastal town of Larache on the cliffs above the Atlantic Ocean sits this impossible-to-miss Spanish-Christian cemetery filled entirely with white sun-washed grave markers. French dramatist Jean Genet's headstone still manages to stand out, with its irregular shape reminiscent of an iceberg.

Alexander Nevsky Monastery, St. Petersburg, Russia
Alexander Nevsky Monastery's grandiose layout of churches and cemeteries, like a city within a city, is now a major tourist draw. Head through the Lavra entrance to the far right-hand corner of Tikhvinskoye Cemetery to find Tchaikovsky's burial site; an elegant bust of the gay Russian composer flanked by loving angels marks his grave.

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