Fans gather for Cinderella funeral for singer-actress Aaliyah

Friday, August 31st 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ A horse-drawn glass carriage brought the casket carrying pop star Aaliyah to a church Friday for a funeral service where she was mourned by her family and cheered by her fans.

Afterward, Aaliyah's mother stood a few feet from the casket in tears and released a single white dove into the sky. Within seconds, another 21 doves were released _ one for each year of the singer's life.

``It is so beautiful. She's going out like a princess,'' said Nicole Campbell, 24, of Brooklyn, who had camped out in front of St. Ignatius Loyola Roman Catholic Church since 6 p.m. Thursday.

Celebrities including rappers Busta Rhymes, Sean ``P. Diddy'' Combs, Jay-Z and Lil' Kim, along with Gladys Knight, Mike Tyson, R&B singer Usher and movie producer Joel Silver were among those who attended the private farewell for the two-time Grammy-nominated singer.

A crowd of more than 1,000 fans stood outside the Upper East Side church and cheered in tribute as the grim mourners, including her mother Diane, brother Rashad and ``Romeo Must Die'' co-star Delroy Lindo, walked in behind the cream-colored casket. When the casket was brought out after the service, fans sang one of Aaliyah's songs, ``One in a Million.''

The 22-year-old singer-actress died Saturday in a plane crash in the Bahamas, where she had been shooting a music video. All nine people in the small plane were killed in the accident, which is under investigation.

The carriage, pulled by two cream-colored horses, brought the casket four blocks from the Frank E. Campbell Funeral Home for the private funeral Mass. About 100 family members and friends were invited.

On Thursday, fans signed their names in a guest book outside the funeral home, a Manhattan institution that has handled arrangements for celebrities from John Lennon to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis to the Notorious B.I.G.

``I'm totally devastated by this great loss,'' said Glory Mosby, 29, one of the first few to sign. By late afternoon, an employee of the funeral home added pages to the book, which was filled with names and statements.

A public memorial service that was to include a continuous loop of Aaliyah's videos, performances and music was to be held outside a midtown restaurant Friday.

Darlene Corbin, 33, stood outside the funeral home for more than an hour Thursday, watching people come and go.

``So many lives she touched,'' Corbin said. ``She probably never had an inkling as to how many people loved her.''

Several large flower arrangements were carried in through a side door, including a bouquet of pink roses bearing a card with ``Aaliyah'' printed inside a heart. A pink teddy bear was propped near the guest book. Children stood on tiptoes to read the pages and write their names.

``She was sending out a message to all the young kids, and the kids loved her,'' said Mary Harvey, 25, who brought her three young nieces from Brooklyn. ``She will be missed.''