Bernie’s widow Rhonda is comforted in front of poster of him at memorial
alt="Bernie Mac waves" />
Leave it to Cedric “The Entertainer” to get the estimated crowd of 7,000
to laugh at the beginning of a touching public memorial for comedian/actor Bernie
Mac Saturday in Chicago.
“This dude is a very, very popular guy,”
Cedric told the throng of fans, actors and dignitaries gathered at the House of
Hope on the South Side, according to the
Chicago Tribune. “You know y’all were like, ‘Let me get
four tickets to the funeral!’ He’s still the hottest ticket in town!”
Some people slept outside the church to guarantee a place inside. Others began arriving
about 7:45 a.m., nearly four hours before the service, which lasted nearly four
hours and was described by the Tribune as “part late-night Saturday
comedy show, part early morning Sunday church service.”
Bernie, a native of Chicago, died from complications from pneumonia at the age of
50 on Aug. 9. Cedric, D.L. Hughley and Steve Harvey, the three remaining stars of
the 2000 documentary The Original Kings of Comedy, took the stage together.
D.L. recalled that he and the others eagerly awaited Bernie’s stage attire each
night. He said: “Bernie would wear colors that crayons hadn’t even thought of yet.”
Steve appeared solemn one moment—”You tell jokes for a living, you dig? Sometimes
it’s just not funny”—and in another he would unleash hilarious tales
about working with Bernie. He told how Bernie, formidable at 6-foot-3 and built
like a football player, would pat the guys on their butts to encourage them before
performances.”But Bernie was heavy-handed. He had real strong hands, and they
were cupped all like this,” Steve said, demonstrating Bernie’s hands
while the audience howled in laughter.
“Bernie always said that he walked alone. I don’t think that he was
alone. I think he was walking with Jesus. I’ll see you soon, Bernie,”
Harvey said, looking upward, then with perfect timing: “Well, I don’t
want to see you too soon.”
Also on hand: Samuel L. Jackson, Don Cheadle, Salli Richardson, Chris Rock, Tom
Joyner, Jeremy Suarez, Kellita Smith, basketball player Juwan Howard, producer and
writer Ali LeRoi, comedians Mike Collier, Bruce Bruce and George Wallace, Chicago
Mayor Richard Daley and Rev. Jesse Jackson.
The Mayor recalled that Bernie was in his office recently asking how he could help
fight violent crime in the city.
”He wanted to help get children away from a life of crime and violence,”
he said. ”That’s why he’s the king of comedy. He never lost his
soul in Chicago.”
Those not in attendance—such as Oprah Winfrey, Sen. Barack Obama, Maxine Waters,
the O’Jays and actor Andy Garcia—sent notes that were read at the ceremony.
“Michelle and I were so deeply sad to hear about your loss. . . . He . . .
[made] us laugh and laugh hard,” Barack’s statement read. Bernie caught
flak recently when he joked about menopause, sexual infidelity and promiscuity at
a July fundraiser for the presidential hopeful.
During Saturday’s service, Barack went on to write that Bernie could say things
others couldn’t. “Bernie Mac will be sorely missed,” he wrote.
Others not in attendance sent condolences to Bernie’s widow, Rhonda (pictured
above), and daughter, Je’niece Childress, who attended the service.
Bernie’s beloved Chicago White Sox organization presented Rhonda with a No.
1 jersey bearing his name. The service also included a tribute from Rachelle Ferrell,
Bernie’s favorite singer, and a video tribute to Bernie and Isaac Hayes, who
also died last weekend. Sam, who stars with Bernie and Isaac in the upcoming flick
Soul Men, scheduled for a Nov. 15 release, recalled how he and Bernie talked
about the loss of privacy when a person becomes famous. Samuel said that although
he gets bothered by fans coming up and invading his space, it never bothered Bernie.
“He never lost being that kid from Chicago who wanted to make you laugh. He
never said, ‘Back off,’ Sam said, then, drawing laughter: “I don’t
have a problem with doing that.”
Sam also talked about working with Bernie on Soul Men.
“It was a real joy. I knew he was having some health issues, and I was concerned,”
he said. “But he would say, ‘I’m good. Let’s hit it.’
Bernie had been hospitalized at Northwestern Memorial Hospital since mid-July. A
few years ago, he disclosed that he suffered from sarcoidosis, a rare autoimmune
disease that causes inflammation in tissue, most often in the lungs.
The family requests that donations be made at
www.berniemacfoundation.org, which aims to find a cure for sarcoidosis.
To view photos from the memorial, click