Lew Grade rides off into an art director's sunset

LEW GRADE, the last great showbiz mogul of the 20th century, was buried at 4pm yesterday against a picture-perfect winter sunset straight from central casting. Jet aircraft drew white lines like a credit sequence across the sky of icy blue, while long elegiac clouds were touched with vivid reds and golds.

The over-the-top sunset was nicely appropriate for a man whose energies and enthusiasm were always on an epic scale.

Lord Grade, who died on Sunday morning, just 12 days short of his 92nd birthday - an anniversary he shared with the subject of one of his most successful films, Jesus Christ - was buried at the Liberal Jewish Cemetery in Willesden, north London. The graveyard is pitched between the back of a suburban terrace and a children's playground.

The local rabbi sang by the graveside. The sky became a mad nursery daub of pinks and blues. This combination of grandeur and domesticity was mirrored by the service for which 200 friends and family crowded into the bleak chapel with its stark wall heaters and tiny globe lamps.

It was a very private, dynastic affair. The press was excluded, although a platoon of paparazzi set up their telephoto lenses beyond the cemetery gates. Ennobled showbiz luminaries and friends from the media - David Puttnam, Jeremy Isaacs, Roger Moore - took their seats, along with a rogues' gallery, dimly familiar from Lord Grade's ATV adventure series in the Sixties. But there was no sign of Tony Curtis, who starred in Lord Grade's The Persuaders, nor of Joan Collins with whose father, Joe, Lord Grade set up his first theatrical agency; nor was there any trace of his most conspicuous worldwide clients, the Muppets.

Michael Grade spoke movingly of his favourite uncle with whom he shares a taste for tough bargaining and colossal cigars. "We will have to learn to live without the twinkle, the phone calls, the superlatives, the sweep of his handshake and the lingering whiff of Havana tobacco," he told the congregation. "The only good thing to come out of this is the thought that the world shortage in Cuban cigars may now be at an end."

Often close to tears, the Channel 4 chief said his uncle was never driven by mere personal gain. "What interested him was the game - the idea, the pitch, the sale - and on to the next deal and the next." Had he been born in pre-business times, he said, Lew "would have surely been an explorer in unchartered territories".

Led by Lady Grade, former singer Kathleen Moody - they were married for 56 years - and his adopted son, Paul, the funeral party left for the Westminster Synagogue. By thelimousines Eddie Bell, chairman of HarperCollins, who published Lord Grade's ebullient autobiography Still Dancing in 1987, looked stunned. "I can't believe he's dead," he said. "He rang me from New York only days ago to rave about a new writer he had discovered. I bought the book, too."