The glittering roster of celebrities at yesterday’s Muhammad Ali memorial service is still growing, according to news reports — attesting to the enduring star power of the late prize fighter, who rocketed to global fame from a racially segregated childhood in 1940s Louisville.
Among the latest bold-face names to emerge: actor and former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (who Instagrammed a grinning selfie with eulogist and former President Bill Clinton), and David Beckham, the retired British superstar soccer player.
Beck’s wife, Victoria, the former Spice Girl singer, wasn’t spotted with him at the KFC Yum Center, where the number of mourners at the afternoon event ran as high as 20,000, according to Britain’s Mirror.
Other celebrities whose attendance wasn’t previously reported included View talk show host Whoopi Goldberg; filmmaker Spike Lee; actor and former pro-football player Carl Weathers, and triple-platinum former singer Yusuf (Cat Stevens) Islam, says Britain’s Daily Mail and one of Boulevard’s Facebook friends.
They joined already known attendees, including comedian Billy Crystal, who gave one of the eulogies; actor and pallbearer Will Smith and his wife Jada Pinkett Smith; Today show host Matt Lauer and former host Bryant Gumbel; retired pro boxer Mike Tyson — and the realest of royalty: King Abdullah II of Jordan.
Trump sends regrets
Rumors GOP White House hopeful Donald Trump would attend were quashed during the morning when Ali family spokesman Bob Gunnell said the reality TV star called Ali’s wife, Lonnie, to say he was unable to come, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Ali was one of the world’s most high-profile Muslims, so it’s hard to imagine Trump would have been welcome, given his call to ban Muslims from entering the U.S.
The KFC Center service capped a week that drew tens of thousands of spectators earlier yesterday to a 23-mile funeral procession that snaked through the city — all broadcast live to millions online and on television the day he was buried. Chanting “Ali, Ali!” fans waved to celebrities riding with other Ali family guests in the 17-car motorcade. Security, which included the U.S. Secret Service, was tight; an estimated 500 Louisville police officers were there.
Ali and close family and advisors planned the funeral in secret during the final years of his decades-long battle against Parkinson’s disease. Born in Louisville’s West End in 1942, he died at 74 on June 3 in Phoenix, his primary home. He was buried yesterday at a so-far undisclosed gravesite at Cave Hill Cemetery, joining a Kentucky who’s-who of governors, business titans and other luminaries — the most famous being KFC founder Harland Sanders.
The motorcade entered Cave Hill’s iconic main entrance on a carpet of flower petals fans laid earlier in the day: