THE rich, the famous, the stars, the beautiful people. Sooner or later, they all kick the bucket. And it's not too surprising that so many of those who lived a rumbustious life that far exceeded the studio publicity machine's wildest dreams, should have died in circumstances as macabre as any of their movies. Suicide, murder, ''accidents'', disease - all claimed their victims with no respect for fame or fortune. Penniless or fabulously wealthy, ravaged by illness or in the bloom of youth, the final casting call gathered up them all. And on one of the most bizarre tours available in the utterly bizarre metropolis of Hollywood, they're all on stage again for a last bow. ''Director of Undertakings'' Matthew (Maffew) Anderson parades a cheeky Cockney accent that strikes just the right irreverent tone as he chauffeurs the metallic grey 1968 Cadillac Hearse along Hollywood Boulevard, at the start of a two hour jaunt which might be titled ''The Day of the Living Dead.'' Started by a former embalmer, Grave Line Tours goes one better than those which peek over the garden gates' of the homes of stars who are still flesh and blood. It satisfies that inner yearning to prove that the screen legends and demigods were human after all. And it is also a good starting point for any visitor to Los Angeles who wants to set the city in context. Style triumphs over substance here, you are only as good as your last picture, and nobody lasts forever. There is a lot to took at from behind the hearse's tinted windows, and besides pointing out where various stars played their closing scenes, Maffew also makes mention of other places of interest. Here is where the Reagans live, and Nancy apparently changed the house number from 666 to 668 to avoid association with the Anti-Christ. This is the remains of a Korean-owned liquor store, burned out in the riots. The diminutive Alan Ladd ordered that the ceilings in this house on the right be lowered to 5 feet 10 inches so as to increase his stature. And as a leitmotif, the greatest and most tragic star of all appears time and again. Her orphanage, her apartments (one now inhabited by transvestite lookalikes), and the house at Brentwood where she met her tragic end. Suicide? Murder? Only Marilyn Monroe and a very few close to her know the truth. Her old house is currently up for sale, prompting a stampede of goulish prospective buyers. The inside of the Cadillac rings to the mournful strains of Bach's Toccata and Fugue and Chopin's Funeral March, followed by a taped commentary which Maffew uses as a sounding board for his own repartee. ''Portly!'' he exclaims in mock amazement at an over-modest description of Fatty Arbuckle. Then later, after the hearse moves on from the house where Arbuckle was involved in a starlet's death: ''I reckon he was fitted up.'' Nobody framed John Belushi, the author of his own destruction even though his female companion at the time mixed his last speedball. One of the more unusual of Maffew's recent clients was an Australian who demanded a special Belushi tour, from the Chateau Marmont where the comic died to the grocery store where he threw a tantrum. He was videoed imitating his hero at each location and the tape is now cult viewing for Belushi fans Down Under. Art imitates death. Grave Line's first ever client was a star-struck enthusiast best known as Divine, the female impersonator, who enjoyed minor fame as a latter day Danny La Rue. Now dead her/himself, Divine's point of departure has been included on the tour as a special tribute for devoted patronage, although stars normally have to have been dead for at least five years before being incorporated on the route. The hearse purrs on, halting outside - in more or less equal measure - sleazy hotels, run-down apartments and plush Beverly Hills residences whose square footage is measured in millions. Here is where Janis Joplin had her last fix of heroin, leaving US$2,500 in her will for a party featuring the Grateful Dead. This is where Sal Mineo was stabbed to death - by a male hooker? - and there is the car port he crawled to trying to get help. This is where Peter Finch died in 1977, Sharon Tate was murdered there by the Manson Gang in what many, including Maffew, feel was a case of mistaken identity, and here's where Montgomery Clift suffered a near fatal car crash from which he was rescued by Elizabeth Taylor. He was appallingly crippled for the rest of his life, prompting the immortal remark from Marilyn Monroe - who else? - that he was the only person she knew who was in a worse shape than she was. It's a theory of Maffew's that two particular roles in Hollywood - Dracula and Tarzan - are doomed to a miserable and. So the Cadillac cruises past where Bela Lugosi ended his 20-year addiction to morphine (he was buried in full costume and make-up) and Johnny Weismuller's old home, still with its jungly surrounds and moat-like swimming pool, although the actual house has been burnt down. On, on, on. Errol Flynn, Dorothy Stratton (the murdered centrefold), Truman Capote - who prophetically remarked that the whole of southern California was like the infamous cemetery Forest Lawn - Jean Harlow (a botched abortion?) and the house where Gary Cooper rode off into the sunset in 1961. And here is where Clara Blandick, kindly Aunty Em from The Wizard of Oz, died in the most perverse and saddest end of all the stars en route - by suffocating herself. Throughout the trip, Maffew's own enthusiasm and interest in what he's showing off is infectious. And he reacts strongly to the suggestion that his little money-spinner might be disrespectful. ''I've got the utmost respect for everyone who is featured on this tour - I think it's far worse to hound people when they are alive,'' he says doggedly. Still, at one point he warns he might have to make a sudden getaway as the current owner of one former star's house has wearied of the residue of fame and tends to turn abusive. The last stop is the one-time Hotel Knickerbocker, where Harry Houdini failed to escape from the underworld to attend a seance held by his widow. The hotel is now an old people's home, and the sight of a hearse jolts some of the occupants; are they dreaming or has their own time come at last? On the drive back to town, the HOLLYWOOD letters up on the hill - a popular suicide spot are just visible through the smog. A fitting finale.