Hollywood Remains to Be Seen

Milton Berle's memorial service
Hillside Memorial Park - April 1, 2002

Story and photos by Mark Masek

While the assembled press gathered behind a roped-off area near the Hillside chapel, about 150 chairs were set up on the lawn for the expected multitude of fans. The only problem was, no one showed up.

Maybe in honor of "Mr. Television," all his fans stayed home to watch the reports of the memorial service on TV.

When the service started, the cemetery security people invited the few fans and the assembled press to sit in an area behind the chapel, where we could get a better look at the service.

The eulogies were delivered by Norm Crosby, Jan Murray (left), Red Buttons, Don Rickles, Larry Gelbart and Richard Moll (best known as "Bull" from "Night Court," and Berle's son-in-law). Now, be honest. When you read those names, how many times did you think, "Him? I thought he was already dead."

Rickles, Murray and Buttons (right) were pretty funny in their comments. Most made fun of Berle's reputation for stealing jokes, and his fear of being caught in a draft and catching a cold. In fact, his coffin was draped with the overcoat he always wore. There were, however, no comments about Berle's legendary appendage.

Rickles also joked about the "cheap yarmulkes" that were given to friends and family at the service. They had little white stickers inside that said, "In Memoriam, Milton Berle, July 12, 1908 - March 27, 2002" (photo below).

Other mourners included - and please hold the shouts of "I thought they were already dead" until the end - Sid Caesar (left), Rose Marie, Jayne Meadows, Ruta Lee, Buddy Hackett (below right), Martin Landau, Fyvush Finkel, Army Archard, Tom Poston, Connie Stevens, Tom Dressen, Ed Begley Jr., Larry Miller and Jackie Cooper.

I guess they were following the old show-biz adage - "If you don't show up for someone's funeral, don't expect them to show up for yours." A few highlights:

Ed Begley Jr. got there late, and ended up sitting in the "common folk" section, outside the chapel.

Larry Miller got there even later, wearing brown wingtip shoes, tan pants, a brown plaid sport coat, and a dark green velvet yarmulke. And, no, he wasn't trying to be funny. I don't think he was, anyway.

Sid Caesar looked pretty old and frail, but actually better than he should look, considering how old he really is and how much he's been through. And, while some of the other celebs arrived in limos, Caesar was helped into the front seat of a red Toyota Camry after the services were over.

The "cheap yarmulke," with the little white sticker inside that said, "In Memoriam, Milton Berle, July 12, 1908 - March 27, 2002."

"What did you pay for all of these? About a buck and a half?" Rickles asked the widow during his eulogy.

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