The coffin was only cardboard, constructed from empty beer cases and spray-painted black.
A small band of musicians played a funeral march as four "pall bearers" hoisted the makeshift casket and led a procession of nearly 100 mourners to a fire ring on Huntington Beach, where the coffin was ceremoniously burned.
But within lay only a body of memories--photographs of rock bands and other memorabilia from Safari Sam's nightclub, whose owners staged the mock funeral and wake Sunday to mark the closing of their beleaguered club.
The crowd of onlookers included former club patrons and local musicians who had performed at the 102-seat nightspot, which during its two-year existence earned a reputation as Orange County's most adventurous music facility.
But owners Sam Lanni and Gil Fuhrer said they could no longer afford to pay rent on the building without revenue from their eclectic bookings of concerts, plays and poetry readings. Entertainment was halted in September after city officials refused to grant Lanni and Fuhrer a new entertainment license.
The half-mile procession from the club to the fire ring on the beach drew stares from curious passers-by and local merchants as it proceeded down Pacific Coast Highway, passing the vacant lot where the Golden Bear, another defunct music club, once stood.
After the coffin was burned, along with a copy of the U.S. Constitution that Lanni threw on the fire, Fuhrer led the group back to the club's parking lot in a New Orleans-style, post-funeral parade.
"I thought it was going to be easier," Fuhrer said. "But I'm glad we did it. We didn't just want to disappear. We wanted to let people know exactly what we were doing."
Although the club is closed, the owners said they will proceed with filing a lawsuit over the city's action. Lanni and Fuhrer have argued that First Amendment protections of free speech have been violated by the city's refusal to grant them an entertainment permit, a decision based on Police Department recommendations and complaints of noise and vandalism voiced by some neighbors.
Fuhrer and Lanni are continuing the legal challenge because "what they've done wasn't right."
"I could understand it if we were hurting someone. But we weren't," Fuhrer said.
Lanni and Fuhrer have recently staged a few concerts as independent promoters at the Meadowlark Country Club in Huntington Beach, but Fuhrer said he doesn't expect to continue working at that location.
"It's not the same working in someone else's building. I hope we can get something of our own again. But it's too early to really think about that yet," Fuhrer said. "This has all been very draining."