Vampira’s Last Ride

m_8240b56e22c5964b7393a31bf04df4cc.jpgFor those following the story, Vampira (aka Maila Nurmi) had a very small, very private funeral at Hollywood Forever Cemetery on Sunday.

One of her dearest friends wrote about it on his Myspace blog, but I’ve tried to cut it down to post it here in case you can’t see it:

Magnificent fortune can smile on us sometimes in ways that we would never have imagined. In my life, the paths I have taken have placed me in situations I never saw myself in or meeting people that I wouldn’t have thought possible.

Our hearse club had decided to put on an event at the Peterseon Automotive Museum in 2005 for the World’s Longest Hearse Procession. Needless to say, we needed a grand marshal to lead the parade, so a mutual friend put us in touch with Maila.

To call this woman the last of the grand old dames would be an understatement. She was everything I hoped she would be in style, class and sardonic wit. She dressed as Norma Desmond for the event and rode in my pal Frank Darabont’s red 59 Caddy convertible. She made quite an impression on everyone she met that day. People who wanted to meet her and get her autograph were respectful and very aware of how special this dear lady was. Even into her eighties, she had more presence sitting in the back of that Cadillac than most people will ever concieve of. It was a privilege to not only treat her like the royalty she was, but to give her importance and to let her know that even 50 years after her local TV show here in Los Angeles, she was, as Norma Desmond would have put it, still a star.

Our little car club was lucky to get to know her beyond that event by throwing her a birthday party every year following. The best memories of Maila were the moments when tears would well up in her eyes as she knew in her heart that we we weren’t there as Vampira fans, but Maila’s friends.

Last December Heather and I picked up Maila at her little apartment in Hollywood and met the rest of the gang at Hollywood Forever Cemetery where generations of stars are interred. Maila had no problem at all in touring the park with us even though she was in her advanced years. My memories of that day include Maila cackling mercilessly at me as the swans that roam the grounds began to hiss and chase me. No fooling, those swans are mean! Being the Irishman that I am, I hoisted a glass, like I did every birthday and wished her as my own father had at many birthdays before.

“May the wind be at your back, your best friends at your side and the best years ahead. I love you Maila.”

That was the last time I saw her.

I got the sad news not six weeks later that Maila had passed away. Close friends rallied as we all passed the hat again as so many wonderful friends and fans helped out by making sure we could give Maila a final and fitting resting place at Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

The service was small as Maila’s surviving neice requested and about a hundred friends came to pay their last respects at a beautiful service that was filled with warmth, humor and love.

After the service, we carried Maila’s earthly remains through the rows of seats in the chapel to my waiting 1951 Cadillac Hearse, which Maila had ridden in only six weeks before.

On an aside, my hearse is actually the same hearse used in the film “Ed Wood” where the Wood gang rides to the premiere of “Bride of the Monster”. Maila always got a kick out of that as she arched her eyebrows and knew that she made the hearse truly cool by being the REAL Vampira riding in it!

We drove the 1/8th mile to the gravesite and gently carried the small casket to the open grave. Maila’s neice Sandra and Dana placed her ashes into the small vault along with the ashes of Maila’s dog Houdini, who recently passed away. Matt’s wife Gabby had the class to have Houdini’s ashes enclosed in a small, blue bag that said, to the best of my memory “Gone to Rainbow Bridge.” If you’ve ever had a pet that died, you know what that means and it tore a lot of us up. Gabby also made the arrangements for the funeral and her and her mother spoke beautifully at the service itself along with many others.

After the minister said a few words, we were all invited to hold a handful of earth and put it into the open grave over the vault that held Maila, Houdini and many flowers to the ages.

Those that needed to stepped forward and gently put the earth over the vault. No one was rushed and all were quiet.

Finally I stepped forward. I took off my hat and knelt to the ground. I took a handful of the earth’s cold clay and paused, wanting to say something. Then I realized the only thing I could possibly say that had always meant the world to Maila.

“May the wind be at your back, your best friends at your side and the best years ahead, throughout eternity. I love you, Maila.”

I kissed my fistful of earth and tossed in into the waiting grave.

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