Liz Smith: The Marvin Hamlisch Funeral

The flowers in the hearse were a tribute to Hamlisch's song "Sunshine, Lollipops, and Rainbows." (Photo: Dan Rys).WITHOUT MUSIC, life would be a mistake,” said Fredrich Nietzsche.

SO MANY of you responded to mine here on the unexpected and sudden death of Marvin Hamlisch.

Well, his funeral was “the real thing” — with something for everyone at Temple Emanu-El last Tuesday.

It had a President of the United States Bill Clinton
It had a letter read aloud from Nancy Reagan and another from President Barack Obama
It had Marvin’s great friend Sir Howard Stringer of Sony … It had the broken-hearted Leonard Lauder who equated Terre Hamlisch’s loss with his own recent loss of his wife Evelyn

Some of the stars who attended Marvin's funeral. Marvin’s widow Terre is directly aboveIt had old friends galore … It had Hebrew prayers …

It had stars (Liza Minnelli, the Yankees’ Joe Torre, Frank and Kathie Lee Gifford, Idina Menzel, Kelli O’Hara, Raul Esparza, Ann-Margret, Leslie Uggams, Richard Gere, Tony Danza, Joy and Regis Philbin, Diane Sawyer, Mike Nichols, Chris Matthews, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Kelly Bishop, Priscilla Lopez, Candice Bergen, Alan Alda, Bette Midler, Susan Lucci, Bernadette Peters) and perhaps others I did not glimpse …

It had a big choir …

Plus a sing-along with the audience of “What I Did for Love” …

And, it had a magnificent tribute delivered by Marvin’s widow Terre …

What it didn’t have was the word “No!”

Marvin spent his life saying YES to almost every request, even the impossible ones. And Terre said that whenever she was depressed or lying down retreating from life, Marvin would come, jump on the bed and start singing the score from a famous musical. He would sing all the numbers, conduct an imaginary orchestra, and act all the parts until he reduced her to helpless laughter. Marvin never took NO for an answer.

This was not a funeral for the Smart Set wanting to be seen; it was for Marvin’s host of real friends.

I was sitting about four windows back from the front, unfortunately just far enough to not see very clearly and sometimes not to hear. Beside me, on the aisle, was a smart-looking young woman in a black sleeveless dress and high heels. She was so young that I thought it ok to ask how old she was?

She said, “I am 18!”

“Were you a friend of Marvin’s,” I asked.

“Oh, no, I just came because I read about him and knew about this.”

Emboldened, I said, “Do you work?” She said, “No, I am just entering college; I am going to be a freshman at Harvard next week.”

“Why did you decide to attend Marvin Hamlisch’s funeral?” I asked.

She replied: “Just to pay my respects. He must have been a marvelous human being.”

I think Marvin would have been beguiled by such a story. I was glad I was there with this young girl to say goodbye. Old and young, it would be good if either knew more about the other.

Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam, CT.ONE of the reasons for living in the Connecticut River Valley, or going there to visit, is the existence of the Goodspeed Opera House Foundation which exists in a building right on the river in Haddam. Some of Broadway’s brightest stars and wanna-be’s have graced this stage. (The last time I was involved at the Goodspeed was when I did the honors for the one and only Tommy Tune.)

The other night my friend Kristin Chenoweth, who is a Goodspeed alum, was being honored with the theater’s award for “outstanding contributions to musical theater.” The evening went off with a bang despite the fact that the adorable Kristin wasn’t even there. The petite singer-actor-comic from Oklahoma is still recovering from being struck on the head by a falling object during a scene filming the TV series “The Good Wife.”

On this recent night, Kristin’s pal of many years and her co-actor on “The Good Wife” — the gifted Alan Cumming — appeared in her stead to accept her honor. He was Tweeting with the star from his table as the evening proceeded. We were presented with great film clips of Kristin! Then, Alan got up to assure us she had been saved from too much trauma from her accident, because of the voluminous “fall” she was wearing on the back of her head.

This was an illuminating evening of very nice people who saluted the Hoffman Auto Group, a bunch of local philanthropic heroes. And when the very able auctioneer Kathleen Guzman got up, she managed to whomp the audience into huge bids for glamourous items. But the best were the four or six generous donors who backed two full classes for hundreds of children who will come participate in learning musical theater at the Goodspeed.

One of Kristin Chenoweth’s understudies, Kirsten Wyatt, scored by telling us that the star’s life is all about high-heeled shoes. Bill Thomas, Andrew Lippa and Khris Lewin also entertained.

I am beholden to my own personal heroes for this delightful evening — Linda and David Frankel. Mr. Frankel is both a doctor and lawyer, pilots his own helicopter, sometimes resides in Paris, but loves best the waters off of Fenwick. The beautiful Linda is frequently mistaken for TV’s Diane Sawyer — and no wonder, she’s her sister.

This column originally appeared on NYSocialDiary.com on 8/16/12

2 comments so far.

  1. avatar Rho says:

    Liz, thanks for taking us to Marvin’s funeral.  Wish I could have been there too.  May he rest in peace.

  2. avatar Deirdre Cerasa says:

    He was divine and incomparable. Our world is a better place for having him in it. We are so blessed to have his music to listen to forever. Be at Peace, Marvin.