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CNN Live Event/Special

Aaliyah's Funeral Procession in New York

Aired August 31, 2001 - 09:44   ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: We want to take you right there to a live picture from Manhattan. This is the funeral procession for the singer Aaliyah. She and eight others were killed in a plane crash in the Bahamas last Saturday. Today a huge funeral, 1200 people will be arriving at the St. Ignatious Loyola Church in Manhattan. And that, as you see, the horse-drawn carriage that is carrying the casket that carries Aaliyah's body.

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: There's also going to be a public ceremony at another location as well.

KAGAN: Cipriani's.

HARRIS: Cipriani's Restaurant is it?

KAGAN: It's on 42nd street.

HARRIS: This is near Time Square?


HARRIS: Yes. So, we will be watching this throughout the morning. We expect there will be huge crowds there.

KAGAN: Our Jodi Ross is live outside the church. Jodi, can you see the horse-drawn carriage arriving your way?

JODI ROSS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know what, Daryn, yes, actually I can. It looks like four flower cars ahead of the carriage, and then we can see the carriage making its way down.

We are not exactly sure where Aaliyah's family members are, they might be in the cars, they might be behind the carriage, but it's absolutely close. I mean, it's less than a block away at this point. Since the service is supposed to start around 10:00 a.m., it looks like it will be pretty close to that.

HARRIS: Any idea what kind of a crowd you're going to see there, Jodi?

ROSS: As far as numbers go, Leon, like I said, there are definitely 1200 people invited. Now we're hearing more, upwards of 1500 people. It's a very big church, so there's actually seating for many. I can tell you that there's tons of fans across the street. There were tons of fans over where the carriage has been sitting for the last half of an hour. There's lots of people here to remember this woman.

KAGAN: And it looks like they need a number of cars just to bring all of the flower arrangements that have been sent, Jodi.

ROSS: Those are really -- they've been very spectacular and very large. Pink and white is what I've seen the most of. A couple of big wreaths, a lot of laurel bouquets on stands, some things have just been carried in by hand, various cars and trucks coming all morning, dropping off flowers. That's the most activity we've seen from out here.

HARRIS: Yes, Jodi, and we can see it better than you, because it's passing right behind you, as a matter of fact.

ROSS: Oh good, it's right behind me?

HARRIS: Yes, you can turn around and look at it. We've got you off camera.

ROSS: Right there it is.

HARRIS: It's all coming right behind you. In fact, here comes the horse-drawn carriage, coming up right behind you.

ROSS: Yes, that's right. And you can see the casket in there.

HARRIS: Do we know who it is that's walking behind the casket?

ROSS: I don't know -- I'm not sure, Leon. They did mention that maybe some family members could be behind the casket. So, it could be a mix of family, friends of hers.


KAGAN: Of course, Aaliyah only 22.

ROSS: And you can hear the...

KAGAN: Go, ahead, Jodi.

ROSS: There you go, Daryn, that's right. And you can hear the fans. I don't know if you can hear the fans applauding right now and cheering as the carriage goes by, as these family members go by. Cars are following now, too. There's that feeling of emotion in the air for Aaliyah.

KAGAN: Only 22 years old when she died on Saturday, and a rising superstar in the music and entertainment business, Jodi.

ROSS: Absolutely. As a matter of fact, Daryn, she was really making the transition already to the movies. She had starred in her feature debut, which was "Romeo Must Die," a very big hit. She had already wrapped her second movie "Queen Of The Damned," an adaptation the Anne Rice novel, and she was set to star in both "Matrix" sequels. As a matter of fact, she's already shot principal photography on the second sequel. So, what happens with that film is unknown.

But, she certainly was crossing over to the film business, as well as the music business.

HARRIS: Yes, I was just going to ask you, Jodi, about that "Matrix." I understand they've gotten started with it. That is going to present quite a bit of a wrinkle. In fact, I'm sure they may be able to actually make some mileage out of having her in the scenes that they have got. Who knows, because this has turned into such a big story.

ROSS: Exactly, Leon, that's happened before, obviously. Now, if it's just a small part that they've shot so far, they can reshoot and put another star in there, in place of Aaliyah. But, they can also use what they've got and make it work towards the film, obviously in the promotion of the movie.

KAGAN: As we watch the pallbearers pull out the casket and carry the casket into the church, Jodi; her death, this 22-year-old young woman's death, has taken and hit so many people across the country, not just fans. I don't know if it had to do with talent, her age, her charisma or a combination of all of those, but it really has taken and hit a lot of people very hard.

ROSS: It's really true, Daryn. I think it's a combination of everything you said. There was something about this woman. It was in the lyrics that she wrote and the kind of music that she created. She really served as a role model for a lot of young women.

They were very influenced by her music, they were very empowered by her music. She had a sexy way about her, but a sweet way about her, too. She was very approachable. Very well liked in the music industry. Quincy Jones has referred to her as something like a daughter to him. They called her -- a lot of people in the music industry called her baby girl, or little sister.

She was really sort of a darling of this business, and I think it's all of those factors that are the reason that people are going to miss her so terribly.

HARRIS: Well, yes. You are exactly right about that, Jodi. The comments that I've been hearing from people across the media talking about this, is the fact that this is such a sad loss, because she was one of the few that did it the right way. She did it, she was clean, she didn't -- she was not offensive. She actually combined all of those thing, the sexiness as well as the impishness, and the -- I guess, just general appeal on all levels, like very few artists are able to do.

And yet, she also has taught everybody one very important lesson, no one is promised tomorrow.

ROSS: That's right, Leon. It's true. She models herself not after Madonna or Mariah Carey, which a lot of these young teen pop stars do, but rather somebody like Sade, who sort of slowly built her career, like you said, in a very classy, elegant way. Went about it the right way.

HARRIS: Yes, you're exactly right.

KAGAN: Also, we mentioned only 22, but she's really been famous and on the public consciousness since she was 14.

HARRIS: Yes, yes.

ROSS: Exactly, Daryn. Her first album debuted was she was 15. The name of that album was "Age Ain't Nothing But A Number," which I think has always been true in Aaliyah's case. She's sort of been big since the day she began.

HARRIS: Yes, Jodi, this may be a bit morbid, and I'm not sure if you know, but did they complete shooting the video there in the Bahamas? And if so, do we know what's going to happen with that video?

ROSS: All I've heard, Leon, is that they shot most of it. I'm not sure that they finished it. And has been some footage released, or at least starting to be released, of some of the b-roll from that shoot. I don't know what happens, and I'm not sure how far along they were in completion of that.

KAGAN: Now we're seeing, Jodi, I think it's to your left, a large crowd of the people. Looks like police are just trying to move people along. Is this indicative of the fans have just shown up to show their support for Aaliyah and for her family?

ROSS: Yes, Daryn. I think those -- that's the crowd that actually came from the funeral home. So, this crowd made the four- block trek probably behind the horse-drawn carriage, and followed Aaliyah's body from that funeral home to the church. So now they can sort of gather and watch things from here.

HARRIS: Tell you what, Jodi, turn around and see if you can give us an idea of how many blocks long this line is stretching, because it looks like it's going on for quite a ways.

ROSS: Yes, Leon. You know what, it looks like I would say at least two both way. I mean, from what I can see, I'm sort of amidst the crowd here, but that's what it looks like from my end. But, they are keeping the fans back. I mean it looks like they're keeping family members and friends close by at church door level. And then everybody else is kind of being pushed back to the sidewalk, or pushing them across the street. Letting the fans watch, but letting them not get too involved in the process.

KAGAN: Jodi, you mentioned that this service here at the church, at St. Ignatius Loyola Church, is by invitation only. Somewhere between 1200 to 1500 people.

I would imagine among those people are going to be a number of celebrities, especially from the music industry?

ROSS: I think so too, Daryn. We're trying not to speculate. There's a lot of people who really were very big fans and very, very much in love with Aaliyah for a number of reason. Like I said, Quincy Jones had mentioned her to be a daughter. So, there's a chance he could be here, There's been talk of maybe R. Kelly showing up, who of course had a relationship with Aaliyah in the past.

She seemed to be connected to so many different people in the industry, mostly hip-hop and R&B people, but I think her stretch went even wider than that. So, there's a good chance we could see a real big overview of lots of music industry types.

HARRIS: You know, Jodi, you know what I've been wondering the last couple of days, and I think I talked with at least one person, one or two people about this; and I'm wondering if you have had a chance to, or to gauge any of the people you've talked to, particularly those in the industry, about what this is going to do for her legacy.

We've seen what's happened with artists who have been cut down early in their youth, like for instance, I must say Tupac Shakur, even though -- and his death was a much more controversial one, and yet it turned him into something of a cult figure among many people.

Are the people that you're talking to giving you a sense that the same is going to happen in this case?

ROSS: The people are, Leon, but I think the numbers are as well. Her album which is title "Aaliyah," this is her third release, was -- debuted July 17th in stores, and I think the record was somewhere in the 20s as far as the billboard charts go. It has jumped considerably, and when I checked SoundScan this morning, it looked like it was at number 7.


ROSS: Like Tupac -- yes, I mean that's a big leap. And like you said about Tupac, I think his records sales have doubled since he passed away. So, that could be -- the same could be true for Aaliyah.

You know people that knew her before still love her now, and then the people that are sort of just learning who she is probably are interested in her music as well.

KAGAN: As we watch this long row of stretch limousines pull up in front of the church, Jodi; tell us how much we know about today's services, what happens here, and then also what's happening at that restaurant, at Cipriani's on 42nd street.

ROSS: Right. At that restaurant, that is open from 10:00 a.m. today to 8:00. They are encouraging, I mean really inviting and encouraging fans to stop by there at any point in the day, to kind of share their feelings about Aaliyah, grieve with other fans of hers. They'll be playing her music and her videos continuously throughout the day. So, that's really the place where you can sort of verbalize the way that you feel about the fallen singer.

As far as inside here, that's been sort of kept hush-hush. The only thing (AUDIO GAP) is at the end of the mass they are planning on releasing 22 doves, trained doves, that will fly above the church. One is for each year that the singer lived.

So, we do know about that after the service, which we think is at least two hours long. But again, that's just speculation.

KAGAN: It does look like they're just about ready to bring the casket out of the carriage.

HARRIS: Well actually -- Jodi, why don't you turn around and see if you can -- if there's any way you can identify who is stepping out of hearses right now, out of the limos we're seeing.

I'm seeing -- it looks like a number of men stepping out of limos. I can't see on the other side there.

ROSS: Same here, Leon. I don't have a clear shot either.


KAGAN: That, I think, is Lauryn Hill. I think I spotted her.

HARRIS: It may be, I just didn't get a good enough look there at here.

ROSS: Yes, we're kind of behind most of the people going into the church, so it's sort of hard to see from here, yes.

HARRIS: In fact, we're getting blocked out too by traffic. So, we're having a tough time here seeing what's going on.

ROSS: I've just been told, Daryn and Leon, we probably didn't necessarily see them go, but so far those who have arrived include Angie Stone, J.Z., Kevin Tarjar (ph). These are a couple of names that have been passed to us, telling us these people have already arrived and probably have already gone into the church. I do know they are trying to start on time today.


KAGAN: She did -- all right, we're going to continue our coverage of the service for Aaliyah here at the church, St. Ignatius Loyola Church.

HARRIS: Thanks, Jodi.

KAGAN: We'll be checking back with Jodi. Also, checking in with that -- the fan reaction in Cipriani's at 42nd street. Right now we'll get in a quick break, but our coverage of Aaliyah, of her life and today's services, continues after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) HARRIS: Now, back to New York. You're seeing now the casket that bears the body of Aaliyah being carried into St. Ignatius Church, and the ceremony there should be getting underway any moment now.

Our Jodi Ross is standing by outside. Jodi?

ROSS: Hi, Leon. Yes, the casket is being brought into the church. The fans, I don't know if you can hear them, they continue to sort of scream and cheer the closer the casket gets to the doors inside.

We were just told that Timbaland, who's a very big up and coming producer, is also inside. He did work with Aaliyah on this last album, and he did work with her, I believe, on her first album as well. They had a very close relationship, and he's a very sort of big hip hop producer. A very good friend of hers, and of course a colleague as well.

As the casket goes inside, I can tell you also that a memorial fund has been set up by Aaliyah's family. It is called The Aaliyah Memorial Fund. Breast cancer was a charity very close to Aaliyah's heart, and all the funds in that fund will go to various breast cancer charities, I believe they are being split up percentage wise to a couple of different ones. But that is where the profits from that fund will go, in Aaliyah's memory. That's what her family wanted, and they think that's what she wanted as well.

HARRIS: Now, it looks like the crowd around you has gotten quite a bit thicker. Are they assembling right there in front of the church?

ROSS: That's right, Leon. That's right there in front of the church. Obviously the crowd has thinned out a little bit as they followed the casket in. They're slowly making their way through the church doors.

HARRIS: Now you said they were before -- Jodi, you say they made a four or five block walk. Where did they come from?

ROSS: They came from -- they actually were at the Frank Campbell Funeral Home, Leon, which is about four blocks from here. It's literally sort of around the corner from the church, because the carriage ride, they didn't want it to be, obviously, too long of a ride. Since they knew people were following on foot, they gave them about a four-block walk. They came right down 84th street here to Park Avenue, and stopped right in front of the church.

HARRIS: You know what just occurred to me, Jodi. You've got this crowd that's going to include a number of artist, and plenty of musicians. Do we know if anyone's going to be performing either at this ceremony or at the one later today?

ROSS: At the public service, I don't believe so, Leon. All we were told was it would be Aaliyah's music all day and her videos. Inside here it's certainly possible that somebody could sing in her honor, or perform in her honor. But again, the details of what's going on inside today have been kept kind of quiet.

HARRIS: You'll have to keep an ear out for us, then.

ROSS: Yes, I will.

HARRIS: All right, thank you very much. Jodi Ross standing by live in New York as the funeral service Aaliyah gets under way right now. Thank you very much, Jodi.

KAGAN: And we will have continuing coverage out of New York on the services for Aaliyah today.