Sinatra's final curtain draws a full house

Tim Cornwell,In Beverly Hills
Wednesday 20 May 1998 23:02

THE BLACK stretch limos, along with the odd Rolls, were double- parked nose to tail along North Bedford Drive.

With that faint hint of a movie-Mafia funeral, it seemed a fitting tribute to the Chairman of the Board. The high, mighty and elderly glitterati of Hollywood made their stately way into the Good Shepherd Roman Catholic Church, with an honor guard of car-hops in gleaming red and blue, and clusters of dark-suited chauffeurs. The rest of us jostled for a better look.

Francis Albert Sinatra was laid to rest yesterday, with a private funeral in the heart of Beverly Hills before his casket was to be flown to the family plot near Palm Springs by private jet. Several hundred onlookers crowded the pavement, as some 400 official mourners arrived, from Gregory Peck to Nancy Reagan, Sophia Loren, and Phil Donahue. This being Los Angeles, it was part funeral, part show business event: Kirk Douglas, Liza Minnelli, Bob Dylan all present. Sinatra's widow, Barbara, and son, Frank Jnr, entered by a side gate.

LA's Cardinal, Roger Mahoney, led the Mass, while Tony Bennett was to sing Ave Maria, and producer Quincy Jones led the choir. The Cardinal, in a homily, said Sinatra "recognised the great gift that God had given him with such a splendid voice, and developed that gift for the good of others."

Tom Dreeson, the comic who frequently opened for Sinatra on tour dates, described a church festooned with white flowers and a service that was a "joyous, joyous event". But people wept, he said, when excerpts from a song "Put Your Dreams Away For Another Day" were played. It was actress Debbie Reynolds, however, who put it the best: everyone agreed, she said, that Heaven would never be the same.

Outside, Kitty Saldana, 80, a Sinatra-concert veteran dressed in black, had made the 15-hour train ride from El Paso, Texas. "I don't think that in the future there will ever be a singer like him," she said. Overhead a plane wrote his initials in the sky, with crosses and hearts. Sinatra was 82 when he died on Thursday of heart failure. He was to be buried in the Desert Memorial Park near Palm Springs, Hollywood's favoured vacation and retirement spot, where his father, Anthony Martin Sinatra, and mother, Natalie "Dolly" Sinatra, are interred.

"He's the man," said Helene Mulholland, 43, a film production supervisor standing by herself under a nearby tree, whose parents saw him on their honeymoon in 1945. "It's like he's in my blood ... It's that integral to my being, his music. It's like the sound track of my life."

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