This article is part of a series on How Historic Laurel Hill Cemetery Is Reinventing Itself. It is based on an interview with Ross Mitchell, Executive Director of Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia, PA.
Stoneangels: Let me ask you about Sylvester Stallone and shooting the opening scenes of [the upcoming movie] “Rocky VI,” at Laurel Hill. Tell me about that.
Ross Mitchell: I wasn’t here. I was on vacation! (laughs). I did meet him when he came here before the shoot. He lived in Philadelphia for a number of years, and he loves Laurel Hill, so they shot here. He is on our Honorary Committee for our Gravedigger’s Ball.
Stoneangels: Does that mean he might come?
Ross Mitchell: I hope he comes and what I’d like to get him to do is autograph a pair of boxing gloves that we can auction off in our silent auction. How great would that be?! They had a stone made for Adrian, and they donated it to the cemetery. We have it mounted; if you go right around the corner (Adrian.jpg), right around the other side of the [gatehouse] building, it’s there all on its own.
Stoneangels: Where did they do the shooting?
Ross Mitchell: It was over on the south side, right across from Pemberton [John, Lieutenant General in the Confederate Army]; they got some good river views.
Stoneangels: Frank [Rausch, Laurel Hill staff member] told me the stone was engraved incorrectly?
Ross Mitchell: Yeah, Bill [Doran, Laurel Hill’s Superintendent] had to get it re-done at the last minute.
Stoneangels: Old Mortality-type work.
Ross Mitchell: And we’re also going to be involved with the Fringe Festival. We are going to have a program here, have you ever heard of the Spoon River Anthology? You need to read this! By Edgar Lee Masters. It is a series of epitaphs, people speaking from the grave and gossiping about one another. And it’s so interesting; it’s really quite a good read. It’s everybody lamenting their losses and what they didn’t do in life, or bragging. It’s everybody from a made-up Mid-western town speaking from the grave, talking about themselves, and what they accomplished or didn’t accomplish and talking about each other! So we’re going to have group of poets and actors reading from Spoon River in the cemetery at dusk.
Stoneangels: Life after death–hiding behind the tombstones?
Ross Mitchell: We are working out the details – people will be invited to bring their chairs and blankets, and then we’re going to have an art show and reception next door, with some relevant art.
Stoneangels: That’s in September, right?
Ross Mitchell: Right after Labor Day, September 9th.