Mourners Hold Traditional Service For Jazzman Woody Herman
Nov. 03, 1987
WEST HOLLYWOOD, Calif. (AP) _ Bandleader Woody Herman was eulogized Monday as a Pied Piper who used his musical talent to touch millions of people around the world.
About 150 mourners attended a Roman Catholic funeral Mass at St. Victor's Church to pay homage to the jazzman who died Thursday at the age of 74.
''Welcome to Woody's church,'' said Monsignor George J. Parnassus. ''This was truly his spiritual home.''
A group of pallbearers, some former musicians who played with Herman in his famous band, ''The Young Thundering Herd,'' ushered his closed gray casket, adorned with an arrangement of red roses and white carnations, up the church aisle.
Herman's parish priest noted the bandleader and clarinet player had fallen on hard times in the months before his death.
''He suffered enormously,'' Parnassus said. ''There were privations. But up until the end, there was no bitterness in him. He was truly a man of peace.
''There was nothing phony about him. He was completely genuine. There were no airs about him, he was an easy man to like.''
He said Herman's daughter, Ingrid Herman Reese, relayed her father's request for traditional music to be played at the service, rather than some of his own tunes.
Friend Jack Siefert said Herman was the perfect role model for any musician aspiring to success.
''Woody proved you could reach your artistic goals and still be a right guy,'' Siefert said. ''Woody Herman was the rarest of human possessions - he was a true friend. We have lost the greatest Pied Piper American music has ever presented.''
Numerous fund-raising benefits honoring Herman and designed to gather money for his medical and tax debts did much to ease his pain during his waning days, Ms. Reese said.
''It meant a lot to my dad and it meant a lot to me,'' she said. ''A million people have called to give their regards and I know that everyone who could be here is here.''
Herman, known for such standards as ''Apple Honey,'' ''Northwest Passage,'' ''Caledonia'' and ''The Woodchopper's Ball,'' said in his later years that he continued to tour because he still loved the music and because he needed the money.
Herman's financial decline culminated when the Internal Revenue Service auctioned his house, which he bought from Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall in the 1940s, to cover tax debts.
Herman, who continued to live in the house as a renter, was to be evicted in September by the new owner for non-payment of rent. But help from friends and fans, including celebrities Frank Sinatra and Clint Eastwood, kept him in the house and paid his back rent.
He was admitted to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center on Oct. 1, and died there nearly a month later of heart failure.
''All the men who worked with him loved him,'' bandleader Les Brown said after the service. ''And he brought out the best in them.''
Ms. Reese dabbed moist eyes and agreed.
''He was a great friend,'' she said. ''He'll be remembered as much for that as his music.''