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Pallbearers bring out Sinatra's casket

The final curtain

Private funeral held for Sinatra

LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- It was a fitting final curtain for the man who spent a good part of his life overwhelmed by fame and battling for privacy.

Frank Sinatra, hailed as one of the great entertainers of his time, was remembered Wednesday in a private funeral service that attracted the Hollywood elite, but left the media and fans standing before the church's steps, hoping to catch one last tidbit of information on Ol' Blue Eyes.

"He seriously is the greatest entertainer (ever)," actor Tony Danza said before the funeral began at noon (3:00 p.m. EDT) Wednesday, echoing the thoughts of those in attendance and millions of Sinatra fans around the world.

Also: Sinatra funeral program

"He became one of the greatest artists that will ever be. Ever, ever," said actress Faye Dunaway.

Hundreds attend

Danza and Dunaway were among an estimated 400 people attending the service led by Cardinal Roger Mahoney, archbishop of Los Angeles, at Good Shepherd Church in Beverly Hills.

As the guests arrived at the church, cameras whirred and clicked, capturing a virtual "who's who" of old Hollywood, with some younger stars joining the mix.

Among the celebrities attending the funeral: Don Rickles, Milton Berle, Debbie Reynolds, Wayne Newton, and Tony Bennett

Among those attending: Tony Bennett, Angie Dickinson, Jack Lemmon, Jack Nicholson, Dionne Warwick, Tony Curtis, Marlo Thomas, Phil Donahue, Tom Selleck, Don Rickles, Sophia Loren, Wayne Newton, Liza Minnelli, Ed McMahon, Larry King, Milton Berle, Debbie Reynolds, Mia Farrow and former first lady Nancy Reagan.

Sinatra's wife Barbara and a family contingent also attended, but apparently entered the church through a side entrance.

Several people were to give rememberances on Sinatra, including his son Frank Jr., and actors Gregory Peck, Kirk Douglas and Robert Wagner. The funeral service lasted a little more than two hours.

Then, Sinatra's casket was loaded into a hearse and taken to Desert Memorial Park in Cathedral City, near Palm Springs, where his mother, Natalie "Dolly" Sinatra, and father, Anthony Martin Sinatra, are buried. He will be interred in a family vault at the cemetery in a service excluding all but family members.

The serene cemetery where Sinatra will be interred with other members of his family

His way

Sinatra died of a heart attack on Thursday at age 82. He had been suffering from poor health in recent months.

His death draws to a close one of the greatest -- and most unlikely -- stories in show business history.

Barely surviving a difficult birth, Sinatra grew up in Hoboken, New Jersey, but dropped out of high school at age 15. Ignoring his father's advice that "singing is for sissies," a young Sinatra found himself fronting for the big band legend Tommy Dorsey in 1940.

By 1942, Sinatra went solo and became the idol of bobby-sock wearing teen-age girls, previewing the fame of later song sensations like Elvis and the Beatles.

But this was the just the beginning for the man who would become the Chairman of the Board of the entertainment world.

Over 30,000 white flowers decorated the church at the vigil Tuesday night

Along with topping record charts by putting his stamp on songs like "My Way," "New York, New York," and "Strangers in the Night," Sinatra went on to appear in over 60 films, winning an Academy Award for his role in the 1953 film "From Here to Eternity."

Along the way, Sinatra's private life became public knowledge as fans and the media eyed his every move. Each of his four marriages and three divorces -- and numerous love affairs with some of the world's most beautiful women -- was well-documented.

Sinatra was also leader of the "Rat Pack," a group of talented swingers that included Sammy Davis. Jr. and Dean Martin. The group sang and acted their way into Hollywood lore. Today, Joey Bishop is the only surviving Rat Pack member; he attended Sinatra's funeral.

Sinatra settled down with Barbara Marx in 1976. The two remained married until his death.

"There will never be another Frank Sinatra," entertainer Vic Damone once said. "He is all by himself, with what he's done with his life as a performer and as a man."

A pilot flying over the service delivered his own tribute in the form of a heart written in the sky

The tributes

The funeral caps days of coast-to-coast events in which friends and fans paid their last respects to Sinatra. His star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame has been covered by flowers and cards since his death. Flowers and cards from fans also piled up outside his mansion in Beverly Hills.

On Sunday, hundreds of mourners gathered at a public Mass and memorial held in Palm Springs, California. On Monday night, residents of Sinatra's hometown overflowed a church and paid tribute to "The Voice" by singing "My Way."

And on Tuesday evening, a private rosary service was held for Sinatra, with family and friends filling Good Shepherd Church in Beverly Hills. Daughter Nancy read a letter that her father had written her in the 1970s that told her to maintain her faith in life.

"Nancy spoke very clearly and strongly about her father," said Frank Brownstead, 55, music director for the Cardinal's Office of Worship. "She read a letter that Frank Sinatra had written her in the '70s in the middle of all the family's troubles. The message was keep the faith."

Outside the church on Wednesday, as a skywriter created the white outline of a heart in the blue skies above, reporters said the atmosphere was eerily calm. Santa Monica Boulevard, a major thoroughfare running in front of the church, was closed off as the funeral emptied and Sinatra's casket was taken away from the church.

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