NEW YORK — More than 3,000 people crowded St. Patrick's Cathedral today for a memorial Mass for pop artist Andy Warhol, who was eulogized as "the quintessential artist of his time and place" and "a Christian, gentle man."
Young men in Day-glo Mohawk hairdos shared hymnbooks with society dowagers at the 90-minute service for Warhol, who died Feb. 22 of heart failure at age 58 after gallbladder surgery.
Father Anthony Dalla Villa, who conducted the Mass, described it as a "celebration" of a unique artist "with the ability to see the bright side of life in every experience."
"He was a Christian gentleman and a Christian, gentle man," Dalla Villa said.
Warhol's funeral service and burial took place in his native Pennsylvania shortly after his death, but the St. Patrick's Mass offered hundreds of his celebrity friends the chance to say farewell.
There was appreciative applause for eulogies given by art historian John Richardson and Yoko Ono, widow of John Lennon, and laughter when some of Warhol's writings were read.
"When I die, I don't want to leave any leftovers," went one of the quoted excerpts. "I just want to disappear . . . although it would be very glamorous to be reincarnated as a big ring on Elizabeth Taylor's finger."
The altar was bowered with dogwood trees and forsythia and each pew was decorated with a bouquet of tulips for the morning Mass, highlighted by a soul rendition of "Amazing Grace" by Latasha Spencer. Hundreds of celebrity-watchers thronged the steps of the cathedral and spilled onto the sidewalk and streets for half an hour before and after the service.
Among those attending were many of Warhol's co-workers at his studio, The Factory, including Fred Hughes, his executor, and Brigid Berlin.
Also seen were fashion designers Halston, Calvin Klein and Giorgio di Sant'Angelo, and celebrities Liza Minnelli, Raquel Welch, Ruth Ford, Don Johnson, Bianca Jagger, Claus von Bulow, Mrs. Jacob K. Javits, Newport hostess Carolyn Skelly and international socialite Mrs. Oscar Wyatt.
Richardson emphasized Warhol's spirituality as the key to his psyche, his almost daily visits to church, his financing of his nephew's education for the priesthood and his work at a Manhattan church soup kitchen, feeding the poor at Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter.
Referring to the reputation for drugs and sex that became attached to The Factory in the 1960s and 1970s, Richardson said Warhol did not see himself as his brother's keeper, but he "did feel compassion and saved many of his entourage from burnout."
"Someone said that Andy was a skyscraper and when he died the skyline of New York changed," said Yoko Ono, who described Warhol as the "mentor" of her fatherless son, Sean Lennon. "But it hasn't changed. Andy is still with us and he will always be."