GLENDALE (AP) — Elizabeth Taylor’s funeral started late — just the way the screen legend wanted it.
Her family held a brief private service Thursday at a Southern California cemetery famous for being the final resting place of Hollywood celebrities, including her good friend Michael Jackson.
But the funeral began 15 minutes after its announced start time in observance of the actress’ parting wish, according to her publicist, Sally Morrison.
She left instructions asking for the tardy start and had requested that someone announce, “She even wanted to be late for her own funeral,” Morrison said.
Taylor died early Wednesday at age 79 of congestive heart failure while surrounded by her four children at Los Angeles’ Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where she had been hospitalized for about six weeks.
Taylor, who was infamously married eight times to seven husbands, converted to Judaism before her 1959 wedding to Eddie Fisher.
Inside the sprawling Forest Lawn Cemetery, barricades blocked access to the funeral, where about four dozen family members mourned the actress during a service that lasted about an hour, said Glendale police spokesman Tom Lorenz. Five black stretch limousines transported Taylor’s family to and from the funeral, but no procession was held.
The service began with poetry readings by actor Colin Farrell and Taylor’s family members and included a trumpet performance of Amazing Grace by her grandson, Morrison said.
The casket was draped in gardenias, violets, and lilies of the valley before its interment in the cemetery’s Great Mausoleum beneath a marble sculpture of an angel inspired by the work of Italian artist Michelangelo.
In addition to Jackson, the cemetery is the final resting place for such stars as Clark Gable, Jean Harlow, W.C. Fields, Red Skelton, Gracie Allen, Walt Disney and Nat King Cole.
Taylor, the star of such films as “Butterfield 8,” “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” and “Cleopatra,” won three Academy Awards, including a special one for her humanitarian work. She was an ardent and early supporter of AIDS research, when HIV was new to the industry and beyond.
“I admired Elizabeth Taylor enormously and feel heartsick losing her, especially with all of her charitable works,” said Ann Berry, a fan and character actress who lives nearby and visited the cemetery with a friend to pay their respects to the star.
Several television news crews documented the service from across the street while news helicopters swirled overhead and students got out of class at the nearby Cerritos Elementary School.
Taylor underwent at least 20 major operations during her life and nearly died from a bout with pneumonia in 1990. In 1994 and 1995, she had both hip joints replaced, and in February 1997, she underwent surgery to remove a benign brain tumor. In 1983, she acknowledged a 35-year addiction to sleeping pills and pain killers, and was treated for alcohol and drug abuse at the Betty Ford Clinic in Rancho Mirage, Calif.
Survivors include Taylor’s daughters Maria Burton-Carson and Liza Todd-Tivey, sons Christopher and Michael Wilding, 10 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Taylor’s publicist said any details of a memorial service would be announced at a later date.
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