Saturday, 25 May 2013

Seeing them off

Fourteen years ago Frank Sinatra's funeral was held in Beverly Hills. Four hundred celebrities were in attendance, including Bill Clinton and Nancy Reagan. John Paul II didn't show up, but many other showbiz personalities were there including Tony Bennett and of course top names from the world of organised crime. Half a dozen helicopters circled overhead and "a skywriting plane traced a giant cross, the letters 'F.S.' and a heart in the brilliant blue sky overhead".

That was all as it should be, but a report that "several hundred fans lined the streets around the church in quiet, respectful knots" makes the occasion sound rather low-key, though one must remember that thronging the streets is not something that the residents of Beverly Hills are accustomed to do, whatever the event.

In demonstrations of real affection, the attendance of 100,000 mourners seems to be the norm. "On 12 October 1922, over 100,000 people attended Marie Lloyd's funeral at Hampstead, weeping as they followed the funeral procession of twelve cars full of flowers."

Then, in August 1926, "an estimated 100,000 people lined the streets of New York to pay their respects at Rudolph Valentino's funeral". Windows were smashed as fans tried to get close to the hearse or into the funeral parlor.

When Edith Piaf died in October 1963 "the ceremony at the cemetery was attended by more than 100,000 fans", and it was the only time since the end of World War II that the traffic in Paris had come to a complete stop.

Piaf was denied a funeral mass by the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Paris because of her lifestyle, but since then a much more friendly attitude towards depravity has prevailed among top prelates: the Archbishop of Los Angeles celebrated a two-hour ritual for Sinatra.

This post is one of five drafted by Tony before he became too ill to blog.  He had scheduled it for 20th May, 2012.  Today is the first anniversary of his death so we are publishing this.  His funeral, by the way, was considerably smaller but, we are quite certain, substantially jollier than any of those mentioned in his draft post.  Pope John Paul II ALSO elected to snub Tony's funeral, as he had Sinatra's, earning Frank S. and Tony B. yet another thing in common.