There was a tragic connection between Forest Park and the late actress Elizabeth Taylor, who passed last week. Her third husband, Michael Todd, is buried with five family members in Plot 66 of the Beth Aaron cemetery Dorsche Tov Cemetery at Desplaines Avenue and Roosevelt Road. Beth Aaron is located within Jewish Waldheim.
Todd was an Oscar-winning film producer who perished in a plane crash on March 22, 1958. His young wife was supposed to have accompanied him on his twin-propeller Lockheed Lodestar “Lucky Liz” on the flight from Los Angeles to New York. Todd wouldnft let her fly out of concern that she was coming down with the flu. There were three other passengers on the plane, including Todd’s biographer, who was working on “The Nine Lives of Mike Todd.”
Flying through the mountains, the plane became heavily coated with ice and crashed in Grants, New Mexico. Todd’s body was essentially incinerated and all that was recovered were some scraps of clothing, bone fragments, and a portion of the seatbelt. These were placed in a body bag.
Some suggested that Todd be cremated, but his young widow insisted that he be laid to rest with his family in Forest Park.
Michael Todd was born Avrom Hirsch Goldbogen. His family purchased the plot at Beth Aaron because at that time Jewish funerals were not permitted in Chicago. Forest Park’s cemeteries were among the first in the area that did not discriminate against Jews, so the Goldbogens chose it for their family gravesite.
When Elizabeth Taylor was told of the plane crash, she reportedly went into hysterics and was heavily sedated during the weeks that followed. On March 25, 1958, Taylor flew to Chicago on a TWA DC-7 loaned to her by billionaire Howard Hughes. She was accompanied by singing star Eddie Fisher, who would later become her fourth husband, and newscaster Walter Winchell. When the plane landed, news people and fans broke through the ropes and rushed the bewildered star.
A limousine transported Taylor to Beth Aaron, where a large tent shielded the Goldbogen plot. The cemetery was a mob scene with over 150 news correspondents and a crowd of 2000. It was like a giant picnic with children scampering around the grounds.
In her autobiography, Taylor recalled being overwhelmed by the crowd and commotion. Many were holding bouquets for her, but she would only accept a single flower from the hand of a young girl she spotted among the crowd.
During the brief ceremony inside the tent, the mourners could hear shouts of “Liz” from the mob. When Taylor emerged, the onlookers reportedly let out a “savage roar.” What was supposed to be Taylor’s solemn visit to Forest Park had turned into a circus.
In the following years, Taylor would periodically visit the grave of the one husband she didn’t lose through divorce. In 1977, while in town for the dedication of a hospital, Taylor visited the gravesite before stopping by the Golden Steer for lunch.
That same year, her husbandfs casket was unearthed by thieves seeking Todd’s wedding ring. When they didn’t find any valuables, they discarded the body bag in some bushes, where it was later found by private detective Anthony Pellicano. Contrary to a popular rumor, Todd’s remains were not moved to a secret location following Forest Parkfs only recorded grave robbery.
Taylor sent flowers to the Beth Aaron cemetery from time to time. Veteran cemetery workers recall the beautiful white roses she sent but never saw her at the gravesite. They often receive visitors requesting to see the grave and direct them to Todd’s humble resting place.
Michael Todd is buried in sacred soil in a town that refused to discriminate against his religion. His widow went on to fight discrimination against AIDS victims. She died on March 23, one day after the 53rd anniversary of the “Lucky Liz” plunging into the mountains of New Mexico.