- Posted June 28, 2013 by
New York, New York
This iReport is part of an assignment:
James Gandolfini Memorial Brings Out the Press, Celebrities and Fans
The morning was hot, muggy and overcast, but that didn’t stop hundreds of fans of actor James Gandolfini from lining up hours before the scheduled funeral service at The Cathedral of St John the Divine in Manhattan’s Upper West Side.
At one point in the early morning hours, there was, however, more press on hand than fans. The press lined two blocks of sidewalk directly across the street from the Cathedral, where the NYPD had apparently strategically placed them so as to be less obtrusive to the guests and mourners. At 7:30 a.m., there were perhaps thirty fans waiting on line in front of the Cathedral. Across the street, lenses poised at the ready behind police barricades were hundreds of reporters, their gear, vans and paraphernalia.
The press was kept so removed from the scene, that many failed to notice the hearse, accompanied by police cars with flashing lights, carrying the remains of Mr. Gandolfini as it made it's way through the Cathedral's side entrance.
Talking to some of the fans that gathered was a revelation. Gwen, who teaches high school, had traveled ten hours from Kentucky. “I thought it was a hoax when I first heard the news”, she said, tears welling up in her eyes. She explained she was a Sopranos fan, but it was Gandolfini’s sincerity that spoke to her. Over and over she said, “He just seemed so sincere.” Another fan had traveled all the way from Wisconsin, booking a flight at the last minute.
Arriving celebrities were driven to a side entrance of the Cathedral, behind whose gates the press had a hard time photographing. At approximately 9:15, the VIP guests began to stream into the church via the far north staircase. The line seemed to move slowly and it wasn’t until the fans were allowed in that the reason became clear. There was a strict security check at the door, with bags searched thoroughly. Programs with the words “A Celebration of the Life of James Gandolfini, 27 June 2013” were distributed as fans entered the Cathedral.
Delivering eulogies were Gandolfini’s wife, Deborah Lin Gandolfini, fellow actors and friends Thomas Richardson, Susan Aston and David Chase. Ms. Aston’s voice broke often as she spoke of a friendship that went back to the 1980’s when they were both aspiring actors waiting to go on stage in the East Village. Both were nervous as they waited to go on. Eventually, James turned to her and said, “What’s the worst that can happen? We suck!”, quickly breaking the tension. All spoke of Mr. Gandolfini’s larger than life persona and generous spirit. While driving, he might hear about something on the radio, “He would pull over to the side of the road to write down the information.” Later, “He would do what he could to help, often anonymously.”
The service which lasted over an hour included the giving of Holy Communion with fans partaking of the holy sacrament alongside friends and family of Mr. Gandolfini. Somehow, it seemed that is just how Mr. Gandolfini would have wanted it.