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September 7, 1923 - December 24, 1984
Date exhumed May 18, 1988
Peter's parents Lady Lawford and Sir Sydney Lawford
Young Peter, his mother frequently dressed him as a female.
Hailed from a privileged British upbringing, his family had suddenly found themselves broke. But thankfully due to their social status they were permitted to stay with several wealthy friends in their guest houses. When this was no longer an option they made the move to West Palm Beach, Florida and lived in a small cottage as they attempted to stretch their meager income. Peter got a job as a valet, parking cars to help make ends meet. One of his frequent customers was none other than his future father-in-law, Joseph Kennedy, who allegedly criticize him severely for befriending a black valet. The incident almost cost him his job, when the senior Kennedy complained to the management.
An arm injury at childhood, caused by trying to run through a glass door, ended any possibilities of a military career for Peter.
So a movie career was his next option.
Later he moved with his family to California, where he became an MGM studio star almost overnight. Finally with a new career and bigger paycheck he was able to afford better living conditions for his family. In the social circles that his family once traveled in, a career in the movies would have been considered dishonorable. But as it turned out this 'dishonorable' profession was their financial salvation which allowed them to return to the social status they once had known.
This new lifestyle not only provided a decent living, but also provided him with the excesses of the Hollywood. As a young eligible bachelor he was frequently seen out on the town with several current day starlets. He would party at the best clubs, drink the finest champagne and eat the best food. Nothing was too good for this star.
One of his romances was with starlet Ava Gardner, whom at the time was ex-girlfriend of pal Frank Sinatra. This relationship caused a huge rift between the two that never quite healed. Frank’s bad temper and extreme jealousy almost caused Lawford’s days to be numbered. The only thing that perhaps saved him was his connection with the Kennedys.
Later after many flings with major Hollywood glamour girls, Peter settled down and married Patricia Kennedy; sister of John and Robert Kennedy. Life with the Kennedys was not going to be easy. His father-in-law was frequently quoted as saying that he would never want any of his daughters to marry an Englishman or an actor. Perhaps Peter should have taken that as an omen and stayed away.
The Kennedys did little for his career and shattered his self-esteem, as he became the brothers’ link to the Hollywood lifestyle. His Santa Monica beach house served as a playground filled with a bevy of naked beauties swimming and laying around the pool. It is rumored that many neighbors have commented about seeing the President and the Attorney General also naked in the pool.
Could Liz be giving Bobby political tips or are they just talking about her breasts? Once never knows.
All the pressures of trying to balance the Kennedy lifestyle with the Hollywood lifestyle took it's toll. Soon he developed a severe dependence on drugs and alcohol. In effect, he was slowly killing himself despite anyone's attempt to help save him. Despite his many trips to rehabs, he still found a way to the booze and drugs.
That became evident to his last wife Patty Seaton, after she happen to stumble across some American Express receipts for a helicopter rental. It is alleged that while Peter was supposedly “drying out” at the Betty Ford Clinic, he was having drugs flown out to him in the desert. He confessed that he would go on long walks into the vast desert to meet the scheduled flight. He would do his ‘stash’ then return to the clinic as if nothing happened. No one ever suspected a thing.
Towards the end of his life as the drugs and alcohol firmly took hold of him, he became unemployable and his career waned. No one wanted to deal with him, because he would be late or not show up at all. If he did show up he would be incoherent and unable to say his lines. His abuses not only caused him to lose any opportunity to get work, but it ended his life as well. Days before his death, his wife found him laying on the kitchen floor, unconscious and bleeding. Peter was admitted to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center (hospital for the stars) in serious condition. His body was dying; as his kidneys and liver were failing. He had lost the ability for his blood to clot, so surgery was out of the question. Peter was put on life support system and doctors tried to detoxify him the best they could. His skin was yellow and the chance for survival was extremely slim.
On December 19th he slipped into a coma and remained that way for the next four days. At 8:50 am, on December 24th, Peter moved for the first time in days. His upper body rose, muscles contracting involuntarily and suddenly blood spurted from his mouth, his nose and ears. He fell back onto the mattress and was dead. The Christmas day newspapers read, “Peter Lawford dead at 61.”
Peter was cremated on Christmas Day, and the following evening a small group of family and friends attended a closely guarded funeral at Westwood Village Mortuary. In a cold driving rain, Patty, his children, Caroline Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy Jr. and several more of Peter’s longtime friends heard him eulogized by both a Catholic and an Episcopalian priest.
After the thirty minute service, which included the playing of John Lennon’s “Love,” Peter’s ashes were entombed in a double crypt just several yards from friends Marilyn Monroe and Dean Martin.
When I visited Westwood Memorial Park, I was led over to an empty crypt. According to the author James Spada who wrote his biography, he states that Lawford had died heavily in debt.
In 1988, Peter’s funeral expenses had never been paid. The mortuary warned Peter’s wife that if she did not come up with the balance, which was only about $7000, they would be forced to remove his ashes. His children said they would pay the balance, if Peter’s widow would relinquish control of the crypt. She refused to give up her rights and told them that she was going to have the ashes removed and scattered at sea. Everyone agreed and his kids paid the disinterment fee of $430.
Lawford's last wife, Patty.
On May 25,1988, the cemetery workers pried open the crypt and handed Patty the urn containing Peter’s ashes. She traded the National Enquirer, photo privileges for a ride in a Limousine to Marina del Rey and a boat ride to scatter Peter’s ashes in the Pacific. The crypt is now the new residence of Jack Lemmon. This crypt seemed unusually large to house only an urn with ashes. Maybe he had purchased it when things were not so financially bleak for him. I was told that those crypts can cost anywhere from $80,000 to $100,000.
Westwood Memorial Park
1218 Glendon Avenue
Los Angeles, California
For directions to the cemetery see Marilyn Monroe in the Glamour Girls Chapter. As you first enter the cemetery bear left and park. Just past the Armand mausoleum you'll see several horizontal crypts, one of which is inhabited by Truman Capote. All of them have names on them with exception to one, this was Peter’s crypt.
Exhumed on May 25, 1988 ashes scattered at sea.
This letter was donated by someone who wishes to remain anonymous.